Across the 40 or so gardens and clients Good Thymes Gardening works with regularly, it can vary from garden to garden as to what is and what isn’t deemed a weed. Let us let you in on a little secret…anything can be a weed if it is both 1) unintentional and 2) unwelcome. There is a difference between an invasive plant and a weed, however. Let’s look at mint. Mint has a reputation for being incredibly invas-ive if not restricted, however, it is most often intentionally planted. Perhaps we could get philosophical and agree there is probably a point when something becomes a weed when it is no longer welcome and the outcome of the invasive growth was not intended. Aquilegia may be purposefully planted in garden 1 and then may turn up in garden 2 to the owner’s delight, neither considered weeds. Should the aquilegia self-seed across the driveway of garden 3, to which the owner neither wanted it nor planted it, there we have our weed.
The campanula for example in the walls of my garden was unintentional but I do enjoy it in flower so it can stay, however, the very same campanula growing across my raspberry bed is most definitely a weed and needs to behave. We’ve had words.
I see so many plants getting a bad reputation for their invasive nature, and granted some certainly do need to be restrained to prevent damage to other plants. However, let’s turn weed shame on its head and celebrate positive aspects of some offenders we most commonly deem as ‘weeds’:
Dandelions: A perfect source of food for pollinators early in the year before the garden truly springs to life. Delay mowing for as long as you can and pinch off the heads just as they’ve finished flowering. This is before they turn into seed bombs and really will become invasive, unintentional and unwelcome.
Aquilegia: A prolific self-seeder. However, it comes in an array of tones and hues and adds to the colour and fullness of a cottage-style garden. The dried-out seed heads are also lots of fun for kids to shake, rattle and roll. Don’t let poppy seed heads have all the fun!
Nettles: Don’t forget your gloves – nettle has been used for centuries in herbal medicine and made into teas. Drying or cooking will eradicate the hellish burning sensation upon contact.
Bind Weed: Certainly one that I’ve yet to see intentionally planted, however, they have the most glorious white tubular flowers to distract us whilst they strangle the surrounding plants and overtake beds with udon noodle-like roots. Admittedly satisfying to pull when the time comes.
Brambles: Bramble Jelly, a British staple and age-old tradition. Who doesn’t have a memory of purple-stained (and slightly bloody) fingers, while filling Tupperware boxes of blackberries from hedgerows?
Herb Robert: Sensory joy working with these weeds/non-weeds, when you get close they smell citrusy and the popping sensation when you give the base a light tug to dislodge is marvelous.
For those unsure of how to identify these plants I have a plethora of such plants to showcase at GTG HQ should you wish for a grand tour. None of which are intentional, but all welcomed…for now.
This year we pushed the boat out and tried growing a selection of vegetables not normally found in the supermarket. Not only introducing new foods to the little ones but also a bit of fun for Mr GTG to experiment with in the kitchen.
SOW: Depending on varieties they can be sown from the start of spring through to early summer or even mid to late summer – always check the varieties as it will impact when you harvest in the year and will feed into your planting plan to get the most out of the space. Modular trays make easy sowing and transplanting when it is warm enough end of April/May onwards.
HARVEST: When it is around the size of a tennis ball it is ready to harvest.
STORE: Cut off the roots and remove leaves for storage, don’t wash until you’re ready to use. Keep in the salad drawer in the fridge.
COOK: Mr GTG’s Khao Poon Khao Poon is a curried coco-nut noodle broth dish from Laos in South East Asia. Rice noodles and some form of meat or fish are used and topped with thinly shredded crunchy vegetables as a generous garnish. We made use of some purple kohlrabi and red cabbage that we grew in the garden, for the garnish. (Serves 2)
- 1 chicken breast, gently poached then shredded
- 400ml coconut milk
- 50 mg coconut cream
- 2 balls of rice noodles
- Half a red cabbage
- 1 whole bulb of kohlrabi
- 6 sliced shallots or two medium brown onions
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 thumbs of galangal sliced (or 1 thumb of ginger as a substitute)
- 4 tsp Thai red curry paste
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, bashed to bruise it and release oils
- A few fresh chillies or chilli flakes
- 1 small bunch of coriander
- 4-5 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp shrimp paste (a bit hard to get but makes a difference!)
- 1 lime
Bring a pan of water to a boil to poach the chicken. Add the galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves, stems from the coriander and the chicken breast to the water. Simmer gently for around 8-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks (if you have poached the chicken at a very high heat it will likely be too tough to shred nicely). You can also mince the chicken into a paste with a pestle and mortar to make a very thick sauce. This also works well with fish and shrimp.
To prepare the garnish, julienne the red cabbage, kohlrabi and fresh chillies. If you have a tool like a mandolin with the “teeth” attachment then use that, we have a vegetable peeler with teeth that cost a couple of £ and is brilliant for stuff like this. Chop the coriander and mix everything in a bowl with the lime juice, zest and a small pinch of salt. Remember that any crunchy veg like carrots, radish or spring onion would work well too. Some raw garlic and onion if you are brave – all of which can be picked from your very own veg patch!
Heat a pan with some vegetable or coconut oil and add the shallots, garlic and curry paste. Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the coconut milk, shrimp paste and fish sauce (also a pinch of sugar balances out the broth well). Cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Bring a small pan full of water to a boil, and cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions while the sauce is simmering. Add the chicken to the sauce with the coconut cream and simmer for a few more minutes just to heat up and mix in (longer if using the minced chicken to incorporate and thicken the broth properly).
To plate up, ladle the broth and chicken into a bowl, followed by the rice noodles and garnish. Any other fancy tricks like a drizzle of chilli oil make the dish look amazing (I’ve even seen some of the rice noodles deep fried very quickly and arranged on top to add a crunchy, toasty element to the garnish).
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