Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chickweed Delight

Ahhhhhhhhhh. I'm writing in Southern Indiana, hilly country. It's November, just beginning to get cold. And foraging for wild plants has gotten a bit sparse. Many plants have died down for the winter, and the trees have lost their leaves.

Chickweed, surprisingly, likes this time of year, and thank goodness that it does! When visiting a neighbor the other day I noticed some large dandelion leaves sticking out from a ditch, so I returned to investigate. Sure enough I found enough dandelion leaves to fill a bag for the fridge. And since there was a large, frisky, friendly dog, I went on ramble with the pooch to see what else might be around. I found a large amount of some kind of hardy, viney plant with small black berries, but I don't know what it is. Research is required for that one.

And walking even further down an old lane, I found a large, lush patch of chickweed.

(These pictures are from Prodigal Gardens.)

Chickweed is a nutritious, medicinal plant. It grows low to the ground, usually in a sort of mat of thick green growth. It's a lovely little plant, looking very delicate. But for all that, it is a hardy weed and grows all over the place--lawns, fields, gardens. Once you have identified it, you'll begin to see it everywhere. The patch I found is extensive, but you will also see smaller patches growing in your lawn, your neighbor's lawns, around sidewalks, etc. It is difficult to get a good picture of chickweed, but google images for chickweed and you'll see enough different pictures that you'll be able to ID it clearly. One clue for chickweed--it will have tiny hairs running up on one side of the stalk, and on one side only. When it comes to a pair of leaves (opposite), the line of tiny hairs will be on the other side of the stalk. You'll need a magnifying glass to see the hairs. :) It is worth doing this to be sure you'll looking at chickweed.

This time of year, I doubt you'll find it flowering, but when it does, it will have small, white star- like flowers. Stalks, leaves and flowers are all edible/medicinal.

You can easily pull it up with your hand, or take a pair of scissors or a knife and cut off the top few inches. You can get a lot of it with little effort. It makes a nice mild tea, it is good in salads, and it can be lightly steamed as well. Doesn't take long to cook it, just a few minutes. I like the tea and the salad options best. I'll be heading back to the patch for more, because I've also decided to make a salve with it.

Chickweed is full of vitamin and minerals: Vitamin C, A and B, calcium, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, thiamin, and zinc. Botanical.com's entry says chickweed is an old wives' remedy for obesity--and I have read many other herbalists say it is good for losing weight. If it is all you are eating, I'm sure it would be! It can be made into a very healing salve, good for sores and skin problems, chapped hands and the like. The tea is laxative, but also good for coughs and colds. You can also use the tea to apply it to rough areas of skin or sores. It's a good, all around useful herb.

If you get a chance to head out doors, keep your eyes open for chickweed. Nature's salads can cure a lot of ills, including the colds and flus that come this time of year. Best of all, chickweed is around when lots of other plants are gone for the winter.


1 comment:

Ellen said...

Did you know you can use the 'milk' from chickweed to kill warts? You simply put the milk on the wart at least twice a day, it takes a few weeks but it does work..