Healthy soils provide the plants, and by extensions us humans, with the nutrients we know we need, and all kinds of others that we don’t even know we do. In my discussions with (aspiring) organic farmers the issue that comes up regularly is the fact organic farmers have to be certified, and often pay for their certification. When you start to think about it this seems very counterproductive; the agricultural strategy that provides the most nutritious food, is least destructive to the environment needs to prove itself. Industrial farming, on the other is not held accountable for any detrimental effects, nor has to show the nutritious value of its crops or chemicals used to grow their products.

There are different kinds of strategies for organic farming, but are all based on maintaining a living soil and growing plants without synthetic fertilizers and pest control chemicals. Usually there are many weeds in the field, which you can remove (mechanically) on a regular basis; they will grow back again. I like weeding; it gives off a nice aroma, probably making me feel better. The good thing is that you can just leave it on the field and it will turn into compost for the vegetables you’re growing. The weeds also provide nutrients to the soil that are depleted by growing your vegetables.

I recognize the same weeds on the fields and along my running trails; with some I have regular interactions, learning about their particularities and the many uses they offer humans. Some familiar ones that I have come to appreciate more recently:

Urtica or stinging Nettle

Using the top leaves it can be used to make pesto, it also can be turned into soup and tea. I also cut it, because the goats don’t like to eat it and it is the only plant left in the field after grazing. The Urtica can be used to create a ‘compost tea’ for your vegetable garden.

Taraxacum or Dandelion

This plant that occurs on all continents has been gathered for food since prehistory, use the leaves in salads, blanched, or sautéed, use the young buds for capers, use the flowers to make wine and the roasted roots to make a coffee-like drink.

Then there are surprises in the meadow: