Why Gardeners Should Grow Weeds in Southern California – Orange County Register
Whether it’s the swollen white seedballs of the dandelion or the creeping succulent stalks of the purslane, weeds are a constant challenge for gardeners around the world.
But it turns out that one person’s grass can be another person’s precious greens.
A large number of the plants we consider weeds are not only edible, but many are considered superfoods, according to Douglas G. Kent, professor at the Center for Regenerative Studies at Cal Poly Pomona and author of Foraging Southern California: 118 Nutritious, tasty and rich foods.”
For decades, Kent has been seeking out and growing the plants that gardeners would be just as quick to pick and toss in their compost, and he’s an advocate for the way these things can be cooked and used.
He gets excited as he talks about how weeds and humans have a long and common history. Many of these plants were things that our early hominid ancestors adapted to eat, he said, and there’s also a reason these plants are found around the world.
“It was a co-evolution,” he said. “Our system evolved into them; their system of seed distribution evolved into ours. And so we went together. We have traveled the world.”
Before looking for weeds, Kent recommends following a few safety tips. He said would-be collectors should only consume those plants for which they can make a positive identification, and it’s best to wash harvested plants with water warmer than the leaves, since warmer water drives out potential toxins from the plant , while cooler water can cause toxins to be fed.
Kent also recommends starting in the place you’re most familiar with—your own backyard.
“And if you’ve nailed your own yard, then work on your neighbor’s yard and then go out into the wild,” he said.
In his book, Kent encourages potential collectors to also consider the legal risk before going out and picking weed. He notes that it is important not to trespass on private land without permission. There are also places, such as commercial properties and state colleges, where collecting plants is sometimes not permitted. Kent recommends checking the restrictions for these locations online before heading out.
On the hunt
Want to know what weed Kent regularly finds in Southern California? From wild mustard to curly dock, here are some weeds that are commonplace.
Black Mustard: This is a wild mustard that is very common in Southern California. Its leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds are edible, Kent said. He said the plants are high in fiber and vitamins A, C and K. The mustard can be eaten raw, added to salads or made into pesto, but because the leaves have a strong flavor they are best added to flavorings, who do boring his own.
cheese weed: This weed prefers dry, disturbed soil and some of the places it can be spotted are hiking trails and the sunny sides of buildings. Kent said the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The flowers and unripe green fruits can also be eaten. The plants are high in pectin, which Kent says is good for the skin.
Curly Dock: The leaves of this weed can be eaten raw, boiled, steamed, or roasted, but it is best harvested in mid-winter to mid-spring. If the plant is harvested later in the summer or fall, the leaves of the plant may need to be roasted to get rid of some of the bitterness and acids they may have developed.
dandelion: Kent called this common weed “the bell of herbalism,” noting that the root, stem, leaves, flour, and seed can be eaten.
goosefoot: A relative of modern spinach, this plant can be found throughout Southern California but is more commonly found within 125 miles of the coast. Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds are also edible. According to Kent, it’s rich in vitamins D, A, and C.
London Rocket: This plant is abundant in Southern California, from the coasts to the mountains. Up close, it resembles arugula and has a flavor reminiscent of both that plant and mustard — and it makes sense given that it’s part of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes mustard, arugula, and broccoli. Leaves of this plant can be eaten raw or cooked. It is best to pick the lower leaves of the plant and younger plants taste better than older ones.
purslane: This weed is another example of a weed that follows people, and it tends to be more common in more densely populated areas. According to Kent’s book, it shows up in areas where the dirt has been kicked up and in areas of “accidental watering”. This weed has a tart and lemony kick and is used in all sorts of recipes. Some of Kent’s recommendations include adding to salads with other greens like nasturtium and mustard; put it in juices and on eggs; and cook it yourself.
Breed your own
Would you like to bring a piece of the wild Weedy world home? Not only is it possible to collect many of the weeds common to Southern California, but also to grow them.
Kent grows his own weeds in his home and is delighted with the purslane that has spread on a patch of gravel in his garden.
“I’ll tell anyone who comes to stay on the tracks,” he said with a smile. “Don’t spoil my harvest!”
Seed companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sell some of these plants, according to Baker Creek horticulturist Randel Agrella. They sell an improved version of purslane with slightly larger leaves and different varieties of dandelions.
Agrella said potential weed gardeners can also obtain seeds by collecting them while foraging, but they should do their research before starting to grow seeds from these things.
He recommends not only educating yourself about the plants, but also observing the conditions in which they grow.
For example, a plant that only grows at the edge of the sidewalk might be growing there because of water drainage, which can be a sign that it needs more water than it would get outdoors.
Agrella suggests gardeners pay attention to when things are sprouting. If a particular type of plant sprouts in February, it’s a good idea to plant the seeds of it just before February rather than July.
“Once you’ve identified some plants that you like and you know an area where the plants might come back year after year, go there and just watch,” he said.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/14/why-gardeners-should-consider-growing-weeds-in-southern-california/ Why Gardeners Should Grow Weeds in Southern California – Orange County Register