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  • Writer's pictureThe Blooming Old Gardener

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. A. A. Milne

The main jobs in the garden this month have been watering and weeding. The dry, hot period has been quite a challenge for volunteers and an uphill task. The good thing is that spraying water around can keep you cool. The containers are also being fed weekly. This is important now as plants will have used up most of the nutrients available with their first burst of growth. They need to be fed so they can last the summer season.

If you are peckish when you visit the garden feel free to pick a few things to eat. The Japanese wineberries and blackcurrants can just be picked and eaten. The purple gooseberries and rhubarb can be taken home for cooking. Feel free to pick the cabbage, broad beans and herbs too. These all keep for a while if you keep them in a sealed bag in the fridge. Although our apples are looking good, they need a couple more months to sweeten them up before eating.

In order for all our flowers and veg to be happy we need bees and other flying insects. Has anyone else noticed fewer bees this year? Usually, our salvia is full of them. But there is only the occasional bee around. I’ve noticed the same in my own garden too.

If you remember, we did ‘no mow May’ again this year. This was to encourage wild flowers/weeds to establish themselves in the garden early in the summer. We already have lots of dandelions, daisies and clover growing amongst the grass. Things our volunteer Fred enjoys eating. But you don’t have to be a tortoise to enjoy eating weeds.

Our containers need weeding regularly. One of the more difficult ones to pull up are dandelions as they have such long roots. Dandelions are very versatile as an edible weed, so maybe we shouldn’t just be composting them. It’s flowers are often used to make dandelion wine. I tried this once, but you need a lot of freshly picked ones. I found taking the petals off very time consuming, although the final result was lovely. All parts of the plant are edible, both raw and cooked. The slightly bitter young leaves can be used in salads, sandwiches or pies. The flowers can be used in risotto and omelettes. Unopened buds can be marinated and used like capers. Chopped roots can be thrown into stir-fries or added to vegetable dishes. I remember coffee prices shooting up when I was a kid. All the neighbours made dandelion coffee by drying, roasting, then grinding the roots. And no, it didn’t really taste like barista style coffee.

A lot of people have tried nettles too, but don’t forget your gloves. The young leaf tips are picked to make tea, soup (best if added to potato) or to use instead of spinach. I’ve also added leaf tips to herbs to make a pesto sauce or a sauce verde to drizzle over new potatoes or fish.

Young chickweed leaves can also be used in pesto and salads. Hairy bittercress has a hot peppery flavour, ideal for salads as a substitute for cress or rocket. But pick from the centre of the plant and wash well as it grows close to the ground. So, as you can see, our weeds can save us a bit of money as well as giving us more variety.

We have an invasion of marestail/horsetail at the end of the garden, that has grown in from the driveway behind it. I was hoping we could eat that as a way of getting rid of it. However, although I found some cultures making tea from it and smoking it, it seems to have side effects. So it looks like we will just have to keep pulling it up every day for a few years to get rid of it.

The Blooming Old Gardener

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