Our back yard is small. VERY small. We live in a townhouse, so we don’t exactly have 40 acres out back. Despite this, a nice variety of wild edible plants, wild medicines and even wild fruits manage to eek out an existence alongside the grass there.
One of the first and fastest-growing wild edibles to spring up in spring is the dandelion (taraxicum officinale) (Finnish: voikukka). The plants pictured here are still young.
Those who view this plant as nothing more than a weed are missing out. Far from being poisonous, as some believe, the dandelion is actually extremely nutritious and versatile. Few people know that this “weed” was actually brought to the Americas by colonists as a food plant! The fact that it can grow in unfavorable soil conditions makes it even more attractive.
Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads, cooked with onions and garlic, used in soups etc. They contain vitamins A, C & K, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. Medicinally, they have been traditionally used to fight infection, inflammation and viruses and are good for the liver, urinary tract, digestive system and the skin. Dandelion flowers can be eaten raw or fried (I’ll be showing you this soon) or made into wine. Dandelion roots can be ground up and then roasted and brewed like coffee. By the way, the leaves of the dandelion increase in bitterness as they mature, so try to harvest young leaves if this is an issue for you.
So the next time you’re weeding your garden, bring those dandelion cuttings to the kitchen instead of the trash can or woods!
Another fast-growing non-weed is lady’s mantle (genus alchemilla) (Finnish: poimulehti). The plants shown here are also young.
While this plant can be consumed as food, it was more commonly valued for its medicinal purposes. The tannin it contains makes it a diuretic (which in turn prevents diarrhea) when taken internally. Externally, it was often placed on wounds, stings, inflammation, skin rashes etc. to stop bleeding and aid healing.
I’ll keep an eye on the back 40 (square inches) for more edibles and medicinals, so stick around!
*As always, remember to verify 100% what you are eating/using as medicine in advance. Any consuming of edibles or application of medicines is done AT YOUR OWN RISK.