Amid the spring rush, I sometimes take certain things for granted. When I began tilling back the fresh growth of weeds from the long winter, I just went about my duty of clearing the weeds, not even putting any thought into what I was eradicating. Recently, I read an excerpt on knowing weeds from Pam Dawling’s “Sustainable Market Farming” , I realize that I need to brush up on all the different plants that pop up in my vegetable beds. Being an novice at botany, I am making an effort to learn all their names, their qualities and their uses. Pam even suggests creating a weed log as a management tool. This post is my way of keeping a reference, which hopefully you will find useful as well.
One weed that I’ve seen practically everywhere is Henbit (Lamium Amplexicaule for you latin lovers), which I mistook for the Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum). Henbit, like its name implies, is a great chicken fodder, so much so that my chickens polish it off completely after moving them to a fresh patch of the stuff. In the Upstate, it emerges in the fall and it goes to seed late in the Spring. I hear it makes a decent salad green and I am anxious to try it in one of my experimental salads. Purple Dead Neetle is also an early weed, that typically is one of the first to emerge during the year. After a few searches on it, I found that like its relative, the plant is edible, but is typically used an herb and even as a makeshift bandaid for outdoorsy folks.
I have always been fascinated by edible weeds. A good book out there, which includes great I.D. info, is “Edible Wild Plants” by John Kallas. He includes info on common weeds that have great culinary qualities. While edible weeds intrigue me, they are a problem for a vegetable grower. The best way to deal with them is early in their life cycle and also monitoring them so they do not go to seed. This particular weed has a mint like growth and will take over if you don’t bother to deal with it when it emerges. As with anything, dealing with the problem early is the best solution.