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250. Edible Weeds with Organic Gardener Podcast Listener “That Crazy Neighbor!” Matthew Zoeller | Denver, CO

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“That Crazy Neighbor!”

I don’t think there could be a more fitting guest for episode 250 is a listener who reached out to me with a question and after a bit of prodding agreed to share his own expertise on a topic about sustainable living, eating locally, and growing your own food in the middle of Denver, Colorado!

AGAIN~ I apologize, IDK what happened my mic is barely picking me up. So sorry :((

A fellow educator and self-proclaimed president of the Patti Armbrister fan club! Matthew will charm your hearts as he share’s his passion for eating edible weeds right out of your neighbor’s yard. A neighbor we all want living next door I know you will love this interview with Matthew!

I always say that newer gardeners are great at remembering newer lessons. It’s kind of like when you first start teaching, new teachers sometimes can tell you more things that are new to you.

Welcome to the OGP today!

I’m super excited because I talked a listener to come on and share because he sounded like he already knew a lot. We even went to the University of Montana at different times but we’re both alumni!

It’s an honor… that was the most flattering into I have had in my life! Let me mention I haven’t been on other podcasts, I called in once to a radio!

Before you know it you’ll be hosting your own podcast. I never thought I would have a podcast, even after I joined my podcasting group, I still didn’t think I would have a podcast and I love it!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I live in Denver, proper in the urban heart of it, I teach high school, but I’m mostly from Montana, we went to University of Montana, maybe at the same time but I think you were before me.

I’m in Denver and I’m into super nutrition eating healthy! I know that’s true of a lot of people and I know in Denver there’s a lot of hipsters

We’re a blue state through and through

My wife and I and our family have a foot in two worlds, in some ways were fairly conservative Christian and on the other side we’re 

into herbs and have opinions about organic that are too liberal for our conservative friends and other opinions about things for our liberal friends. So 

it’s kind of fun place to be

Can I share a short story?

I think I’m a fairly normal dude I have short hair

funniest description of me,

last summer

we decided we’d get chickens and there are dumpsters full of wood probably 50% of your listeners are driving to Denver as we speak, it’s an official statistic

investing in our

free wood in dumpsters all summer long, so I told my wife, 

I’ll just build a chicken coop, it’s just a box and doesn’t need electricity. 

Im not incredibly handy

I would be running with my kids and scope out the dumpsters

I would grab the pieces I want

if they would fit, I didn’t have to take my car. 

neighbor next door

you are the example of that crazy neighbor

the other neighbor who’s British, he says, 

“Well do you have an example of a crazy neighbor?”

I said no,

He said, “Well I think you’ve found your answer.”

(this comes out better listening to Matthew’s British accent imitation.)

everything

is poignant

we did finish the chicken coop

paid for some

chickens

It is legal up to 8, we had 6 all last year, we recently got two more! 

its awesome having chickens in Denver! IDK why everyone doesn’t But lots of people come over they’re just blown away! I can see why would be but it’s actually kind of rare

observe and rare

and how easy it is

they instantly eat all of our compost! In the summer we have Japanese beetles so my daughter and I go out there and catch them! 

It seems like a lot of work, on an average 8 minutes a day! Most days it takes 2 minutes a day but some days you have to clean the pen every once and a while. 

its fun having chickens in Denver

I’m curious what you do with all the eggs? Give a lot to your neighbors!

we eat a lot of eggs

some are not pulling their own weight

we consistently eat all the eggs they give us!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I know you were gonna ask this, because I listen to your show all the time!

I don’t have a good answer

I don’t know if I remember, I do know that my mom and dad grew up in Minnesota

They lived the farm life

wake up early

go to bed late

As soon as they left Minnesota, they were not eager to recreate that there was no real nostalgia.

We had a long period of years we never grew much other then flowers

I didn’t start growing anything edible till I had a paycheck and lived in my own house. I was like I’m gonna really own this, that was like 10 years ago. 

Now for sure I do, I started caring more

IDK what would count as my first gardening experience. 

Did you ever go see your grandparents? did they still have the farm?

it just

one side of my grandparents died when I was fairly young. 

gardening wasn’t a big part of it and the other side of my family they kind of left the business same time as we did and moved to Arizona.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I guess just the internet, and I’m not afraid to ask for help

I ask a lot of people questions

What I notice about gardens people love to talk about gardens

it’s like in college and every body was in a band

they wanted you to come to their show

gardens are like people’s bands

I see their yard and say what is that?

people are thrilled to tell me about it!

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything.

My husband’s still learning, I’m for sure still learning, I know a lot of my listeners have been doing this a long time. 

I’ve been thinking about this of course

I’ve had this phone call, like 50 times already in my head, 

I had the same thing, I thought I’m gonna remember this! 

I was gonna be so funny! 

I had a list

This is a good segue!

growth mindset pun intended 

keep learning and getting better

I was somewhere was talking to this guy who was busy doing some intense WOOFING

He came back just full of knowledge and I just happened to hang out with him in the summer one time in Nebraska! 

He was telling me the irony of this soup kitchen somewhere, here’s what’s funny about all this, is at their feet are all these weeds and those weeds are far more nutritious then any kind of soup in any grocery store right now. 

I knew a little bit, that you could eat dandelion but it’s bitter and gross whatever

  • stinging nettles
  • lambs quarter
  • marijuana

which was right next to us and we were in Nebraska

it just blew my mind

all ten feet from us

little bit extreme!

I was like “you can’t just pick it right now and eat it?”

this is basically like lettuce

we should clarify what kind of weeds we mean

if it says, edible and weed and from Colorado!

such a conversation topic everyone is always asking me “what’s it like having legal weed?” I don’t smoke it . I’m not interested, I just know there’s a lot more traffic.

So this guy he taught me about lambs quarter

well maybe he’s just a wild card dude

lambs quarter is an edible weed you can just eat it raw

I say it has some taste

taste likes a green

no one would notice

  • aromatic
  • pungency
  • cousin of spinach

interesting thing about lambs quarter it’s really close it’s like a first cousin of quinoa

There’s lots of videos of people telling you how to tell the difference, the fact that you have to have a video to tell the difference, that was really fascinating at the time!

In Denver, are probably about Montana too, you know people love quinoa that is basically growing in your backyard. 

I haven’t really gotten into the grains

take off the part that would be the part that would make the

Some people do make lambs quarter seed bread

I’m more lazy then that, I’m pretty big on just straight up 

salads and leafy greens.

it gets big

We get a reddish purple one, I have always cooked it. I remember talking to Joe the Mason, who works at an elementary school in Maine, he talked about growing it there. Someone was telling me about the seeds, if they could do something to lambs quarter, they could make a fortune, I can’t remember, it grows so much beter in Montana then spinach is, which is not easy to grow in Montana. It’s pretty and grows like a weed. 

I personally don’t think spinach is that good

I eat tons of it, but it’s more then just a vehicle to carry my dressing and other stuff

perfect example of what is a weed, and eating what a weed is.

I don’t walk into every room and my agenda you should just eat your weeds!

When it comes up I will stand up for my agenda and it’s funny because you can’t convince people, lambs quarter can’t be edible because I didn’t plant it

Because spinach is a lot of work! It just does not grow as well as lambs quarter. 

One of my friends, if you buy a house in winter and the lawn is covered in snow

snow melts

starts to bloom in the spring

They tell you the whole yard is kentucky blue grass but then it grows and if all spinach grew up and you find your covered your yard as green spinach

would you mow it?

They say, No, I’d eat it

get that out of there and put in the grass

if there’s something that healthy that easy growing on its own, it’s worth learning a little more and give it a try. 

They get nice size leaves. 

I kind of gave up on spinach this year, I finally grew dinosaur, lacing kale, and it is still growing, so why grow spinach. The kale is more nutritious too! 

I had at the same experience pretty much

let me run you through my list of Edible Weeds

I’ll tell you if you haven’t noticed me pulling wood out of people’s dumpsters. I’m a little cheap.

I would call that thrifty. There’s lots of good stuff in the dumpsters. 

dumpsters

stinging nettles

beneficial properties

resources in people’s top few

If you look up the top detoxifying herbs

extract

24 ounces on amazon

stinging nettle extract

everything I’m about to tell you

herbalist

Apothecary

stinging nettles

don’t even know if they grow in my zone or zip code

never seen them in Colorado

Nebraska

nettles

ate stinging nettles

prepped them in a way that they don’t sting

thinking

since learning about weeds

Now I have a fairly good repertoire ~ of Edible Weeds

go around to other states and other places

I was thinking

3,5,6 here

these are the ones I have the majority of people will be able to find without much effort

One that everyone knows dandelion is an edible weed

Dandelion is, anyone can look this up anywhere, but dandelion is a pretty heavy hitter! It is nutritionally dense. Every part is good you can make: 

  • wine out of the flowers
  • eat the leaves straight up
  • freeze them
  • dehydrate them and use them as a tea
  • sprinkle them on a salad
  • sneak them in

We have a lot of dehydrated dandelion to use it as tea

Root is good for all kinds of things

bake them following the directions to make coffee

I felt like a cowboy when I was drinking it but it was a lot of work, so I only did it the one time. 

If you look up the medicinal qualities of dandelion

It seems like it’s too good to be true

  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • eczema
  • bruises
  • lots of different things

I find if I eat them raw, I didn’t like them at first but now I eat them straight up

start small and cook them into things, dandelions are fairly easy to eat. 

Next on my list is mallow

see that lots of places too

don’t dislike it, I do pick it 

I try to be responsible about thinking is there anything dangerous about eating, usually the danger is that its sprayed somewhere, but if it’s in my own back yard I know it’s gonna be safe.

With Mallow if you are pregnant or breast feeding small doses be careful. 

That’s been us for the last 6 years! 

How would you describe mallow?

lily pads

my favorite things about mallow is the latin name, I’m big with language, I actually teach language. 

One way to increase the credibility of weeds, was to learn all the latin names

8-9 that are every where, the latin name for mallow is 

malva neglecta

Neglecta is just a straight up cognate

Back in the day ?

They literally say they are neglected! 

share that same

Mallow has a lot of good stuff. It’s used as a 

  • skin toner
  • blood tonic
  • eczema
  • bruises
  • joint pain

I don’t have any anecdotal testimonies cause I don’t have these problems. 

herbs vs western medicine

all these things I eat straight off, cut them and eat them 10 minutes later

Kind of like a preventative medicine? How do you eat mallow?

don’t have a lot of recipes you can publish, Im a little lazy, you can do things with mallow. I know one herbalist who is, she’s a friend of ours

she’s big on the mallow seeds, she does a lot with those.

If you look at the mallow plant, right before it flowers, If I get a half a cup of those seeds

45 minutes

they’re small, they don’t come in bunches, so I just stick to the leaves.

What does she do with the seeds?

She dumps them in the salad raw and cold

With all of these if you look them up and look at what people do, it seems that some person somewhere has made bread out of every seed that exists.

especially weed seeds that’s awesome! But IDK If I’m quite there. 

My wife and I were thinking we might try to do amaranth seed bread because they are easy to pick, we haven’t made bread…

My husband wants to grow our own wheat, for bread flower, maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree. 

Lambs quarter is an easy one. Amaranth

I have yet to get amaranth to grow?

Do you know what kind you have?

palmers

3 different varieties are growing somewhere on our property right now. 

There’s really nice feathery ones

the one’s that weren’t growing is probably what’s kicking everyone’s but.

really interesting to me

also

if you google pig weed

I thought pig weed was lambs quarter

People call pig weed to that moniker to whatever weed they like the least in their area

palmer’s amaranth

is the one that grows like a weed at least around here, once you know what you are looking for with amaranth you can tell what you are looking for very easily.n

especially when seeds come up

the leaves have some very distinct vein system

really

seeds are packed tightly together and it goes pretty high up! IDK how many people let their amaranth grow long enough to see that, but probably come across it in ditches etc.

We actually have a palmer’s amaranth in our front yard, it looks like a christmas tree! I am tempted to put decorations for us. It’s the most beautiful thing!

Neighbor’s offer to pull the weeds for us!

I’m like don’t touch that

I tell my wife, Don’t let anyone touch that 

if we’re gonna make bread it will come from that.

amaranthis palmari the latin

eaten

  • gluten free
  • high in fiber
  • calcium
  • oxidant
  • improves vision

eating amaranth some research somewhere shows this is good for mitigating your varicose veins! Which is funny because if you were to say can a plant have varicose veins? Amaranth would be the one!

IDK to what degree they impact.

There is something about palmers amaranth this it is high in 

acid, if you eat it raw and you’ll be fine, but there is a chance you’ll get kidney stones

if you cook it

acid, but it’s also true of spinach and kale

I just recently learned about oxalates

the amount of spinach and kale I’ve eaten almost every day multiple cups, I should have a whole litter of kidney stones, I recently read a study that you can eat a oxalates and not get kidney stones.

I think if people were getting kidney stones from kale or spinach we would know it. 

read this books

cited his work

and research on post menopausal

purslane is another edible weed

most gardeners know what purslane is

if you ever moved dirt with a shovel, purslane probably showed up after 

It’s a succulent.

you can eat every part of it

It’s on my list of favorites, I’ve pickled it, its got a crunch and a juice and you get kind of butter taste.

it has a butter taste to me

I was in Boston this summer and I was running and I constantly looking at the weeds

I could tell that is for sure purslane, that’s the thing with weeds and you see some guy in Tennessee made a website

you live in the high altitude of Denver you kind of wonder

This summer there’s a neighbor of mine, I left a note on their door, I said hey I run past your garden every day for like 2 years now, and I said, I notice you don’t use your above ground garden beds.

In April, I ran over there, it’s like 2 blocks away, and I loaded up a wheel barrow

I would run it back, and forth.

So much work for 2 garden beds, but after disturbing all that soil, i had the thickest crop of purslanes

4×4 garden beds

got the wood and all the soil

after disturbing all that soil

as soon as it’s agitated it takes no time, those seeds, are perfectly round and they’re back

sitting in the bottom of their salads

they keep their vibrancy and potential for life ~ for like 16 years or something, you can fact check that, for an incredibly long time

purslane

I love it

I hate to pick the purslane but I have 2 full garden beds

purslane takes over, keeping it to the degree that I can but I couldn’t keep it all, I try to give it away, I will be like it tastes like buttery popcorn!

I’m excited to try it. If it’s growing all over that’s great!

Give it a try!

Here’s my favorite factoid about purslane!

so, I feel like IDK maybe like 10ish years ago, suddenly not only everybody started eating fish oil but everybody was an expert on why they were eating fish oil.  felt like overnight people were like you have to have fish oil. Everyone claims the reason is for the omega 3s

that’s usually the end of the explanation

omega 3s and omega 6 and your brain is built of fat and eating fat doesn’t translate into wearing fat

good fat

bad fat

purslane is an edible weed that is loaded  with omega 3

People always tell me to eat hemp seeds because they are full of omega 3s 

They have to be grown, and shipped, etc which is fine, that’s how most people get their food.

It’s all growing in the yard.

You could be healing your brain

hemorrhoids and diarrhea

the omega three thing blows my mind, it’s so awesome to me that’s there

I can’t get over this fact of the paradigm in which we live where we live a weed is a weed and that’s all it can be

young kid

middle child has been in the doctor more then we would like

fish oil

best kind

here’s the kind

what makes it the best?

farmed fish vs caught fish

I believe that but it is not cheap and of course they have to shape it like a dinosaur and dump sugar on it so a 2 1/2 year old will eat it

we have this all over the year

of course that’s seasonal but that’s amazing isn’t it?

Can you dry it or use the root or something?

can pickle it

pickled purslane

boil water add garlic add dill seed

don’t like it as much pickled maybe because I don’t want to do the work, I like the way it just pops in your mouth

portulaca

this last Edible Weed is plantain

I have a funny story about this too. 

I say plantain you think of what?

Bananas?

Yes, same name, no relation so Plantain, Plantago major

the leaves are shaped sort of like a spade

Any yard with Kentucky blue grass

  • very fibrous
  • veins go up from the root to the edge
  • they lay flat on the ground
  • seed is kind of shaped like a pencil
  • seeds are all clustered together
  • very straight
  • leaves lay flat on the ground almost like a ground cover

If you look it up you will be like I have seen that.

I know we have that all around

So, last summer was reading all, for 100s of years Native Americans

would us it topically

chew it up

anything skin related

  • bruises
  • rashes
  • bites
  • enough weeds in my arsenal

chew it up

I was like I am all full on my weeds. The next day, I am stung by a bee on the bottom of my foot! I immediately remember, plantain,

poultice

which means chew it up in french, so it’s classy

so I just grabbed some and I stuck it on the sting it remediated the pain,completely so fast I was like there’s no way this can work that well, I wanted to get my other foot stung!

I was blown away this had to be a fluke

no medicine even works that well

haven’t had a sunburn since, you can bet it’s gonna be game on!

I told this story to a couple of bee keepers, 

usually people take out their list of people not to invite to parties and tehy take out my name, 

I’ve told this to a couple of neighbors and they are like no way

what’s the name of that plant

look it up! I’m telling you, you already have this growing

all kinds of nutritionally

worth e

we live next door to a bee keeper

2 honorable mentions

Mullein

cowboy toilet paper for most people

kind of looks like

mullein

really looking into it

respiratory issues

what plants we should look at

multiple sites

plantain

people are going  nuts about

tea out of the flowers

leaves you can eat them because they have all these little hairs

call me in a year I can tell you what we did with it

dehydrate it to turn it into a tea

relationship

factoids I’ve learned

I’m about to be the president of the Patti Armbrister Fan Club!

full list of notes I took watching her videos

did my best on spelling

micro

mullein

she nailed it

mullein grows in those kinds of areas

multiple sites and books

specifically respiratory

I’m like I’m gonna find me some mullein, and I’m a runner, and I go through this state park, and I ran like 10 miles and the last 1/3 home with a head lamp and it wa sa little bit cold

most of the leaves were dead already

some

it was the perfect little micro climate

where all these little

no trespassing

I’m a big avid rule follower

I thought it was someone’s marijuana crop and you cold get in big trouble

No it was a historical site, to keep tourists out.

It was the perfect adolescent home with the mullein

Another honorable mention

Canadian thistle

I was outdoors with some teachers and students

we were looking at this thistle

you can break it up and theres milk

that doesn’t mean it’s milk weed

I didn’t think its edible

learning how to eat it

I’m interested in preparing it

Canadian thistle

mullein

hairs and prickly pairs

They say the stalks of Canadian thistle resemble asparagus so much  you can just eat the stalk

honorable mention

funny factoid!! The mind blowing of mind blowers!

I was hanging out with a friend of mine, you know so much about weeds, not really just the top 6

what’s that one

goats head it’s a ground cover

I don’t think I am going to start harvesting it. It’s a ground cover, a weed and it’s beautiful and it leaves the sharpest tire popping thorn!

I have lost money and time, 

  • fixing
  • wheels
  • strollers

from this goat’s head plant, when my friend Christian asked me, 

people who aren’t paying attention say dandelion, if you know weeds you’ll say that’s the worst weed of all

He said, tell me about it, I was like idk

So I looked up goats head

I’m a little bit embarrassed to say this

There’s this guy who pays kids to pick it to sell it to Chinese herbalists and turn it into a tincture as a virility medicine as nature’s viagra ~ a little off color, I said that was ironic cause it’s always deflating tires for me!

It just goes to show there’s a story behind

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

theres so many good answers

people doing good things it all adds up

Here’s what I’ll say, I don’t have this succinct quip side of way

easy to look at what’s wrong, there’s a lot of bad stuff in the world a lot of situations we know the answer to fix them, but the process of getting to that answer is diffciult. 

overall theres’ a lot of awesome people

the beauty just in nature a lot of going on

a lot of the metrics as far as quality of life

metrics have gone up a lot

Steven Pinker and these guys

down with the struggle

don’t stay down because I don’t think that’s a healthy approach

what I want to see is less greed more love

put that on a bumper sticker!

one of the first millennials to be born, I was in 1982

 

I always think 1980-1995. I definitely think you’re a rockstar millennial and a rockstar neighbor! Thanks so much for coming out of your comfort zone and sharing with us! I’m still looking for some people to share more with us about eating weeds. 

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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