What Mother Never Told You About Weeds

What Mother Never Told You About Weeds

East Texas is bursting in to bloom. The Parsnip has a job preaching at a very small church in a little town south of us called New Summerfield. It’s a tiny town, boasting one stoplight, one gas station but no fewer than 40 greenhouses. I asked one of the locals about this, they said New Summerfield is the growing capital of Texas. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ve seen evidence myself that it may be. They have a Color Spot house, a Bonnies Plant store, and family owned greenhouses a plenty. (Haha I went to the Chamber of Commerce page for New Summerfield—it is, indeed The Plant Capital of the South according to their web page population 998)

New Summerfield, TX Greenhouse

Greenhouse in New Summerfield

It’s a lovely drive and we really have enjoyed our times spent listening to podcasts and visiting with each other for the 35 to 40 minutes it takes to get there. So, get to the point, right? Okay. This past Sunday on our way to New Summerfield we saw field after field of the most beautiful yellow wildflowers.

Fields of Yellow on the way to New Summerfield

Saffron Fields on the way to New Summerfield

The Gunz family are no slouches when it comes to wildflower looking. We take the requisite “Bluebonnet” tour each year at Brenham and College Station. We do the Azalea Tour (okay that’s not a wildflower, but you get the point) in Tyler. We have driven far off the beaten path, yea, verily I say, off the path completely, to see some flower, plant, or tree. This is the first time we have seen this saffron sea as far as the eyes can see.

So,  what is it? Well, it looks exactly like dill. I told the Parsnip, “It looks like wild mustard” He scoffed. (He’s a scoffer) “You just said that because it’s yellow like mustard” “Yeah, whatever.” Now I’m a bit snippy. I mean, he knows diddly about them but he wants to scoff at me? “So, what do you think it is?” I ask. “Um, it’s yellow flowers” The Parsnip is a genius.

It turns out we were both right. They are, indeed, yellow flowers. They are, in fact, a member of the mustard family.

It’s called Flixweed (sometimes called Fluxweed and Mustard Tansy) It’s even grown as an herb called “Sophia” Tansy. Mixed in with some Ragwort, Fluxweed makes broad strokes in yellow and golden fields. It really is quite stunning. The Ragwort is poisonous to livestock, which is why some of the fields are completely empty of it, taken out by the caring cattleman.

In Ireland it’s called cushag and it is kept far from the sheep, goats and other livestock as it is a toxin that attacks the liver and while not always fatal, is quite damaging to the animal.

So, what does all of this have to do with gardening? I’m taking the scenic route to getting there.

This begs the question, when is a weed, a weed? If you buy seeds and plant it in a garden, it’s a garden plant, right? What if you plant a bed of French Dandelion, have you sown a bed of weeds. Yes. But, no.

Technically, dandelion is considered a weed as it comes up uninvited in grass yards and spreads itself without restraint if left to it’s own devices. However, dandelion has been found to have many medicinal and remedial uses and because of such, is now grown as a main crop by home gardeners and organic farms.

I guess a weed is only a weed in the eye of the beholder. I keep dandelions away from my tomatoes so they don’t hog the water and nutrients, but I’m far more lenient, even coddling of them on the side of the house where the flowers are, because I use them for dandelion tea. I even grow French Dandelions for this purpose. They grow right next to the Alkanet and Woad.

You say tomāto, I say tomăto!

So, if you want it in your life, it’s a plant. If you would rather it be in your neighbors yard or down the road or anywhere but on your land, it’s a weed. I follow an interesting blog about foraging and other garden adventures called Gettin’ Fresh. The author of this blog forages for many things and talks about chickweed, and hairy bittercress, wild garlic and more. She gets these from around her house and she eats them.

I think it’s fascinating, the idea of foraging for part of a meal. I also think I’m too chicken to try much of it. I mean, how many people died before they came up with shitake and button mushrooms? I guess I would try many things myself but I absolutely wouldn’t feed it to Patrick lessen I knew what it was and what it was likely to do to him. I mean, I may think it’s a low calorie source for vitamin C, but it’s just as likely to be an alkaloid that causes liver destruction. I’ll stick with the “experts” I think.

I do have a certain affinity to weeds. I am a weed of sorts. Of dubious origins, raised by a Lily and a Potato for part of my life, transplanted several times, and sprayed more than once with the dreaded Roundup type substances.

But, the Parsnip thinks I’m a keeper. The little Gunz’ think I’m a Tea Rose and my friends picked me for their bouquets. So, there. I’m not a weed at all anymore.

Mother Earth News has a great article I’m linking here for you to find out a little more about weeds. You can order your own French Dandelion seeds here. Also, other “weedy” finds such as chickweed and several of the “cresses” that are used by many for salads. Check them out here.

I found this poem about “The Cushag” I thought it was lovely and thought you might also.

The Cushag”

Now, the Cushag, we know,
Must never grow,
Where the farmer’s work is done.
But along the rills,
In the heart of the hills,
The Cushag may shine like the sun.
Where the golden flowers,
Have fairy powers,
To gladden our hearts with their grace.
And in Vannin Veg Veen,
In the valleys green,
The Cushags have still a place. —by Josephine Kermode (1852-1937)

You hate them? You love them? You hate/love them? What “weeds” do you grow as plants in your yard or garden? If you don’t grow any “weeds” would you consider some in the future? What is your most despised interloper (plant wise) in your garden or yard? What is your favorite “weed” find?

Have a paisley weed, or weed free day. Whichever you choose.~KeriAnne

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