“But make no mistake, the weeds will win, nature bats last.”
–Robert M. Pyle–
Tally Ho! off to the garden for spring planting, shovels and rakes in hand. The soil tilled to a fine “fiddle dust,” as my grandfather used to say. There was nothing like the taste of fresh garden vegetables. Seeds were planted in neat rows. Everything was picture perfect. At least for the first few weeks. Soon the invasion started–weeds poked up their evil little heads. Weeds were easy to pull when small. What were weeds good for? Were they just another aggravation? Weed sprouts seemed to resemble plant seedlings. My enthusiasm wilted with the mid-July heat and humidity. Weeds began their encroachment and gradual takeover. By summers end it became necessary to cut access paths. Grass was the worst. What was a weed? A loose definition, “any plant growing where it’s not wanted.” When I was a kid on the farm, sprouted volunteer corn in the soybean field was a weed.
“If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.” Why not eat weeds? In the early seventies, a popular natural foods guru, advocated that very thing. Euell Gibbons wrote several books including, “Stalking the Wild Asparagus.” He was the butt of jokes on the talk show circuit. I learned about edible weeds, including lamb’s quarters, rose hips, young dandelion shoots, stinging nettles, and cattail. Purslane and amaranth, weeds growing among spinach plants, were nutritional and tasty. Why throw them away?
“One man’s weed is another man’s treasure.” Maybe weeds were a source of fuel? They could lessen dependence on fossil fuels. Henry Ford was ahead of his time in the following observation.
“We can get fuel from fruit, from that shrub on the road side, or from apples, weeds, saw dust–almost everything! There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented.”
Why did grass grow better in flowerbeds, than in the lawn? Were conditions better there? Weeds seem to be well adapted. During times of drought, weeds tough it out. Was I smarter than a weed? …Maybe not? It’s fall, everything looks scraggly. I’ve been beaten once again. None of my strategies worked, not herbicides, boiling water, or mulching. Maybe next year I’ll use a flamethrower. Like die-hard Cub fans say, “There’s always next year.”
“They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I’ve concluded weeds must have brains.”