By Miriam Huebner – A Rocha Manitoba Summer Worker
As a child I was often puzzled by how fields of wildflowers are beautiful but fields of dandelions are not. What’s the difference? How did we decide that some flowers are pretty and others not? It didn’t make any sense to me at all.
As I got older I started to learn that some plants are weeds and therefore are bad. I learned which plants we want to keep in a garden and which to pull out. I saw people spraying chemicals on their lawns and learned lawns were best when they were just plain old grass. When I saw weeds in a garden anywhere it made me feel annoyed, like the garden wasn’t being properly cared for. I learned to hate weeds.
Then one day I was playing in the backyard with a friend and she told me that dandelions are edible.
We tried them and they didn’t taste very good, but after that I got more curious about weeds and I started to learn more about them. I got books on foraging and learned to identify some common weeds. One year my garden was filled with Purslane so I picked some and made delicious pickles from it. Another time I learned more about Lamb’s Quarters and now I sometimes use it in my salads and it tastes good – kind of like spinach. I learned more about Dandelions and have tried using their roots to make flavourful tea. As I learned more about these plants I stopped seeing them as bad.
Like many other things, the more I learned about weeds the less I despised them. I think there is a good lesson in this, the more you know about something the easier it is to find beauty in it. Even if it’s as simple as giving a garden weed a second glance.
However, weeds do sometimes pose problems. They compete with other plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight and they have a tendency to take over gardens. Sometimes weeds need to be controlled, and the truth is that not all weeds are useful or pretty. But I think we can also learn to see weeds as individual plants instead of just a category. Some weeds have many uses as food or medicine, others have flowers that provide pollen and nectar for the bees, but it is also true that some weeds are just a nuisance and that’s okay too.
This past week I was going for a walk with my day camp campers. We were looking at what types of plants we could find in the neighbourhood. We came upon a patch of Creeping Bellflower. Usually I look right over this plant, it’s everywhere and impossible to get rid of. But one of my campers picked a bouquet of the purple bell-like flowers and ran to show me. To my surprise I saw that it was actually very pretty. Once I let go of my bias and looked at the plant through the eyes of my camper I realized that though it was a weed it was also a beautiful flower.
In the words of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh “Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.” Through learning how to use weeds as food and exploring plants with kids I have found this to be true, some weeds have a lot of potential you just have to look for it.