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Useful Weeds at our Doorstep by Pat Collins

Useful Weeds at our Doorstep – in touch with the earth Pat Collins with illustrations by Kath Mitchell

In Australia, the term ‘weed’ is highly subjective, depending on what industry puts food on your family’s table… so this book caught my eye. In short, it’s great. A no-nonsense run through of every weed you are likely to find in the Hunter Region of NSW, what to use them for, and why to use them.Useful Weeds at our Doorstep is a handy reference book for several reasons. Firstly, it’s thorough. It includes photographs of many, and illustrations of all of its entries, and lists common names, origins and current distribution as well as uses (for farm, garden and medicinal), recipes, and when to harvest….

Secondly, this little manual, printed in 1998, is specific to the Hunter region of NSW. And that Bioregion in question has a great deal in common with just about every other region in NSW, making it a great reference for use across the state (give and take a couple of species). And probably a fair portion of the rest of Australia too.

Thirdly, the weeds in this book are from wide origins and like so many plants have found their way here from other lands in animal feeds, in birds droppings, on shoes and in foodstuffs over the centuries. So, although many of the species mentioned have either speciated+acclimatized to suit Australian conditions, they share basic similarities with their european or asian cousins… all the better for us.

Pat Collins is a bit of a legend in my books. A Herbalist based in Musswellbrook, NSW, she has published a series of 5 books focusing on the use of herbs for all things medicinal and nourishing. Having moved to a remote location I am especially thankful for this. In country Australia, there are times between the weekly trips to town when everything edible and green has been consumed, and one is faced with the prime dread of country living, frozen vegetables (ok – one of the two prime dreads, if you include powdered milk). If you do not have established and rip-roaring vege gardens, sometimes you are stuck in a situation with no greens in your bowl.

However. Enter our good friend the Nettle. Growing quietly in the paddock, untouched by the sheep, the wallabies and the birds. Yes, you have to pick it with gloves on. No, it doesnt sting your tongue once its cooked. Yes, it is amazing in potato soup made on a good chicken stock. Pat is also well-versed in the nettle, and once you read the grand sum of its uses in her book you will never curse it again.

Lastly, the idea of a Weed is very culturally and geographically specific, and there is a BIG melting pot of thought and conjecture around the term going on around the world in terms of what should and shouldn’t grow where, and why. The presence of unwanted, pioneering species that can function in poor soil, is something that I think is crucial to our understanding of natural systems, but one that has been barely touched apon yet in mainstream science and land management. I shall keep the larger conversation on weeds for another time, but in the meantime, I’m happy to know how to use the ones at my doorstep. Cheers Pat.

  • GreenPatch Organic Seeds sells the title as part of their book section.
  • Total Health and Education Centre – run by the Author Pat Collins in Muswellbrook, NSW would, I assume, also be able to provide a copy.
  • Number Fourty Seven is a very funky gallery/multi-use space in Rylstone, NSW. It’s where I got my copy of this book from and Pat Collins also holds weed workshops out of this venue a couple of times a year. No website can I find, but the lady that runs the place is lovely and could help you out:Virginia Handmer on 6379 1345 Thurs – Sat, 6457 5010 on Mon-Wed or 6379 1338 after hours.

Update: Kirsten – 22/09/2007

Just a note that our friend Nobody has created a kick-arse weed database for Australia – with species origins, uses and lots more. good stuff, and yr welcome to contribute weeds to it…

In Australia, the term 'weed' is highly subjective, depending on what industry puts food on your family's table… so this book caught my eye. In short,

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UPDATE – Edible Weeds Walk and Talk with Diego Bonetto

UTS Library is hosting a FREE workshop – Edible Weeds Walk and Talk with Diego Bonetto – as part of our Green Week 2017 events program.

1pm – 3pm
Friday 26 May 2017
Meet outside the UTS Library

Naturalist Diego Bonetto will introduce you to the wonders and possibilities of edible weeds on a two-hour urban tour. To some, plants like plantain, dandelion, chickweed, and sow-thistle are a nuisance – to others, they are a delicious salad and seasonal treat. Learn about the most common species growing in your garden, along the green belts, and in parks and reserves. Find out how they have been used for food, craft, and natural remedies. Discover ways to safely harvest the urban ‘wild’ and enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals.

If the weather is wet, we’re still on – we’ll just be hosting the talk indoors instead.

About Diego Benetto

Diego is an edible weeds advocate based in Sydney, most known for his urban foraging workshops.

Building on knowledge he acquired while growing up on a farm in Italy, Diego introduces people to the ever-present food and medicinal plants that surround us. He collaborates extensively with chefs, herbalists, environmentalists and cultural workers to promote new understandings of what the environment has to offer.

This event is delivered as part of the UTS Library’s Green Week 2017 Program.

Thank you for attending!
A note from Diego

Thank you so much for coming along to the workshop on Friday, below a follow up with the species I remember we looked at and a few more links you might want to consider.

Happy weeding everyone!

  • African olives >Olea europea sb spp cuspidata
  • Chichweed > food + medicine Stellaria media
  • Dandelion > food + medicine Taraxacum officinale
  • Dianella >Dianella caerulea
  • Farmer’s friend > food + medicine Bidens_pilosa
  • Fleabane > insect repellant Conyza canadensis
  • Plantain > medicine Plantago lanceolata
  • Purslane > food portulaca-oleracea
  • Radium weed > TOXIC – medicine Euphorbia_peplus
  • Scotch thistle/perennial thistle > food cirsium-vulgare
  • Shepherd purse > food + medicine Capsella_bursa-pastoris
  • Sowthistle > food Sowthistle -Sonchus spp
  • Wood sorrel > food oxalis

Someone asked about other workshops I offer, please visit diegobonetto.com for details and bookings.

A good link for edible plants is Plant for a future.

The link to the mapping system we are creating is wildfood.in.

A good forum to identify plants is on Facebook

If you have any questions and images please share them on social media:
Instagram > @theweedyone
Facebook > Wild Stories

If you liked what you experienced please leave a testimonial on the Library website or Facebook page, that way they might schedule for more.

UTS Library is hosting a FREE workshop – Edible Weeds Walk and Talk with Diego Bonetto – as part of our Green Week 2017 events program. 1pm – 3pmFriday 26 May 2017 Meet outside the UTS Library