Wild Wisdom of Weeds Workshop 2015

After trekking almost 100 miles, over 8 mountain passes Katrina Blair found her way back to Durango to teach us a little bit about the wealth of food hiding in the cracks of our sidewalks - or in between our garden beds. We often call these plants weeds, but we soon learned there was more to them than just pesky adversaries trying to choke out our tomatoes.OKCG_WS_-_Wild_Wisdom_of_Weeds_8.17.15_Pics-022_long.15_Pics-023.JPG

Katrina was returning from the annual Telluride Mushroom Festival that she walks to every year from Durango to teach about wild plants. She carries only light camping gear and a knife and lives off the plants she is able to find on her hike. She said this year the wild strawberries were delicious and abundant, and she returned from her foray feeling more in tune with this wonderful place where we live.

When I look at my cupboards and refrigerator full of store bought food it seems like a daunting task to feed myself from the weeds I usually pull and throw in my compost. But Katrina gave us different glasses with which to look at the world, ones with which the dandelions transform into pesto, the giant hollyhock leaves into burrito wraps, and the thistle into a delicious chai tea. Suddenly my weedy backyard has transformed into a tasty, wild kitchen.

OKCG_WS_-_Wild_Wisdom_of_Weeds_8.17.15_Pics-009.JPGBut delicious (and free) is just the beginning. These plants can provide us with optimal nutrition for our own health. Katrina pointed out that most of the foods we eat are annuals, plants that are seeded, grown, and harvested in the span of just a few months, or even a few weeks. Where as a lot of weeds are perennials, plants that establish themselves and live for years, accumulating far more nutrients than our (still very healthy) lettuce can provide.

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Siberian Elm

For example, Siberian Elm, an invasive plant here in Durango that we community gardeners are often pulling our hair out over trying to hack back before they consume our gardens, turns out to be edible, from the leaves to the roots. Katrina suggested making "elm chips" with them, like "kale chips", which you could buy for $7.19 from your local grocer. Between eating this delicious new snack and chopping and dropping them into highly necessary green mulch in our permaculture food forest, I am feeling a little more amiable towards siberian elms.

Another wild plant, burdock, can help our health because it binds to heavy metals. Something that has been on my mind a lot with the recent Gold King Mine waste water spill on the Animas River. I am going to be looking around for some burdock to make into a nice, cool green juice.

As it turns out a lot of these "weeds" have a lot to offer not just to our own health but also to the health of our environment. As Katrina explained, we humans have gotten very good at disturbing land and compacting soil and nature has a whole host of wild plants that are very good at thriving in disturbed soil and regenerating it's nutrients and vitality. 

Well sheesh, I'm sold, eating weeds is good for me, good for the earth, very accessible, delicious, and free.

Here are a few of the edible weeds we sampled in the garden at the workshop:

Amaranth
is a survival food because it has all 8 vital amino acids. All parts are edible, trying throwing some leaves into your salad.

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Amaranth

Lambsquarter
is even more nutritious than spinach and its seeds are a wild quinoa.

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Lambsquarter

Purslane
has more omega 3 fatty acids than fish and more vitamin A than any vegetable. Its leaves are succulent and lemony making a great addition to your salad.

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Kendal with some Purslane

Dandelion
"reminds us how to survive in style." The whole plant is edible and the slightly bitter tone in the leaves helps tone our internal organs, drinking a dandelion tea or eating a dandelion salad is like a daily exercise for our organs.

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Dandelion

Wild Mustard
encourage good circulation and can be easily recognized because the flowers have 4 petals.

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Wild Mustard

Mallow
is helpful for rehydrating. All parts are edible and along with being a food can be used for shampoos or face wash.

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Mallow

 

Plantain
is a great first aid kit, it draws toxins out of your body. Chew the leaves into a mash and put it on bug bites, snake bites, or infection.

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Plantain mash on a bug bite

Curly Dock
is a natural antibiotic and immune builder. Young leaves can be used as lettuce and its roots are astrigent and can be used for a mouthwash. 

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Diane trying out the antiseptic qualities of Curly Dock

 

TIP: "Your tongues are brilliant , your bodies are brilliant too...trust your tongue and your intuition to what is good for your body." - Katrina Blair
Start with a small taste, if it doesn't taste good to you your body is telling you that right then that particular plant is not what you need, and if it taste delicious maybe it wants more.

If you are interested in learning more I would recommend checking out Katrina's latest book "The Wild Wisdom of Weeds" and also her wild, local, raw cookbook.

Or maybe I will see you at Turtle Lake Cafe for a locally grown, wild harvest and living foods lunch on Turtle Tuesdays or Frog Fridays between 11:11-2:22.

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Cheers! 
Enjoying some Musk Thistle Root Chai

 

 


 

Workshop Presenter  

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"When Katrina Blair was eleven she had a life-changing experience where wild plants spoke to her, beckoning her to become a champion of their cause. Since then she has spent months on end taking walkabouts in the wild, eating nothing but what she forages, and has become a wild-foods advocate, community activist, gardener, and chef, teaching and presenting internationally about foraging and the healthful lifestyle it promotes." Founder of Turtle Lake Refuge and author of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival.

 

 


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