By Janelle Eklund
Chickweed is normally not one of the plants you would stumble upon in the Boreal Forest or tundra. You are more likely to find it lavishly making a beautiful green carpet around garden beds. Frankly, I have never seen it growing beyond garden or yard areas. Trying to eradicate it is near impossible. But don't get too discouraged as this plant has many fine qualities. For one, the roots are close to the surface so they are not necessarily crowding out other deeper root bearing plants - and two, the nice green carpet acts as free mulch for your garden bed!! So maybe it's trying to tell us something. We just need to listen. I have to admit that it hasn't found my garden yet - although it has tried a few times - and I am guilty of taking care of it before it got started - and before I learned so much about it.
During the Janice Schofield plant class we called around to various gardeners looking for the best crops of this plant to make wonderful recipes, both for food and medicinal. All the gardeners were more than pleased to share their bounty. We drizzled it with a few drops of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, garlic, parmesan and dried it for a delicious 'chip snack'. We made it into a tea; dressed a salad with it; added it to the wild herb pesto noodle-less lasagna; mingled it with other herbs to make wild herb patties; and incorporated it in gluten free crackers. They were all so delicious and nutritious. Let your imagination flow when conjuring up a wild herb recipe.
We learned that you can harvest this prolific plant throughout the summer by clipping off the tops with scissors.
Not only did we eat this plant but we used it for its medicinal qualities. We learned that it is rich in copper, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C. It doesn't store well so use as soon as you pick it or make it into a tincture. It can help with bladder or urinary tract problems.
Chickweed is very moisturizing and cooling, good in an ointment or as a poultice. Janice told us of a lady that had accidently gotten rosemary oil in her eye. She made a poultice of chickweed and put it on her eye, and over time it healed. This is also cooling and healing for burns. A poultice or salve works for mosquito bites or itchy skin. In Alaska's Wilderness Medicines, Eleanor Vierick says that chickweed is good for infections, inflammations, boils and abscesses.
In Janice's book Discovering Wild Plants, she says she plants chickweed in a pot and has it as a houseplant that she harvests throughout the winter. And chickens love to dine on chickweed - thus its name. Other domestic animals take a liking to it too, such as rabbits and pigs.
So instead of trying to get rid of this seemingly pesky plant - live with it and enjoy its wonderful attributes!
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.