In The Weeds!

asparagusweedsAsparagus before weeding

To read my post for Our State Magazine, follow this link:  http://www.ourstate.com/grow-asparagus/ 

After yesterday’s drenching NC rain, a weak Spring sun was out today and I knew I had to face one of gardening’s most dreaded tasks . . .WEEDING!  When my son, an executive chef, says he is “in the weeds,” he means the kitchen staff is overwhelmed with orders and his staff has to scramble to achieve the optimum balance required to please restaurant guests.  When I am “in the weeds,” that term constitutes an entirely different meaning. 

Why is it that weeds triple in size in a matter of hours when it takes plants we try to grow much longer?  Also, have you noticed that many weeds mimic the look of plants growing nearby?  In my herb bed, I discovered a “new” weed this year, lurking in my thyme plants.  With its trailing tendrils and tiny leaves, I had to look closely (and even smell it!) to be sure it wasn’t thyme.  Last year, I planted black garbanzo beans, a new crop for me, and learned a painful lesson when they began to grow.  Unfamiliar with the foliage of young garbanzo bean plants, I mistakenly pulled many of them, thinking they were vetch, a weed that was growing alongside.  By the time I realized my mistake, the damage was done.  There are also weeds that look like marigolds, eggplants and mums.  I am grateful to my grandmother, Lora Minton, who gave me invaluable training in weed identification.  Recently, I saw a woman using a chemical spray to kill weeds in her flower bed, where her young granddaughter was playing.  I know herbicides make weeding easier, but I was saddened to realize the missed educational opportunity those two could have shared. 

            Most gardeners can easily name their nemesis, that most hated and hardest to control weed.  I once read that if you were unsure whether a plant is a weed or not, try pulling it.  If it comes out easily, it is something you wanted to grow; if it is resistant, it’s a weed. I love a morning glory for their beautiful blooms, but there is a kind of morning glory that grows at the farm that is very different from those pretty garden types.  I think the name of this particular plant is “Grab Ankle and Throw Person to the Ground” Morning Glory, but I could be mistaken.  Seriously, these weeds have sticky tendrils that are deceptively strong and the vines could probably be used in tractor pulls!  In addition to a tap root that can reach about 5 inches in length, these weeds grow at an incredible rate and spread in diameter.  Last summer, I witnessed an incident that made me realize weeds torment animals, as well as humans.  

 

I was cutting okra and noticed something small and brown jump from the weeds at my foot.  I first thought it was a toad because we have lots of those at the farm, but it was a baby rabbit.  He scooted off into another bunch of weeds (sigh) to hide and as I stepped by his previous hiding place, I heard something scurry out behind me.  Actually, it sounded pretty loud, so I expected a large animal when I turned to look.  It was the mother rabbit and she was running for cover when one of those killer morning glories became wrapped around the rabbit’s neck.  There was a moment of eye-rolling, flailing in all directions and a mad pirouette before the animal broke free and dove for cover.  I had to laugh aloud! 

Although weeds certainly make gardening more difficult, some varieties are quite tasty.  When my daughter was in middle school, she told me about a fast-food meal she enjoyed while visiting at a friend’s home.  “You,” she noted, “just go out in the yard and pick stuff for us to eat!”  Her comment was not meant as a compliment, but now that Kate lives a big-city life as a young career-driven professional, she has come to appreciate local food, even weeds!  If you have access to chemical-free weeds, try this tasty and healthy dish: 

Weedy Pasta 

3-4 cups dandelion greens, washed and shredded 

2 cups cooked pasta (any type) 

2 wild onions, washed and white parts diced 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

Sea Salt & Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Grated Parmesan cheese 

Cook pasta, according to directions, drain and set aside.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven, add onion and saute until translucent.  Add pasta and stir to combine with onion.  Add greens and cook with pasta until wilted.  Season with salt/pepper and top servings with cheese.

Asparagus after weeding

Asparagus after weeding