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Give chickweed another shot

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2015 February Issue Newsletter

Julie Rawson, Farmer

This winter I am infatuated by a new book, “The Wild Wisdom of Weeds” by Katrina Blair. I will give a full review of it in the upcoming edition of The Natural Farmer, but wanted to share some thoughts about chickweed here.

Anyone who has tried to raise winter greens in a hoop house knows what grows there best at this time of the winter–chickweed! The problem, of course, is that it can choke out the more demure spinach and lettuce plants. And, alas, we, in our assumed wisdom will go to great ends to eradicate it. Perhaps the adage, “if you can’t beat em, join em” is appropriate here. Did you know that chickweed tones the skin, helps in reducing weight and toxins? It can be made into salves, oils, poultices, lotions, teas, and juices. A poultice can be made by chewing the greens into a pulp and then adding them placing the mass on skin blemishes, sunburns and sunspots. Traditional Chinese medicine values it as especially useful in wound healing.

Chickweed is loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants. It is a very tasty salad green that is plentiful, mild in flavor, and succulent. It is also a good addition to a morning green drink. When I harvest it (from around my spinach plants) I gently rip it away from the soil so that I get the tender greens and leave the roots to regrow. At this time of year its production outstrips any “tame” green that you might have planted in the unheated hoop house.

Chickweed’s vitamin and mineral content reads like a who’s who. It contains generous amounts of Vitamin C, A, D and the B complex, and minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, manganese, copper, selenium and silica. Its seeds, produced in the fall, contain 17% protein and 5.9% fat.

Eating chickweed in its fresh form helps remove congestion and infection. Fresh juice and tea assist in eliminating gas and indigestion. The chlorophyll makes it good for dissolving inferior proteins in the body such as tumors. The fresh juice should be used consistently to gain this effect. Tinctures of chickweed can assist in relieving congestion. Chickweed oil is good for relieving skin rashes.

In December I sold a “super greens mix” to our accounts, which included lettuce, spinach, arugula, parsley, Asians and chickweed. Now it is the major component of our salads along with sprouted seeds (raised in the house) for this slow salad time of year. In years past when I had large quantities of the herb, I would feed it to our cows at winter’s end. They almost knocked down the fence to get at it. Chickens, of course, relish it.

Lately I have been drying it in our Excalibur dryer. Everyday I put a small handful of my mixed dried “weeds”  (comfrey, nettles, chickweed, plantain, dandelion greens, raspberry leaves) in our morning kefir drink and I also put them into our fermented pancake batter. My next batch of salve will include it. I encourage you to get Blair’s book and read about this plant and 12 others that we generally consider weeds. It might open up a whole new way of looking at life and plants, and food and nutrition, and farming, for you, as it has for me. 

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