Interview with Tracy Armbruster about edible weeds

I attended a workshop about Weeds by Tracy and LOVED it. Informative, inspiring and interesting sums it up pretty well. I asked Tracy a few questions after the workshop to share with you here…

What inspired you to offer these workshops?

I started off learning about wild edible plants purely from a survival perspective as I feel that knowledge is the only antidote to fear. Knowledge empowers you. I had also felt for a long time that nature was “calling to me” back to the old ways – I would be out walking the dogs and the weeds and plants along the pathways would catch my attention and it was like they imprinted on me… so that when I saw a picture of them later in a book or online it was instant recognition. I began to research each plant quite extensively. Learning all of their uses and observing how they interact within their environment. Then when I began to realise the potential of these plants to fill humanities nutritional needs I felt this information needed to be shared with others.

Where and how did you, and still do, get all your knowlegde about the edible and medicinal plants?

The list is extensive and some of the best places are on the internet… books of course as well – anything from Ben Eric van Wyk and Nigel Gericke; Margaret Roberts to name but a few… I love plant books as they continually help me grow my knowledge! A great website is: PFAF.org – it is a database for around 7000 rare and unusual plants with edible, medicinal or other uses. PlantzAfrica.com is a great database for indigenous plants http://plantzafrica.com/frames/plantsfram.htm. The internet is your friend J just search using the latin name of the plant.

What inspired your move towards plant-based nutrition?

I moved to a plant based diet initially because of a friend who was going vegetarian. It was purely from a health perspective… I had just lost my Dad to cancer and was realising with growing horror the impact of factory farmed food on the health of both humanity and the planet. I initially thought let me just try this for a while… but I have never looked back. The most profound result for me was how I was treated by nature… suddenly the usual connections we have with birds or animals became something deeper and closer… it was like they no longer had as much fear of me. It was like some sort of veil had been lifted.

Why, in your opinion, are we not all already aware or have access to knowlegde about weeds and their uses?

I think those of us who are in touch with out intuition are being prodded to learn more about nature. It is time to come home. Those of us who do not heed the call may not survive. We all have a choice.

Which is your favourite weed to use medicinally, and how do you use it?

I use Dandelion a lot… probably because we live in such a contaminated world. I pull up the root throughout the year (best time is after its flowered and spread its seed). I dry them for a couple of days and then brush the sand off and chop, leaving them to dry further. 1 tsp of this chopped root to a cup of water is the dose. A couple of cups per day will help to flush out the system. I do this a couple of times a week. I also use the leaves in smoothies or salads to boost my nutrition… and the flowers are also great in salads.

Which weed is your favourite weed to use as part of your ‘beauty’ or hygiene routine?

My favourite weed for that healthy rosy cheeked complexion is nettle. I drink loads of fresh nettle top infusions to boost nutrition which is great for skin. Calendula flowers are my favourite plant to use on my skin… I infuse the flowers in olive oil and then use that on my skin (instead of creams and nonsense which clog the pores with chemicals).

Which plant would you recommend to someone who want to be more creative or more intuitive?

One of the plants that help me with third eye visualisations / imaginations is Wormwood. I make incense bundles and burn one just before I meditate or if I want to spark my creativity.

What do you think is a very common ailment that could be healed or at least assisted through using plants from our gardens, and which plants would help for this ailment?

I have cured myself of a couple of ailments… Plantain leaf juice squeezed directly into my ear cured an ear infection; Bergamot leaf tea cured a nasty case of gastro within an hour.

How easy is it to grow herbs and weeds in a garden?

Weeds grow themselves in pretty much any soil… it is controlling some of the more vigorous ones that is the problem but if you are eating them regularly that is all the control you need. Herbs require a little more attention but are so rewarding that it is worth the extra effort.

Is there precautions to keep in mind, with regards to weeds ‘taking over’ in the garden?

There are some spreading ones like Chickweed that do take over if you let it… but on observation the groundcover keeps the soil below cool and moist… when it died back in the heat of summer it returns valuable nutrients to the soil for other plants so it is good in a successional planting / feeding system like permaculture.

Read Tracy’s wonderful guide to Edible Weeds on the Green Times:

Wild about Weeds part 1: Veldkool

Wild about Weeds part 2: Nettle

Wild about Weeds part 3: Dandelion

Wild about Weeds part 4: Purslane

Wild about Weeds part 5: Mustard Family

Wild about Weeds part 6: Dune Spinach

Wild and healthy weeds are a gift from nature

Leave a Reply