A ten-year journey to a whole foods vegan diet has culminated in this, I’ve finally gone full-on-feral.
Joking aside, the book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds has recently opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s testament to just how domesticated and disconnected we are from our environment that it had never occurred to me that weeds might be just like many other plants, edible and nutritious.
When I recently heard that the dandelions growing in abundance in my neglected garden, the dandelions I had always seen as a nuisance and done nothing but try to kill and remove were not only edible but actually a superfood my first through was ‘REEEALLY???’. I contemplated my new dandelion friends with an air of suspicion. ‘You mean I can just pluck you from the pavement and eat you??’
Why was this such a weird concept? Because they hadn’t been presented to me via the supermarket as one of the narrow group of 10-15 plants that we humans now eat?
It’s shocking but this is the extent to which we are turning our backs on and forgetting the planet’s huge biodiversity. The average human now eats between 10-15 plant species in a year. There are around 80,000 edible plant species in the world and routinely we eat just 10-15 of these. What impact is this loss of diversity having on our health and our capacity to live to our fullest potential?
The Native Americans used around 1,200 different plant species in a year. The idea of being able to identify that many different plant species blows my mind somewhat. Compare that to many people today, myself included, who sadly recognise more company logos than plants growing in their own neighbourhood. Isn’t that a little insane? And sad?
We’ve created a system on earth which has domesticated us and in this process we’ve forgotten some pretty fundamental things. Chiefly that we are animals roaming a planet and entirely dependent on nature’s abundance for survival. This disconnect and disharmony can be seen in our unsustainable and consumption-based relationship to our home planet.
So what’s this all got to do with weeds? And why should we eat them?
Because everyone loves a good list, here it is:
Top 10 Reasons to Eat Weeds
- They are globalised plants for our globalised world. The 13 plants listed in this book (amaranth, chickweed, clover, dandelion, dock, grass, knotweed, lambsquarter, mallow, mustard, plantain, purslane, thistle) transcend continents and cultures. Wherever human settlements are found, whatever the climate or terrain, these common weeds can also be found. It’s almost like they’re following us…hmm…might nature be trying to tell us something?
- Eating weeds is a super-easy way to diversify our diet. Studies have shown that the more diverse our diet, the better our chances of staying healthy for a long time. I’ll take some of that!
- They are abundant. You don’t need intensive farming or any effort to grow them, they grow themselves!! With a growing population and an
increasing drive to push GMO crops and monoculture as the solution to get more and more food from our already depleted soil perhaps we’re looking in the wrong places. Perhaps the weeds are mother nature saying ‘Look, humans, look! I’m trying to feed you, I’m right here, in your back garden, in the pavement cracks, wherever you go, here I am, trying to nourish you!’
- Weeds thrive on soil disturbed by humans. They pull nutrients from deep beneath the earth’s surface and regenerate the soil. They are the superheroes sent to nourish and save the planet and us from…well…us. When we eat wild weeds we collaborate with their planet-rejuvenating efforts by utilising far fewer resources.
- They are exceptionally nutritious. A dandelion growing in between the pavement cracks is probably more nutritionally potent than crops grown through commercial agriculture which have been hybridised over time and grown as mono-crops in compromised soil.
- Wild weeds are free, you don’t need to be wealthy to eat wholesome and truly organic food. Nature doesn’t discriminate, she wants to nourish everyone.
- They can re-awaken our primal memory, the memory of our true source of creation. When we eat these wild weeds we start to remember our connection to the planet. They offer a direct link to the wild intelligence within us.
They are ridiculously resilient as any gardener can tell you. If we try to resist them we fight a losing battle against nature. If we work with them we align ourselves with the powerful force of nature and experience strength and richness. We are what we eat; when we eat these hardy weeds they gift us their resilience and survival superpowers!
- Eating them instils trust in our ability to survive and thrive in harmony on the land. Our source of life is all around us and always available. Our survival isn’t in the hands of politicians, it’s in our own hands and how we chose to use them to connect to our environment.
- They are medicinal containing all of the vitamins and minerals we need to thrive in the form of a living whole plant making them far superior (and cheaper) than the supplements purchased in store. A side benefit is that no energy is wasted in producing, packaging and shipping them around the globe. You can more than likely freshly harvest them from within walking distance of your home!
- If we shift how we look at these weeds to see them as allies, and cultivate a collaborative relationship with them,
we might just shift how we care for our planet.
- Last but not least, if you’re a lazy gardener like me you now have the perfect excuse not to mow the lawn or do any sort of arduous garden work. What was previously laziness is now intentionally holding a space for nature to spring forth and nourish you.
Inspired to take a walk on the wild side? Be warned, these wild weeds taste…well, wild!! Your domesticated palate will need some getting used to the intensity of these plant rebels. Start with a few leaves mixed in with your regular food and let me know how you get on!