This time of year my garden is inundated by weeds, but each year there are new surprises to what I pull up, and that is why I practice mindful weeding! Cutting down knee-deep owl clover, I am pleased to see sturdy stalks of wild lettuce and an occasional wild raspberry leaf. Stopping, I cut the wild lettuce and place it to the side so I can tincture the leaves. The raspberry I clear a path around so it can get some light and grow.

Wild lettuce leaf (Lactuca virosa or L.scariola, or L.Canadensis) is best when the leaves are mature, but shiny and almost sticky with moisture and before the flowers are open. Wild lettuce has a strong sleep-inducing effect and is sometimes combined with valerian or California poppy in sleep formulas. It is good for general coldness and stiffness of limbs, negative thinking and worrying that the worst will happen. It’s milky fluids are like milk and honey for the nervous system! You can snip off the leaves and parts of stem to tincture in vodka or brandy, or dry the leaves to make a tea. They are bitter, so best combined with a little mint and licorice or stevia.

Further along in my weeding I gather cleavers (Galium aparine) to add to my daily tea – and what’s this? Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)? Probably some seeds I tossed! I trim the alfalfa so as to dry some leaves which I can powder in the blend for our dogs, and some go into a tincture. Alfalfa is a very nutritive grass, high in amino acids and a nice part of a daily tonic. If you are sensitive to bug bites and stings – maybe getting an allergic response, then alfalfa can be applied both topically and internally to help manage the response. 

I’m finally weeding a last patch of thigh-high greenery by the front door and draw my hand back fast, yelping as I feel a sting on my wrist – what on earth . . .? Nettle! A strange volunteer since I only have a tiny patch I finally started in my medicine garden at the far end of the property. Perhaps it seeded from plant parts from a creekside harvest I did last month – tossing bits casually out the front door! Ha! Nettle is a volunteer I’m especially pleased with, so I create a little space for it to grow and make a note to remember to water there.

Nettle (Urtica dioica) is truly one of my herbal mainstays and how lush it is right now – fresh for the picking (but do take care!). Actually, if you roll a fresh leaf up from the bottom, you will be spared the sting. Then you can crush the fresh roll between your fingers so as to release the juices (and the sting!) – then eat it fresh, right there on the stop – yum! Pick the fresh nettle tops before they flower, wash them and hang them in clumps to dry or dry in open baskets. Use for a high vitamin-mineral (especially high in iron) tea combined with red raspberry and rosehips, throughout the year!

Happy spring and happy weeding!