EAST BEND — With spring now in full swing, folks have been hard at work getting their yards and gardens in shape. For many that probably means spraying weed killer on plants often viewed as pesky to those who prefer a neatly manicured lawn. For one local woman, however, those pesky weeds are a welcome sign.
“I think it’s such a shame that people spray their lawns when there are so many beneficial plants right underfoot,” said Kendra Lynne. “People struggle to put food on their table while at the same time killing nutritional stuff growing right in their yard.”
A native of California, Lynne moved to Yadkin County in high school and now resides here with her husband and four children. The family has a garden where they grow much of their fresh produce and Lynne also has learned of the many health and nutritional benefits of a variety of weeds.
“A friend of mine, Adelia, she started walking me through her yard one day showing me some of these things,” Lynne explained. “She just showed me a few things, but that really lit the fire for me.”
As a light rain began to fall, Lynne roamed through her yard and garden pointing out many different types of weeds that can be eaten and used for medicinal purposes. Who was the first person brave enough to try consuming some of the weeds, or how the medicinal properties came to be known, Lynne said she’s not sure, but she is grateful that the many uses of these plants are now documented.
“I like the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered,’” she said.
After her friend first passed on her wisdom on weeds about seven years ago, Lynne now takes great pleasure in finding new types of plants on her own property.
“Every year I walk around in the spring and the summer and the fall, ‘cause there are different things at different times, and I take my books out in the woods and I try to find new stuff, so that’s exciting for me,” Lynne said.
A plant she had been on the lookout for recently sprung up right in her garden and Lynne was thrilled. In a raised garden bed, a patch of Shepherd’s Purse has taken root and while most gardeners would probably be quick to pull it up, Lynne said she lets it grown in the garden because of its usefulness.
“We use it medicinally, it stops bleeding,” she explained. Using glycerin and the Shepherd’s Purse, Lynne makes a tincture which she uses to stop nosebleeds.
The plant is high in vitamin K, which helps blood clot, Lynne explained. It also contains calcium and potassium and can be eaten raw on sandwiches, salads or cooked in soups, she said.
Lamb’s Quarters, known as wild spinach, also has taken root in Lynne’s garden.
“You can eat it raw or sauté it like spinach,” she said. A poultice also can be made from the plant to help with swelling, rheumatism or arthritis.
Curly or yellow dock, wild lettuce, wild carrots, clover, dandelion, ground ivy, narrow and broadleaf plantain and wood sorrel are among some of the other weeds that Lynne and her family welcome in their yard.
Wild violet blossoms are not only lovely, but can be used to make an infusion which has medicinal properties as an expectorant, Lynne said. Wild honeysuckle is another of her favorites. She makes a honeysuckle infusion which she then uses to make jelly or adds some honey and freezes into ice cubes to be used to soothe sore throats during cold and flu season.
“That’s very soothing to your throat,” she said. “And it tastes really good.”
Wild violets, which are high in vitamin A and C, and wild strawberries are among some favorites for Lynne’s children, who are learning from a young age how to forage for useful plants in their own backyard.
At a recent family gathering, Lynne’s uncle reported that her daughter was eating grass. Quickly dismissing his concern, Lynne told him no, she was sure her child was not eating grass, it was most likely dandelion or sorrel.
“Sure enough, it was sorrel,” she said. “Yes, it’s normal, they are always foraging in our yard for something,” Lynne informed her uncle.
Lynne said she thinks it is important for people to learn about the native plants for many reasons.
“The knowledge is lost with the generations, but I think it’s important for us to remember the uses of plants, not just for emergency, if you’re lost in the woods and need food, but also to gain a respect for the land,” she said.
An author that Lynne recommends for anyone interested in learning more about edible wild plants is Linda Runyon. Lynne’s personal favorite is a deck of cards called Wild Cards published by Runyon which are easily carried out into the woods and fields to help one learn and identify various plants and their uses.
Lynne writes about her own experiences gardening, foraging and canning at her blog NewLifeOnAHomestead.com.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.