Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 90: Eating Weeds


I don’t have to go far to find dandelions. Moss and dandelions are responsible for the green hue of my front lawn. I have friends that spend a good deal of time and money ridding their front lawns of both moss and weeds, but I’ve decided to embrace nature. Fescue is overrated. 

I’ve even convinced my meticulous neighbor to drop her economy-sized buckets of Moss-Out and the weed killer, Preen, and just let it all go. She still poisons the heck out of her backyard, but our shared drinking well in the front is now much safer. Now, if I can convince her cat and dog to not use my front yard as a litter box, I might be able to harvest dandelions just beyond the stoop.

But for now, Jasper and I are left to forage the woods and back field of my property for something to eat. The greens are small this time of year, and darker than I remembered. We crunched over the last bits of snow forming an icy crust over sandy soil. Spots of green protruded through the muddy white, signaling us to the edible dandelion or the poisonous Digitalis purpurea, more commonly known as foxglove.

My flowerbeds are full of wild foxgloves carefully dug and transplanted from the woods. The deer won’t eat them, and so it made sense to fill the barren flowerbeds with something deer proof and beautiful. Tubes of lavender, white, and deep purple blossoms cluster like grapes on a long green spike. Foliage ranges from yellow to dark green to a sage grey. I’ve always been a fan of foxgloves. Foxgloves remind me of childhood, slipping ten blossoms on my fingertips and chasing my little brother through the forest with my witch-fingers. Elegant foxglove blossoms were the artificial fingernails of my youth.

I learned the term “Digitalis,” in my early twenties, and only after I learned that the heart medication, Digital, had poisoned my Grandma Crawford. On her last few days alive, I researched and learned my first lesson on pharmaceutical adaptations of wild plant matter. In nature, the foxglove has medicinal properties to regulate heartbeat. In nature, the foxglove also causes nausea with overconsumption. Nausea purges the system, identifies allergic reactions, and prevents accidental overdose and fatal poisoning. But nausea is not a side-effect consumers are willing to deal with in a daily heart medication. Therefore, the nausea-causing agent is extracted from the antiarrhythmic agents and other heart-beneficial components. The end result is a barf-free and highly marketable pharmaceutical. But here’s the problem: void of the elements that caused nausea, there is no longer a built in safety-mechanism that prevents accidental overdose, allergic reaction, or the longevity build-up of persistent toxins.  Before Grandma or her doctor recognized the Digitalis poisoning, it was too little too late. Her her liver, kidneys, and other vitals shut down. There’s no coming back from foxglove’s death grip.

I’m amazed at where my mind wanders when I’m in the woods. Thoughts of my grandmother and her untimely death blurred my vision, making the tedious dandelion picking all that more difficult. The naturalist in me curses the bastardization of God-given cures. I have to wonder, what-if. What if my Grandma had seen a naturopath?  What if that naturopath found a way to use foxgloves in the whole form? It is possible, all though not probable, that my grandma would still be alive today. After all, my Grandma Wettlaufer is still going strong at age 92.

It would be easy for me to hate science with musings like these, but the realist inside of me is oddly thankful for the conveniences and possibilities science affords. I live on a couple of prescription meds – one to keep me vertical and the other to prevent prostrating migraine attacks. I’m always searching for natural alternatives, but for now, these meds are my tools for successful being. It’s hard to criticize when I find myself outdoors with my dog, pain free and mobile, picking a basketful of wild greens for supper.

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