Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dandelions And Chickweed Aren't Weeds

This blog is about how you know what you know.  When you look out at your garden and see lots of little yellow flowers what do you see?
1.  sunshiny color brightening your yard
2.  weeds
3.  nutritional food
4.  medicinal herbs

It all depends on who was able to shape your brain.  The chemical companies that need you to think they are weeds so they will buy their poisons?  A Korean friend who eats dandelion leaves regularly? An herbalist who taught you about natural cures?  Or your brain may have competing models in your head about dandelions.

When I first learned that dandelions and chickweed are edible, after a few summers fighting 'weeds' in my garden in Alaska, I toyed with a book that I would call "50 recipes of dandelions and chickweed."  But I had lots of other things to do and never wrote it.

So when I saw this book - The Boreal Herbal:  Wild Food and Medicine Plants of the North, by Beverly Gray - in the book section of Costco, I started turning pages.

There are pages and pages of plants you'll see if you hike anywhere in Alaska.  (Beverly Gray, appears to live in the Yukon.)  Besides the obvious dandelions and chickweed, it includes uses for all sorts of common plants including spruce tips and devil's club.

Here's part of the section on dandelions:

click to enlarge and focus

And here's a little bit from the chickweed section.

There was a big stack of them at Costco on Debar last week.  This is a great field guide (though it's kind of big to carry around) as well as a guide to food and medicinal uses.

I mentioned the book to someone Saturday.  As I described it, she asked, "The one written by Beverly Gray?"  "That's the one."  She'd taken a workshop with Gray and couldn't say enough about it.

I think about the story of the Japanese visitors who were visiting an Alaskan cannery and were appalled to see all the fish roe being tossed.  That encounter resulted in a significant new export product for Alaskan fishers.

We have an abundance of nutritious plants in Alaska.  Judicious harvesting could lead to another market.  Our forests are a rich source of healthy foods.

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