I grow vegetables to feed us, make natural ingredient creams, lotion and shampoo, cook all meals from scratch and detest E numbers. I live in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand

What is a weed? It is a plant that is growing where it is not wanted. Many of what we class as weeds are garden plants in other countries and  introduced to our country but have since become a pest.

Many of what we call weeds have medicinal or healing properties and are edible raw or cooked.

Way back last century, when I was young and charming, I became interested in the healing properties of weeds and plants. As a child I was brought up on the family farm.

Many of the men who worked on the farm were in the habit of going to the dry creek paddock and picking what we called flannel leaf or wild toilet paper, but is correctly know as woolly mullein (verbascum thapsus) .

Woolley mullein

Woolley mullein

Some used the leaves in their shoes as inner soles but most picked them to dry and add to their tobacco. It was many year later, when I started studying herbs, I discovered it is excellent for asthma and breathing difficulties. Its is now an ingredient in my homemade cough mixture.

When I was mid teens I started suffering from headaches and migraines. I used to go fishing with my dad to the Rangitata or Orari Rivers. One evening we were fishing and my head started pounding so I sat down in the shade. Dad disappeared into the trees and came back with a small willow (salix alba)  branch.

Foliage of the willow tree

Foliage of the willow tree

He said to chew it, hold some under your tongue  then spit it out. It was pretty bitter and awful, but I gnawed away at it. Very rapidly my headache started to go away and I was able to carry on fishing.

My third childhood memory is of the elderberry (sambucus nigra) trees that grew wild around the farm.

The flower of the elderberry tree.

The flower of the elderberry tree.

There were several growing near the sheep yards and also in the farm yard beside the house. In the summer we collected some of the soft wood and leaves and put them in the dogs kennels, under the new straw when we cleaned out the kennels. This acted as a flea deterrent.

I was thrilled by this but it was many many years later that I had the time and chance to study weeds and herbs more closely. I plan to take you thru some of my favourites in times to come.


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