“Is this a weed?” I get asked that question a lot from gardeners and my answer is always the same: A weed is simply a plant in the wrong place. So before you get out for this long holiday weekend and start pulling everything in sight, here a few weeds you might want to reconsider throwing in the compost bin.
Comfrey is a noxious weed that seems to pop up everywhere on our homestead. The plant gets huge very quickly and can be difficult to pull. The long tap root usually breaks off before you can get the full plant out. But comfrey has some good qualities to offer, in moderation.
The plant has been used medicinally to heal wounds. Harvest the root, clean, let it dry, then mix with vodka. In a few weeks, you will have a tincture that you can apply to open cuts for fast healing. Don’t drink the tincture! It’s for external use only.
Comfrey also produces beautiful pinkish-purple flowers, which look gorgeous in our garden among the other purple flowering plants like echinaea, artichoke, irises and flowering alliums. The bees love the blossoms and the plant blooms fairly continuously through the summer.
Lemon balm is an incredibly persistent weed for us. The plant comes up vigorously and forms into a dense, huge clump in the garden. It can be extremely difficult to pull up. To remove it, I usually end up digging it out and losing a lot of soil tangled in the root ball. I smell like furniture polish by the time the ordeal is over, from the strong scent of the plant.
As much as I dislike having it all over my garden, the plant does have some good qualities. You can make it into a minty, citrus tea or use the leaves in cooking for fish and egg dishes. It has been used medicinally as a tea to help with depression and anxiety as well. If you want lemon balm in your garden, plant it in a pot as mints tend to be really aggressive.
Red Deadnettle is another plant we consider a weed around here. You can pull and pull, but it pops up again whenever there is a bare patch of soil. The bees love the flowers that emerge in early spring, when food is limited, and there are certainly uglier weeds out there. Wild foragers have even started experimenting with ways to eat the plant, like HunterGatherCook. Be flattered by its presence – it usually shows up in places with excellent soil.
What plants do you consider weeds? Are there certain ones you tolerate while others you pull? Are you finding resourceful ways to eat or use the plants medicinally? I would love to compare notes!