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Nutritious Weeds Aren’t the Pests We’ve Been Taught

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Explore Words of Experience from Korey Constable, guest stories for Fruit-Powered Magazine.

What do dandelions, clovers and plantains all have in common? They are some of America’s top undesired lawn weeds. They also happen to be very nutritious and seem to never stop thriving even after a nuclear holocaust. Why call an edible plant a “weed” if it provides significant health benefits? What determines a weed anyway and where did this label come from?

The lawn-care industry, of course! It is, after all, an industry that generates about $40 billion a year. It is also an industry that I cannot seem to free myself from because I have just established myself as a lawn-care provider … for the fifth time!

A landscaping job by Korey Constable
Photographed is the handiwork of Korey Constable, who’s enjoying this spring and summer working outdoors in nature. All story photos by or contributed by Korey except for the plantains image.

I’ve been grateful for what I had, but I arrived at the point where I would have to overcome some fears if I was ever going to accomplish several desirable goals. One of the biggest—if not the biggest—fears I had, believe it or not, was the fear of work, which was pretty much destroyed as evidenced by my 12- to 16-hour workdays five to seven times a week between two jobs. I also went back to work at a local golf club, my first official job that I had in the summers. 1997 was a memorable year for me because not only was it my first year as an employee, it was the year the golf club hosted the Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship, which JoJo Robertson of Roswell, New Mexico, won—a name and home location that is not easily forgotten.

Ford Mustangs Korey Constable has owned through the years
A Ford Mustang that Korey owned through the years. The photographs are in sequential order (from left to right) and were taken in 1997, 2000 and 2004.

1997 was also the year I bought my very first car, a basket case of a 1966 Ford Mustang that arrived on a flatbed with boxes of parts, two engines and a transmission, none of which were attached to the car. The car turned out to be a four-year restoration project that I still have to this day. It has lead to several other fun projects like it but on a lesser scale. One is a 1974 Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruiser and has everything to do with dandelions and nuclear holocausts because it is one of the driving (no pun intended) forces behind my motivation for overcoming my fears and collecting the financial rewards. Now that spring is here and I am back in business, I thought it was a good time to let my fellow readers in on 20-plus years of experience in the lawn-care industry, starting with dandelions.

Korey Constable's Land Rover
Korey’s 1974 Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruiser is photographed after the owner cleared weeds for a garage addition.

Eat Your Weeds

America has convinced its tenants that a lush-green uniform lawn surrounding properties is the only acceptable norm and that anything other than grass is an invader. This is simply another excuse for more products and services we don’t need that benefit industries at our expense. We basically pay to have very nutritious food eliminated from our lawns and, ultimately, our diets while polluting the environment with chemicals. Here are some so-called weeds, which are not limited to lawns and are meant to nourish our bodies, but please do not use this article as a field guide. Eat at your own risk!

Finally, I can talk about dandelions, which, by the way, are awesome, like any other weed. I’ve pulled and treated countless of greens such as these. They are hard to eliminate by hand. Their roots, like other weeds, deeply penetrate the ground and cannot be pulled out without minimal digging. This has its benefits. One being that the weed allows its leaves to be eaten without destroying the plant while it remains firmly in place, always growing. Another benefit is that dandelions can pull nutrients from the ground as deep as 15 feet, thus making nutrients available to other plants and living things that otherwise are not easily accessible. Their leaves are best eaten raw before the flower blooms and get bitter after blooming. After blooming, dandelions are more suitable for cooking. The flower and roots can be eaten as well. They are rich in minerals such as calcium and antioxidants such as Vitamin C. These also increase the production of insulin, thus helping maintain a low blood-sugar level. This is very beneficial for diabetics.

Dandelion grows outside
In addition to Vitamin C, dandelion is rich in Vitamins A and K.

Another so-called weed we are all familiar with is the clover. Not only do these little weeds provide us with nutrition, they keep the bee population thriving. Come to think of it, the rise in lawn treatments may be one of the factors behind the decline of the honeybee population. They also benefit butterflies and other insects, which prey on garden pests. You also have a better chance of finding a four-leaf clover than winning the lottery as there are about one four-leaf clovers for every 10,000 three-leaf ones. It is rich in several minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium and has detoxifying properties for the lungs, liver and kidneys.

Closeup of a clover
Clover is loaded with calcium, potassium and magnesium, Korey writes.
Plantain leaves on wooden background
Plantain leaves resemble spinach leaves but are bitter, Korey writes.
Scallions are photographed on a deck.
Korey pulled these scallions from a landscaping customer’s yard and ate them that night.

And there are plantains, not to be confused with the fruit, which comes from the same family as bananas. These are somewhat similar to spinach but slightly bitter. Not only are plantains edible and filled with nutrition, they can be made into a salve and used to relieve and speed up the healing process of bites and cuts. The leaves taste ideal in the spring and after new leaves appear after being pulled by hand or cut with the mower. This is a weed that is as common in the lawn as it is on city pavement. It helps to clean the blood, can be used as a diuretic and is used to treat skin disorders.

These are just a few examples of foods with awesome beneficial properties that never seem to cease thriving. As mentioned earlier, they are very difficult to eliminate by hand. This makes a lot of sense because they are there to provide continuous nutrition for a variety of life around them. I like how nature provides us with food that grows back right away after it is eaten. It is amazing to me how weeds will come back fully in a week or two even after going over them with a mower or hacking away at them with a string trimmer. I am thankful they all keep growing not because they put more money in my pocket but because they are readily available and are full of free nutrition!

Deanna Husk relaxes in a field with her legs outstretched
Dandelions are a nutritious food, but they also serve as magical photographic elements.

The next couple of months are going to be busy, but I will continue to share my experiences through Fruit-Powered Magazine in a series of articles related to the lawn and garden industry with words that would be in synch with my current work environment, which is mentally and physically demanding. I do not know if I would be back in business without the raw food lifestyle but I can say with certainty that it would be more difficult without it. Because of this lifestyle, my body is able to adapt quickly to any physical situation, my mind is much more open to receiving and sending information, and I am more in tune to the universe.

OK, so I told a little white lie—I’m doing this all over again because I secretly want another dump truck. Just don’t tell my folks.

Korey Constable holds a large watermelon on a beach

Check out Korey’s transformation story!

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