You can get “Volunteers” to grow free food in your garden!

Aloha!

Creating a food forest probably shouldn’t include weeding, but I like weeding – it relaxes me!  I like picking out which plants can stay and which have to go.  Usually my criteria is if I see them growing on the roadside, then they don’t get to be in the food forest.  I recently learned though, that I’ve been uprooting really good edible plants that volunteered to grow here without any effort on our part.  And I thought they were weeds.  Oops!

I learned from this website:  http://www.eattheweeds.com that I’ve been removing some lovely sources of food, medicine, and useful fibers that volunteered to grow in our soil.

Check out these “Volunteers” who settled here to grow free food for us after their seeds somehow made it into our soil:

Stinging Nettle Volunteering in the Food Forest
Stinging Nettle Volunteering in the Food Forest

Stinging nettle volunteered to grow out in the orchard.  I would pull this “weed” out of the ground before, but now I know to leave it there, because it’s a wonderful source of food, medicine and clothing fiber, as it has been for thousands of years.  I like to dry it and steep it as a tea, and I also chop it up and add it into soups or sauces.  People claim it has many benefits, so once I figured out what this was, I decided to enjoy eating it and bring on the health benefits.  It tastes similar to spinach.  Caution: when you pick this, it will sting your skin, so wear gloves as you cut the stems with scissors and drop them into a paper bag.

Read more about stinging nettles:

http://www.eattheweeds.com/urtica-chamaedryoides-nettle-knowledge-2/

 

Dandelions Volunteering in the Garden
Dandelions Volunteering in the Garden

These “weeds” have been cultivated for through the ages for their many benefits.

Read more about dandelions:

http://www.eattheweeds.com/dandelions-hear-them-roar/

Sour Grass, aka Oxalis, Volunteering in the Food Forest
Sour Grass, aka Oxalis, Volunteering in the Food Forest

Sour Grass was my childhood favorite springtime treat! I actually didn’t pick these out of the garden, because I love them 🙂

Read more about sour grass:

http://www.eattheweeds.com/oxalis-how-to-drown-your-sorrels/

Cleavers Volunteering in the Food Forest
Cleavers Volunteering in the Food Forest

These taste pretty good.

Read more about Cleavers aka Galium:

http://www.eattheweeds.com/galium-aparine-goosegrass-on-the-loose-2/comment-page-1/

 

Flax Volunteering in the Food Forest
Flax Volunteering in the Food Forest

Flax they showed up in the orchard one day, and bloomed with their delightful sky-blue flowers, so I let them stay.  It took me a while to identify them, but once I did, it felt like we got a huge gift.  I have saved and planted more of the seeds, and would love to have them growing all around.  The seeds are delicious and after you harvest the seeds and the plant dries out, you can bundle the plants and  use them for a whisk-broom 🙂

 

Mallow Volunteering in the Food Forest
Mallow Volunteering in the Food Forest

This cool lady makes marshmallows from the mallow volunteer!

 

Mustard Greens Volunteering in the Food Forest
Mustard Greens Volunteering in the Food Forest

http://www.eattheweeds.com/cutting-the-wild-mustard-brassica-sinapis-2/

We think it’s wonderful that so many volunteers have offered to grow free food for us, and we hope you will find some helpful volunteers growing free food in your garden too!

Aloha!

Author: Tutu Sainz

We are a couple of urban food foresters on 1/2 acre in the San Diego County area. We love our food forest, it feels like a garden of eden and it's always fun to work here and eat the food we grow, and to walk around and look at the beautiful plants and trees that are growing here. We believe food forests are the key to abundance for everyone everywhere!

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