PEOPLE pay a fortune for the latest “super food” but permaculture guru Charles Otway reckons tucking into a weed can deliver the same health benefits at no cost.
Mr Otway, who’s presenting a talk on Tuesday at Moore and Moore gallery, says understanding the role of weeds in nature helps to explain why they should be part of everyone’s diet.
Weeds colonise disturbed soil which is usually depleted, then work furiously to bring minerals and vitamins to the surface, after which they’ll decline and more “establishment” species can move in. That means they’re packed with goodness, while pampered cousins like lettuce are shamefully over-rated.
For example, 100g of lambsquarters (more than you’d really want to eat) delivers 133 per cent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C, while the equivalent of iceberg lettuce is just 5 per cent. The weed also packs in an amazing 232 per cent of the RDI for vitamin A (lettuce just 10 per cent) and 31 per cent of calcium (lettuce a negligible 2 per cent).
Mr Otway says we’ll have to adjust our tastebuds a little, as weeds tend to be a bit sour (that’s actually the goodness), but he does things like wrap dandelion leaf around his kids’ home-made chips and they go down without grumbles.
He says it’s important to research which weeds are edible as a few will give you a tummy-ache, and don’t overdo it as many contain oxalic acid which in large doses can cause trouble with kidneys (as a few drongos discovered when they decided it was hip to suck down litres of warrigal greens juice).
But he says there are lots that are edible, even some deadly nightshade species which many assume to be toxic.
He says knowing the role weeds play can also be important when applied to regeneration. Standard practice for large-scale projects is to clear-fell all weeds and throw in a few “nice” plants. But he says it may be more beneficial to start with a few “friendly” weeds and let them go to work on the soil first.
by STEVE GRANT