Sunday, April 18, 2010

Embracing Our Invasives

Bermuda and Pennywort and Plantain (oh my!)

Not to mention the clover (not an invasive but still making its way into our smoothies daily while it's fresh and tender)...wonderful :)

Yeah, if you'd told me a few years back that Bermuda would be making its way into my medicinals, I'd have laughed.  Trying to consult Google under the search terms "uses for Bermuda" or "wild edibles: Bermuda grass" and such resulted in nearly nada.  However, finding further information under its Latin name brought up alternate traditional names for it used in other countries and locales, such as the continent of Asia, and there was a lot of evidence that Bermuda grass...yep that cussed ol' bane of southern U.S. gardens, has long-standing uses in traditional medicine in many areas. 
I won't elaborate the list or the uses yet until I better organize the information I'm gleaning.  But suffice it to say I now consider it safe for my OWN use (meaning don't take my word for it as an endorsement for anyone else's use)...and we've now tried it for three days.  No negative side effects and along with the other goodies that go into our Daily Green-n-Berry smoothies we're feeling QUITE good.  One of the noticeable differences for Jack was recovering from muscle stiffness and soreness a lot quicker after some exertion digging and hauling things around as the weather now is so very nice.
I will hint and say that Bermuda grass is being researched with preliminary findings showing it can be useful in reducing too-high blood sugars and "bad fat" readings.  I think that research is based on aqueous extract, not just picking it and making a tea and such.  But the list of possible benefits is lengthy and I always perk up when I find out that a particular "weed" has  traditions elsewhere and a history of usefulness.
Which brings me to my firmer rationale about these things called WEEDS.  If you have a plant that is  hard to kill, loves to establish itself ruggedly in conditions where it perpetuates itself with little or no human intervention or pampering, and is suited to your own locale climate and conditions, what's not to love?  Well, some would say everything...some would say these plants just ARE, and compete with cultivated lawns and/or gardens (which they definately do).  After years past of having done battle with such things, having thought them "the enemy," I realize I've now  Gone Native.  I don't care much about those golf course type lawns, or lawns in general.  I don't mind a wild-ish garden, and if I want pristine weed-free spaces we can section off limited areas for that without an eradication plan.  I do want bio-diversity.  I no longer see insects as things to be killed off and rather believe that the riotous overgrown thriving undeveloped land I see around me (the areas that haven't been leveled and scraped of all vegetation by developers only to be blanketed with concrete and sod) are so chock full of SO many plant types, I'd have a hard time identifying all the ones that would fit in a single square foot of ground. 
And frankly, it's nicer.  The Disney-ish postcard flowerbeds just don't appeal to me as much as the profusion of natural plants that grow without anyone's permission or help, usually.  Not that I don't love flowers...I do.  But I like wild tangled areas even though I also like some ordered raised beds chock with veg and herbs.  I just like the way the natural world spills over with every sort of neighborly mix of plants.
And I'm coming to think that there is use in every kind of plant...some might even be useful to me, but each one's there adding its contributions.
Therefore, we're beginning to see weeds as the survivors...the heroes that overcame and still soldier on.  I am convinced many of them hold natural benefits we've often lost the understanding of, forgotten the uses for (<--dangling participles be darned, ha)
Anyway,we're in Weeds 101 self-education.  We're determined to identify the plants we see everyday or whose names we don't know, the ones we usually pass by or mow right over.  We want to know their uses, among which we'd like to know if they have any medicinal/nutritive benefits for me.
Reading up on the few we've identified so far besides the bermuda, we so far have plantain and pennywort/dollarweed in profusion.  Both are wonderful herbal contributors to human health if used wisely.
This is fun!  We truly had no idea we had food under our feet, and medicine.  Yeah, I know some medicinals, but not up close and personal.  I had always relied on the health food store for supplements.  We're proceeding slowly and cautiously, but with a lot of happiness.  The less reliant we become on a middle man and the closer to our own yard we get, the better we feel about life in general.  Jack and I are beginning to feel empowered, if that's not too strong a word for it.
And those smoothies are getting downright spunky :)
the magic eight ball


Carol said...

I have given up on having a nice manicured lawn..the armadillos dig holes..and I don't put down weed or insect killer..I like to feed the turkeys and birds, bunnies I am getting an unusual yard..but at times it has so many pretty little's worth it...less work and money.

Ron said...

I read a book once, extolling the virtues of weeds. It opened my eyes a bunch (and gave me an excuse to let the yard go to hell :)). Some of the deep rooted weeds actually help crops to deal with drought. Apparently, there is moisture along the outside of deep roots that crops can tap into. Pretty nifty.

Now, I finally mowed the far end of the garden where the wild things were. Mainly due to voles, those vegetarians I compete with. Even so... I hear ya... wild is great. Beyond the homestead area, the rest is pretty much left as-is (although I recognize and plan to address the need for forest management - to increase timber value, increase wildlife food, and increase the health of the forest).

I'd really like to increase knowledge of wild edibles. On the one hand we fight nature, and on the other we embrace it. In any case, we participate, which gives an entirely different perspective than city-folk have I think.


Robbyn said...

Carol, our armadillos make veritable gopher holes, so I'm relating. I bet seeing those turkeys of yours is so worth the yard going wild :)

Ron, such a good point about participation. I like some of our areas to be under control simply because I just don't want to keep repeating the same work over and over (call me lazy, Jack's in agreement), and the other areas I like au naturale with a few caveats. That's neat what you mentioned about the different root depths contributing to moisture. When my parents moved us out to the country for a few years, they cut down everything that was a shrub, vine, underbrush, etc and wanted the whole 5 acres kept like a park. I much preferred it the way it was before. Now we want to have at least some areas of our property (which is only 1/2 acre at this point) to achieve their fullest Neglect Potential ;-)