Julia Sich drinks weeds daily – and recommends their health-giving properties. She is taking a Foraging for Free Food workshop on Saturday, March 16 in Papamoa. Full details on the events page. Now, read on …
When Julia Sich offers a glass of thick, green liquid and says it is freshly made from weeds my good upbringing kicks in. I take a mouthful and taste … banana.
“Many of the nutrient-rich greens are quite bitter,” says Julia, “so I always add at least a banana. We’re so used to sweet tastes now that we shy away from anything bitter but, in the centuries before sugar, tastes were quite different.
“This blend is two cups of weeds, some wheatgrass, two peaches, a plum and a banana.”
Julia, who has a diploma in horticulture from Massey University, began to take a closer interest in the plants others call weeds after a serious illness caused a stroke some four years ago.
She discovered the work of Victoria Boutenko, a proponent of raw food and green smoothies, and has been drinking at least one green smoothie a day since 2010.
“I was aghast at how little I knew about these plants, yet research shows they have more nutrients and omega 3 oil than cultivated leafy greens.”
Julia says that by using a blender to make a drink, the cell walls of the plants are broken down and nutrients released, with antioxidants and fibre retained. Using a juicer produces a less optimum result.
“Drinking the plants allows the body to absorb more of the goodness than eating them and much more than we are able to take in from a supplement,” she says.
A walk around Julia’s garden is a guided tour of an alternative food source – chickweed, dandelion, three types of plantain, speedwell, wild sorrel and amaranth, red clover, fat hen, cleavers (bidibid) and, to her delight, purslane (wild portulaca).
“Until recently I didn’t have it so I was very excited when I saw two small plants – my husband’s not allowed to pull out the one in the terrace.”
Every 1 gram of purslane, Julia says, contains 4mg of omega 3, compared with 0.89mg in a gram of spinach.
“Weeds grow exuberantly and we don’t have to do anything, even plant them. They are all nutrition but most people either pull them out or spray them.”
This article originally appeared in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission. It has been edited slightly for relevance.