When I was nine, my friends and I discovered that a local weed, “Sourgrass” (Oxalis pes-caprae) was edible. For weeks after, whenever we walked to or from school in our suburban neighborhood, we pulled up hunks of bright yellow-flowered plant, and chewed on the stems. We thrilled at the bold sweet-sour taste, and felt very bold ourselves, chewing on weeds.
Of course we decorated our hair with the bright yellow flowers. And who hasn’t made daisy chains? Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve (adults as well as kids!) have clothed ourselves in Cleavers (Galium aparine) — also called “sticky wicky” around here — or in ivy. And who around here doesn’t gobble up blackberries, salmonberries, and huckleberries when they come ripe?
If we think it’s a good idea to connect kids with nature, we’d do well to look back on our childhood. How did we connect with nature? Did we make magic potions? Did we feast on feral plants? Did we sip honeysuckle, learn from the “big kids” that you can eat that weed? Or maybe we were blessed to have grown up with folks who knew the weeds — and cooked with them, made medicine with them, listened to their secrets, and maybe shared a few with us.
Did you climb trees, and take comfort in your long-armed, strong, generous friend?
Did you ever play with plants? Do you play with them now?
Next time your child plays with weeds, join in!