I have a recurring dream: I wake in a meadow surrounded by all of the weeds I’ve ever pulled. Purslane, dandelion, Canada thistle, yellow nutsedge, ground ivy, burdock, broadleaf plantain, bindweed, lambsquarters, tree of heaven, galinsoga.
My weed-pulling days started when others my age were riding bicycles with training wheels. We were country kids. My dad delegated and sent us off in different directions. Weeding the planters around the built-in barbecue grill was my favorite. A simple, defined geographic area—and not too many snakes. There were other chores: picking up black walnuts from the lawn, staining hands and nasal passages, or gathering shards of glass and nails from the pasture, so they wouldn’t lodge in our ponies’ hooves. It was the weeding that took.
“The strongest and most mysterious weeds often have things to teach us.” –F.T. McKinstry
As a new mother, I got a job with a landscape designer on the maintenance crew. Weeding was my calling. I’d come home, farmer-tanned arms, soil crammed my cuticles, and knees crusted with dirt, completely refreshed from a morning of weeding the poolsides and patios of Saucon Valley mansions.
I planned our young family’s first backyard as a high-maintenance garden. I wanted to spend most of my free time right there. Beds were laid out with mulch and precision. Each perennial, shrub, or tree had its spot—encircled with mulch. A friend stopped for a visit and said the garden reminded her of doilies her grandmother put under every knickknack on tables, dressers and sideboards. And when there were weeds sprouting on those doilies, my radar zeroed in and my fingers pulled them out.
Then, there was Fleur-de-Lys Farm. I became one with the weeds. I tossed purslane in our salads, deep-fried dandelion fritters, tried to co-exist. I fell in love with the weedy suckering of the pawpaw trees along the stream and the cut-leaf sumac on the hill. I planted goldenrod, wild ginger, and Jerusalem artichokes that spread like weeds.
“May all your weeds be wildflowers.” –Author Unknown
So, as I’ve spent much of the New Year nursing a sore throat and cough, craving ginger tea, and massaging my sinuses with Tiger Balm, why am I dreaming of weeds?
The first weekend of 2016 I barely left the couch. I played NPR to entertain my mom while I dozed in and out of sniffling slumber. I caught a snippet of The Dinner Party Download guys discussing the latest health craze—Tiger Nuts. Since the 13th century Tiger Nuts have been pressed into a milky drink in Valencia called horchata. That grabbed my attention. I’m planning a trip to the Atlantic side of the Iberian Peninsula—maybe they serve horchata in Portugal, I whispered to myself, head nuzzling a pillow.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue;
But they don’t get around
Like the dandelions do.
— Slim Acres
On workdays, I’d answer the phone with “Gwawd Mawwning, Mawwcowwn Rawwfinnng.” I was totally stuffed up.
“You’ve got a cold,” said a fellow who calls in once or twice a week.
I moaned in the affirmative.
An hour later, Bud (who is even older than I am) shuffled into the office with a tin of Rawleigh’s medicated salve and a pouch of Q-tips. “It’s old-fashioned. It works.”
There was an audience in the office while I coated my inner nasal passages with Rawleigh’s…hardly one of my more glamorous moments. It works. I could breathe.
I don’t think it’s an accident that both Tiger Balm and Rawleigh’s salves contain camphor, which comes from the Cinnamomum camphora tree, designated as a Federal Noxious Weed. As soon as I got home from work, I fell asleep. Lost in la-la land, dreams encroached. Weedy dreams. Waves of weeds tickled my knees, lapped over my shoulders. Pungent, persistent weeds washed over my face, flowed through my brain.
A few days later, the brief segment on Tiger Nuts played a re-run in my mind. I stopped at a local health food store to see if they carried Tiger Nuts, which are also dried and packaged as a gluten-free healthy snack. “Never heard of them. “ How about horchata? “Nope.” As far as I can tell, Tiger Nuts haven’t made it to Central Pennsylvania.
“Maybe I could grow them,” the farmer in me thought. The search continued.
Lo and behold, Tiger Nuts are actually the tubers of Cyperus esculentus, yellow nutsedge. Yellow nutsedge—are you kidding? I know it all too well.
“Sedges have edges, and rushes are round, grasses are hollow from the top to the ground.”
At first glance, yellow nutsedge looks like grass, but a weed-trained eye quickly determines it is not. Indigenous to Africa and the Mediterranean, it has short straw-colored bursts of spikey flowers that remind me of fireworks. It is one of those deceiving weeds. The green, grassy foliage comes off in handfuls with hardly a tug—but the weediness of the plant is that the tubers don’t come up when you yank. Instead, they hide underground to send up new growth as soon as you turn your back. Tiger Nuts may sound enchanting, but yellow nutsedge is a nightmare. Laurie Lynch
“When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.”—Author Unknown
Addendum: This blog was written in fits and starts, between fevers and sneezes, thought about between FCS calls and year-end spreadsheets, and guess what…Amazon knows all. I got an email yesterday saying I might be interested in: Organic Raw Tigernuts, Organic Sliced TigerNuts, TigerNut Flour, TigerNuts Supreme Peeled, Organic Cold-Pressed Tiger Nut Oil and Tiger Nut Raw Granola…wish someone would decide whether it’s one word, two, or two, runtogether.
“But make no mistake: the weeds will win; nature bats last.” –Robert M. Pyle