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Our topsy turvy relationship with Minnesota wild weeds

Theoretically, no Minnesotan ever has to go hungry. Also, no one might never pay a dime for food on any given day, especially during summer months. The fact is, wild plant foods grow naturally and abundantly just about everywhere in our state.

Dandelion leaves are among the most nutritious foods known. They have more iron than spinach.
Photo by Ken Korczak

People could eat them and live on them.

Anyone can easily forage several pounds of food per day, and a lot of us would barely have to go far beyond out back yards.

As a society, however, we have become completely oriented away from the natural proteins, fibers and vitamin-packed plants that are there for the taking, like manna from Heaven. Instead, we call them “weeds,” often “noxious weeds.”

Take green amaranth, for example. Most people call this “pig weed.” Gardeners and farmers fight ongoing battles against this extremely persistent plant all summer -- yet amaranth is one of the most nutritious plants we can eat, both the leaves and the seeds.

Another amazingly abundant “weed” is lambsquarters. This also haunts (graces) our gardens. It is often lumped into the term “pig weed.” But those “in the know” often call lambsquarters “wild spinach,” and why not? The fact is, lambsquarters has more nutritional punch than does spinach.

One serving of lambsquarters has 65% RDA of Vitamin A, 37% Vitamin C, 9% calcium, 2% iron. It also has 4% of the RDA of fiber you need and a gram of protein to boot. It’s a tremendous food source, and it’s absolutely everywhere, even in the cracks of urban parking lots.

Let's mention one more before you go to the slide show: Plantain weed. This is not the banana-like fruit, but an extremely common leafy green “weed” found in gardens. It also grows commonly in the middle of lawns. Again, plantain weed is a food of enormous nutritional value,and it is easy to find and abundant. (See photo in slide show).


If you would gave the average American the choice of a daily meal of common "weeds" over, say, eating off the dollar menu at a fast food joint, perhaps 99 out of a 100 (or maybe 100 out of 100) would opt for the sleazy wage-slaving burger giant – such as that sickening behemoth, McDonald’s -- which is also destroying the environment by obtaining its food from industrialized, petro-chemical farms, cruel animal factories -- all while casting off mountains of waste and trash.

However, that person on a diet of fast food for, say, a year, or five years -- would likely develop a host of medical problems, including obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and more.

But the person subsisting on native wild plants for the same period would almost certainly remain healthy – lean, slender, low cholesterol, strong heart, and all the rest. Furthermore, they would have gotten the bulk of their food for free, and they would not have been lacing the pockets of exploitative billionaires who own giant fast food chains.

Yet, in our topsy turvy world, very few individuals could imagine eating even one meal per day of “pig weed” or an occasional dandelion-leaf salad. No matter that wild foods are good for us – and free – it’s not the choice we're willing to make as a society.

Find out lots more about native wild foods here: MOTHER MINNESOTA

Please email Ken with thoughts, ideas or comments:

See more of Ken's: "GREEN STORIES"

Ken is the author of MINNESOTA PARANORMALA now available on

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