June 1, 2008

Yesterday my thoughts settled on some interesting observations concerning "things we turn our backs on in America." Specifically, two topics meandered throughout the day: hemp and edible weeds. I began the day with an extensive conversation on legalizing indsutrial hemp (or rather, the lack of progress to date thereon), and ended the day serving up a fine plate of weeds for dinner. I’ll elaborate.

On the matter of hemp, let’s face it: Hemp is quite possibly one of the most useful plants on the planet, and we don’t grow it in the US because it has fallen prey to its affiliation with its cousin plant which is classified as an illegal drug. Here is an entry from Wikipedia on the subject: "Industrial hemp has thousands of uses, including paper, textiles, biodegradable plastics, health food, and fuel, but it has not been the great commercial success that the enthusiast
hoped for. It is one of the fastest growing biomasses on the planet,
and one of the earliest domesticated plants known. It also runs
parallel with the "Green Future" objectives that are becoming
increasingly popular. Hemp requires little to no pesticides, replenishes soil with nutrients and nitrogen, controls erosion
of the topsoil, and produces a lot of oxygen, considering how fast it
grows. Furthermore, Hemp could be used to replace many potentially
harmful products, such as tree paper (the processing of which uses
bleaches and other toxic chemicals, and contributes to deforestation),
cosmetics (which often contain synthetic oils that can clog pores and
provide little nutritional content for the skin), and plastics (which
are petroleum based and cannot decompose)."  So it interests me that because it is a socio-political hot potato, we as a nation reject the use of this valuable commodity at a time when food, sustainabiltity and most certainly fuel are at the forefront of people’s awareness. Something to think about, and to my mind, an even more important social issue than whether or not cancer patients should be legally allowed to toke up if it makes them feel better.

Last night’s dinner was a large skillet of purslane, obtained from a casual weeding foray in many garden areas. Purslane is one of the most nutritious vegetables it is possible to consume, and it is also a common garden weed. nutritiondata.com notes that:  This food is very low in
Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Thiamin, Niacin, Vitamin B6
and Folate, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin,
Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. I read elsewhere that it also contains an omega-3 fatty acid. So why isn’t everyone having their purslane for dinner? Well, who in America eats weeds? We’re taught that you pull weeds and throw them away. I was more than a little amused when I handed the serving (cooked stovetop with salt, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of tabasco sauce) to my farming partner and watched him take a deep breath since eating weeds obviously carried a high "ick" factor. And yet this wonderful food (it tastes very good, to me) is right under our noses, being thrown away by the collective bushel.

In ways large and small, sometimes it’s good to step back and take notice that the status quo may not be the best thing for us. It took me 40 years to find my first serving of purslane–good luck finding yours!


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