Eating Your Weeds

It’s the time of year where every seed that has blown into the garden bed is popping up, as well as any weeds that I failed to eradicate last year. I’m working on learning the difference between those that have some medicinal/nutritional value and are worth keeping, and those that should be pulled before they take over the entire garden.

This one, I learned, is amaranth:

The greens are edible and delicious (I ate a piece that broke off), as well as the seedheads that the flowers produce. These were once an important source of grain in the traditional diet of the Plains, and gardeners sometimes plant them for aesthetic reasons in their flower gardens. They are now making a resurgence in terms of use as food. South Dakota Magazine even featured an article about them. I replanted the root where I can keep an eye on it and hopefully harvest more greens before it goes to seed throughout the summer.

More Amaranth growing:


Another one that I pulled, which I will not replant because it is a weed that sprouts all over the place around here and grows huge very quickly, is Alfalfa. Alfalfa is an invasive species from Eurasia that was brought over for use in livestock feed.

I had a pet house rabbit for almost 12 years, and I was familiar with alfalfa hay as it is fed to rabbits. You can give a young rabbit large quantities to help them grow up healthy, but for adult rabbits, it is too rich to be anything but a special treat in limited amounts.
For humans, it turns out, alfalfa is more than just edible — it is beneficial. In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, alfalfa tea can treat a host of health problems, as detailed here, here, and here. It has been used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine for almost 2,000 years. While I won’t let this one survive in my garden, I’ll be saving it to dry for tea later this summer.

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