This year Americans will spend millions of dollars to eradicate weeds in yards, fields, and gardens. Meanwhile, a group of enthusiasts in Durango, Colorado, has come up with a different approach: eat the weeds!
Turtle Lake Refuge is a local nonprofit that promotes education about and preparation of wild, local, and raw foods. This year it kicked off a Wild Food CSA project that brings new and very local foods to members.
This fall, members of Turtle Lake Refuge’s Wild CSA can expect to receive acorn meal, chokecherries, unpasteurized apple cider, a quart jar of thistle lemonade, hawthorn berry pie filling, yucca shampoo, elm leaf chips, and always a large bag of salad greens containing ample garden weeds.
Members also receive a weekly newsletter with information, tips, and recipes that take the mystery out of cattail flour and other new foods.
Katrina Blair, director of Turtle Lake Refuge, says that 90 percent of the food offered through the CSA project grows abundantly in local backyards. She says that once cooks know these wild weeds and how to work with them, they will readily integrate such plants into menus and diets.
Blair points out that weeds like dandelion, purslane, and amaranth have been showing up in pricey gourmet salad mixes. And it’s no wonder. These plants thrive under natural rainfall and soil conditions, and they contain more nutrients leaf for leaf than any hard-won southwestern-grown lettuce. For CSA members, the flavor’s great too.
“We like to think we’re adding a little zest to their week,” says Blair.