Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Weeds

It seems that the weeds that thrive in bad soil can be worse than some of those that thrive in good soil. Some go both ways - there is a pink lamium here that makes carpets everywhere. The local name is "ballı baba" (honey daddy) because kids like to pick the flowers and suck out the nectar. It seeds profusely and the seeds lie dormant in the soil for years, waiting for their opportunity to make a brand new green carpet. Thankfully there seem to be just a few patches of it around; it's the source of the pink haze in the picture here. The other rampant one here is a type of Arum, either A. italicum or a similar one, locally known as "nivik." It's marginally edible, but in order to be safe, the leaves must first be "fermented" over night in water mixed with flour. This process destroys the extremely irritating oxalic acid crystals that are found throughout its tissues. Without the fermentation, these could cause severe swelling and pain in the mouth. It is said to be extremely medicinal. Arum seeds have one nice feature when it comes to weediness: they only last a short time and if they don't find conditions suitable for germination they die. This means that once you clear an area of arum (which isn't that hard once you loosen the soil), you will get regrowth from the seeds from the previous fall, but get rid of those and you are more or less done with it. My kind of weed.
One plant that was truly evil in the old garden is something known here as "taftik." It has brittle red stems and tough-as-nails roots. Not only does it thrive in drought and bad soil, but produces massive amounts of seed (which are sticky). It also impoverishes the soil. Here it only grows out of a few holes in the retaining walls and doesn't seem to like the moist soil below. Fine with me.
Another plant that is rampant in the second large level but beautiful enough that it's hard to be upset about it is borage. It does seed a lot but is quite easy to pull, especially when small. The plant is important medicinally (its seeds contain an oil which kills cancerous cells in vitro) but the leaves, which have a cucumber-like flavor and smell, have been determined to have a liver toxin. They are so prickly and fuzzy that they aren't very appetizing anyway. But the flowers are free of the toxic substance, are sweet and slightly cucumber-like, and are beautiful tossed into a salad along with calendula petals. Considering that I actually introduced borage into my last garden, I'm perfectly happy to have it around. It will have to be satisfied with staying in its place though...


ladyluz said...

Hi there and thanks for your comments about the acacias. I do love them, especially the mimosa variety with slightly different leaves.

You are doing great things in your plot. I agree about the morning glories and I love the way you use things around and recycle and beautify.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

You have quite exotic weeds in your garden but we have the borage in common although it's not a weed in my country but a welcome plant. This year I'm going to sow white borage, can't wait to see it flower.

BTW the flowers are also good to put into a tray of icecubes before you freeze them. Your guests will be amazed when they get icecubes with pretty blue flowers inside. ;-)

Happy gardening!

Sazji said...

Ladyluz - thanks for your note and the kind words!

Yolanda - normally I wouldn't considere borage a weed...but when it's a carpet in every direction...:) Well, I will be pulling that for quite a while. It comes up easily and I'll leave some around. But I will remove it from the boggy area, I want to have a bog garden! Funny, someone mentioned the ice cube trick when I was in Seattle. I'll definitely do it!