4 Backyard Weeds You Can Actually Eat

Bring a pair of salad tongs with you to do the weeding, because you'll find some delicious and nutritious treats among the invasives that you have to pluck out of your vegetable beds. Some of the most noxious garden weeds are valuable foods packed with vitamins, antioxidants, proteins, medicinal properties, and extraordinary flavor. Since we're all about making good food free, we hope to expand the perception of what good food is actually growing all around us! These plants will help you turn your yard waste into a sumptuous feast of superfoods. 

Mugwort

This is a tall Fall-flowering weed that tends to pop up along the perimeters of vegetable beds. When it overstays its welcome in the garden, you can bring it inside and add it to teas and baths.  A great source of magnesium,  mugwort eases cramps, relaxes the nerves, and improves quality of sleep.

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Purslane

Purslane has the same warrior spirit as the lone dandelion growing up between cracks in a sidewalk, and it has just as many nutritious benefits. This weed is a powerful source of anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, beta-carotene and Vitamin A. And, it tastes delicious fresh picked or chopped up in a salad.  An important note: Don't mistake purslane for spotted spurge, its poisonous doppleganger. Once you know the defining characteristics of each common weed, you can easily tell them apart.

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Japanese Knotweed

What some call an invasive, others call a staple of healthy eating and natural medicine in the Spring. Because it contains resveratrol, Japanese knotweed has been used for centuries to maintain heart health and cognitive health.  Its medicinal value is currently being examined, and early research suggests that it's an effective treatment for the symptoms of Lyme Disease and it's even a cancer preventative. These detoxifying green shoots should be harvested when the plant is young and they can be prepared just like rhubarb or asparagus. 

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Plantain

Dubbed 'Nature's Bandaid' by parents, plantain relieves a plethora of summertime woes. And, conveniently, it's growing just within reach in the back yard. Plantain has a cooling energy that soothes sunburned skin; it can be rubbed onto minor scrapes and bruises to promote quicker healing; it can take the itch out of bug bites; it can reduce swelling from bee and fly stings; it can heal a poison ivy rash when mixed with yarrow...this list will go on forever. Plantain may not look too showy, but don't underestimate its serious medicinal power.

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Photo courtesy of stepintomygreenworld.com.

This is a starter list to help you find some tasty treats that don't need to be cultivated by a human hand. Look for our next article with a few more wild foods that you'll find growing between kale plants in your garden and in most of our Please Pick gardens. Enjoy your good eats!

Starting Your Own Please Pick Project

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Thinking of starting a Please Pick Project in your town? Please Pick gardens are blossoming in new zip codes every year, and we would love for you to become the newest part of this expanding positive movement that brings food and love to people around the world.

When you grow food to share in an edible village, you become a key element of a thriving ecosystem that keeps you, your neighbors, and your environment healthy for years to come. In order to ensure the success of your garden and the nutritious value of the food that you grow, there are some important guiding principles that will help every gardener who is committed to joining this growing movement.

1) 100% Organic

Please Pick Project gardens are all organic, which means that the plants derive their life force from the sun, water, and the health and nutrient density of the soil. No artificial fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used in Please Pick Project gardens. 

How do organic gardeners make their soil naturally healthy and fertile?

COMPOST

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Additionally, you can use seaweed, biodynamic compost teas, organic matter (such as crushed eggshells and cow and horse manure) and even fish emulsion to amend your soil.

2) Support System

You have the idea in mind, but it's going to take a little help from your friends to make it happen. Find a few friends who want to work with you to launch this project and try to build up some momentum to rally more volunteers and gardeners around the prospect of joining the movement. 

Once you have your earthy crew together, contact your local government to make sure that you understand local ordinances pertaining to land use and small-scale food production. If you've got full clearance to make a Please Pick Project happen in your town, then team up with local community leaders to help with communications and implementation of the gardens in public spaces.

3)Accessible and Safe Location

You can participate by creating your own front yard garden that grows food to share or you can mobilize a whole force of gardeners who want to transform a walkable streetscape into an edible village. Your choice depends on the layout of your town and the strength of your volunteer force.

In an edible village, Please Pick Project gardens do best at community centers and libraries where there is space, visibility and convenient community access to the property. It's important to find volunteers who will keep the plants healthy and hydrated during the growing season!

If you would like to create a Please Pick Project garden on your own property, your space must meet the following criteria:

Is there a sunny space along the sidewalk where a garden can be created?

Can passersby stop and pick from the garden without having to leave the sidewalk?

Is the garden far enough away from the street to keep it clean and safe? Curbside plots of land are not good spaces for Please Pick Project, because the plants will be stressed when growing that close to the street.

 

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This is the perfect Please Pick Project front yard garden set-up

 

3) Public Relations

Once you know what the scope of Please Pick Project will be in your town and you have a core group of volunteers and supporters, it's time to communicate your plan with the rest of your community.  This is a good time to rent a space at a Farmers' Market or organize a community information session to discuss the idea with everyone who can participate and benefit from it. 

4) Garden Design

Please Pick Project gardens are now popping up all over the world, so the first major question to ask yourself is: what grows best where I live? If you live in the United States, this chart from Arbor Day will help you figure out your hardiness zone:

Once you know what grows best in your garden, the next step is to figure out how to pair fruits and veggies in your growing space. Find a companion planting chart like this one or check with Farmer's Almanac to find out which plants work best together in the same garden bed.

 

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Perennials, such as fruit trees and berry bushes, make for highly sustainable Please Pick Project gardens. A food forest Please Pick Project model is an edible landscape that relies on little more than nature to keep it healthy and hydrated, and it produces enough fruits and vegetables to feed the whole neighborhood.  These are the layers that go into a self-sustaining food forest model, such as the Beacon Forest in Seattle.

4)  Maintenance

Whether you're growing food to share in your front yard or at another location in your town, it's crucial to devise a watering and weeding plan before you even begin growing. Here in Nyack, we usually end up eating half the weeds that we find, because they're super nutritious and undervalued in the gardening world!

5) Garden Signs

Once your food is growing, make sure that you place a clear sign that tells people that the food is available for them to pick for free! We offer Please Pick Project stickers with the movement's logo for your signs, so please feel free to contact us with any requests.

Welcome to the growing movement. Keep us updated on your progress so that we can share the news about how cool you and your fellow Please Pick Projects growers are!

Nyack Harvest List. July 2017

What's ready to be picked in our edible village in mid-July? Check out the harvest list below to find out where you can find healthy local ingredients for free. 

Kale--Visit the John Green House or Waldron Terrace

Beets--214 North Midland. Need to be picked before they get too big!

Swiss Chard--Nyack Library and 214 North Midland

Oregano and Lemon Balm--Nyack Library

Thyme--John Green House

Spinach--214 North Midland

Green Beans--Nyack Library

Nyack Harvest List: June 2017

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Spring veggies are popping up all over town in Nyack's edible village. Here are the public spaces and select front yard gardens that have food ready to be picked TODAY! Veggies don't last long in the Please Pick gardens, so don't hesitate to pick a snack, ingredients for a meal, and maybe a little bit for later.

 

In addition to these gardens, you will see Please Pick Project signs in front yard gardens along the sidewalk and in planters in front of businesses. Wherever you see a sign, please pick to your heart's content!

Nyack Center

Nyack Center is home to our Spring and summer workshops, so most of our food on site there is grown for use during student programs. Garlic, squash, cukes, peas, beans, herbs, carrots, kale, radishes, chard, lettuce, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are growing in Nyack Center's gardens. Much of it has just been harvested out for our end-of-year salad party. Right now, there are extra peas and herbs in the raised garden bed that may be picked any time.

Waldron Terrace

Waldron Terrace, in Central Nyack, is growing kale, tomatoes, peas, beans, corn, rosemary, mint, basil, oregano, peppers and lettuce. Right now, kale, lettuce oregano, basil and rosemary are ready. Peas and beans are almost ready, and the rest will be available as we get deeper into summer. 

Nyack Library

To the right of the main entrance on Broadway, you will find a beautiful planter full of swiss chard, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, sunflowers, sage, beans, and herbs. Lettuce, baby chard and herbs are ready to be picked today!

John Green House

Our friends at The John Green House at the bottom of Main St. have built a lovely planter bursting with thyme, oregano, peas, baby rainbow carrots, beet greens, kale, peppers and tomatoes. Baby rainbow carrots, beet greens, peas, herbs and kale are ready. (Note: beet greens are beets grown primarily for their greens, rather than for their roots. You may pick the entire plant and use the greens just like lettuce). 

Rockland Lake Nature Preserve

There is a protected garden on the property of Rockland Lake Nature Preserve. It's filled with peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, kale, peppers and herbs for all to pick. The food is available every Friday from 10am-1pm, whenever there's a person on-site to allow access to the property.

Front Yard Gardens

The front yard garden that we're including in this list is 214 North Midland. There is beautiful lettuce from Cropsey Farm ready to be picked now, and the beets will be ready soon. 

Harvesting Tips

When picking kale, it's best to pull individual leaves from the stalk, and be sure to leave plenty of leaves on the plant, so that it can continue its healthy growth from harvest to harvest.

Loose leaf lettuce should be carefully plucked or cut from the plant one individual leaf at a time, ensuring that the root remains in the ground. Feel free to pick all the leaves from the lettuce plant. Lettuce has a shorter lifespan than the heartier greens like kale and chard.

Head lettuce can be pulled as a head from the base of the plant. It's okay to be the first person to pull a pretty head of lettuce from the garden! It's grown for you to eat, not just for us all to marvel at.

Beet greens at the John Green House can be pulled from the root (which might be big enough to eat or might not be--it depends on the individual plant). Or, they can be cut from the base of the plant just like loose leaf lettuce.

Carrots are in the back left row of the bottom planter at the John Green House. Right now, they're baby rainbow carrots, but they're certainly sweet and delicious already. They can be harvested now through the next two or three weeks. To harvest, gently get a grip on the base of the carrot greens, give the plant a little wiggle, and then pull the carrot up from the earth. You can eat the carrot greens, too. They're a little bitter, but they're nice when sauteed.

Peas can be picked directly from the plant and eaten whole in the shells. They can also be popped out of the shells to be eaten, depending on your preference.

Herbs should always be harvested by cutting a small sprig at a time without pulling up the plant or breaking any stems.

Baby chard can be harvested by cutting one leaf at a time from the base of the plant. Always allow plenty of leaves to remain on the plant after harvesting.

Enjoy the harvest! We look forward to seeing you snacking around our edible village.

 

Summer Pick and Cook Program Returns

Pick and Cook is a fun and flavorful program that takes kids around our edible village to harvest healthy garden ingredients, and then pairs them with a local chef to transform the ingredients into gourmet meals. After last year's success, Maria Carmen is back this year to organize another session for the Nyack Center campers with chefs to be announced soon.

 Squash blossom fritters, homemade kale and herb pasta, and garden flatbread were among the menu items last year.

Squash blossom fritters, homemade kale and herb pasta, and garden flatbread were among the menu items last year.

Harvesting....

Cooking....

And enjoying...