I'm very interested in the edible weeds of just about anywhere. I think it started in 2006 when I was in Malta. I was standing at a bus stop when I recognised what I thought was rocket (arugula) growing by the side of the road. I pinched off a leaf and smelled it...yep, definitely was! By the time the bus arrived I'd picked a whole bunch to take home for a dinner salad and I was feeling Very Clever Indeed. But it made me think about what makes a plant a supermarket commodity and what leaves it to grow in ditches. Economics has a lot to do with it. At this point we need to honestly recognise that economics is not necessarily going to grow, distribute and sell the full range of plants known to have nutritional and medicinal value. Therefore it's up to us to educate ourselves about non-commercial plants and what they can do for us. In the particular case of weeds, it's their very abundance that is enticing. Suppose you discover you like dandelion root...woohoo, you'll likely find a lifetime supply, free, up and down your street. And we all like free stuff :-)
In an alleyway at the end of my street there are lots of cleavers, Galium aparine. There are even a few in my yard. I picked some leaves, then air dried them by leaving them to sit uncovered in a bowl on the kitchen bench for a week. Then I made a tea by pouring boiling water over them. It was quite palatable, with straw-wood-alfalfa notes that reminded me of Chinese tea.
According to Annie's Remedy, cleavers is a valuable lymphatic tonic and diuretic, can be used to treat psoriasis and arthritis and lowers blood pressure without side effects. Applied externally, cleavers tea can treat sunburn, rashes and cuts and is a useful hair rinse for dandruff and dry scalp.
If you live around Hobart I'm sure you can find some cleavers and I'd certainly recommend you try it at least once. Make sure you identify it properly: if youcome to one of the Otis Beanery classes just ask and I'll show you some. Drink up!
We blog about once a month on vegan and food topics in and around Hobart.