‘And the dandelion does not stop growing because it was told it was a weed. The dandelion does not care what others see. It says, One day they’ll be making wishes on me.’ —B. Atkinson
A few years ago, up here on Red Clover Farms, a friend and I made an exchange. She was looking for land to grow organic feed for her ducks, and I desperately needed help with keeping up with the “weeds” in my gardens. We didn’t need a handshake because a farmer’s word is his or her strongest bond. In went the grains — millet, flax, buckwheat, amaranth, and oats — and down went the peas. Oh, how the ducks love peas!Now, many people who want a beautiful flower garden will plant just that — flowers. They never think of planting something wild and crazy like grains. Well, let me tell you that the hues of flowering grain colors in the field are just about the prettiest thing you could ever see. I still remember the sea of flax. Every time the wind blew the bluish rows, it looked just like the ocean, softly rippling away in the fields. Grains are so beneficial for gardeners as well because they attract honeybees, which will help pollinate crops. Buckwheat is just like candy for honeybees — they absolutely love it. So a couple of weeks went by, and I was so busy at my general store downtown — running the restaurant, putting together upcoming farm-to-table menus — that I didn’t even step foot into my gardens. I knew that they were getting watered and weeded, so you can imagine the giant weight that was taken off my shoulders by the exchange.One morning, while my friend was out in the garden watering, I decided to check things out since farm-to-table season was right around the corner. I imagined pristine rows of manicured vegetables, maybe a color-coded system. I was so excited. I ran outside, and what did I find? Weeds. Like almost all weeds. And there she was, watering away and greeting me with a great big smile.I remember thinking, hmm … was our exchange not clear? Did she not get around to weeding yet? I was confused. The vegetable plants looked absolutely healthy and amazing, but there were just so many weeds. I didn’t want to make the situation awkward, so I began some friendly conversation and rolled up my sleeves to start weeding.I bent over to make my first pull, and I heard a sweet voice: “Oh no, dear, you don’t want to pull that one — that’s purslane, it’s edible.”Edible? Oh, OK, on to the next weed. Get ready, yank and “Oh no, dear, you don’t want to pull that one either. That’s lamb’s quarters. It’s a purifying plant and helps to restore healthy nutrients to the soil, and it’s great in salads.Ah. I remember making some comment like, “Oh, and I guess the dandelions are off limits, too?” And she followed with “Oh, dandelions, we should make some tea.”I didn’t know what to think. It was just not what I expected, and I thought, Who was going to eat a pile of weeds? So I did a little research on purslane and found out it is a bit of a nutritional powerhouse, offering remarkable amounts of minerals (most notably calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins (A, B, C), and antioxidants. New York Times best seller Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food called purslane and lamb’s quarters the two most nutritious plants on the planet.Really? Maybe we are on to something here.For a hoot, I created a section on my restaurant menu called “Farmer Kim’s Edible Weeds,” and I thought, Here goes nothing. Next to the standard lettuce and field greens, I would throw a bunch of weeds just off to the side, just in case the customer didn’t want to eat a pile of grass. I’d serve it up with a white peach-infused balsamic, and crunch, crunch, plate cleaned. What a great conversation starter, too.Pretty soon people were asking to buy my weeds, and of course I thought of the get-rich-quick plan of selling weeds — or even better, pick your own weeds. That way my gardens would get tended to as well.I guess the lesson learned from the garden is What makes something a weed? Something obnoxious and annoying, that just gets in the way? Something that doesn’t fit in, or belong. Something that looks different, is misunderstood, is tossed aside. Sound familiar?I’m sure we can all think of situations where this is relevant. Maybe we have all felt like a weed at one time, or have been the weeder. Maybe that weed that we were going to pluck and toss to the side actually is the most beneficial for you to keep. My dandelion wish for you: May all your weeds be wildflowers.