for the most part gardeners have a pretty low opinion of weeds, and when asked for their favorite weed i think most would be pretty hard pressed to come up with one. i might actually hesitate trying to decide between the tender leaves on winters bounty of chickweed, the succulent slighty sour flavor of purslane, or tender nutty lamb’s quarter in early spring. but really it always comes back to galinsoga.
this little weed really can grow fast in summers heat, in dense patches smothering everything out and setting seed before you know it. it seems to grow best where good vegetables grow – in rich, moist, well cultivated soils. the better your soil gets the better galinsoga seems to grow. galinsoga does have limited edible – i’ve never tried it myself as the reviews have been mixed – so that’s not really the appeal, it’s all psychological.
about 11 seasons ago, when i was first starting learning to farm apprenticing on jay’s farm, working in the hot humid august days of maryland i remember catching whiffs of something so familiar and yet so distant. i had this feeling several times, of a memory that wanted to come to me, but i couldn’t quite catch it. then one day while weeding i hit upon a patch of galinsoga and started pulling it out, and the whiffs of galinsoga instantly transported me to west virginia.
from the time of 18 months to the age of 5 i lived in west virgina. not a very long time, but certainly a formative time. we lived in town, but family friends dee and tony owned a farm out in the country. we would go out to this farm at least once a week often more during the summer. as soon as we opened the door of the gold-colored 1976 malibu station wagon we would throw our shoes off and they never returned until we were back in town. there was so much fun to be had at the farm, going fishing during the summer in the pond or skating during the winter, climbing though the hayloft and jumping off bales, romping though pasture, and chasing crawdads in creek. but the area that sticks out most in the mind is the rather large kitchen garden that was across the road, over the creek and situated on some of the richest bottom land ever seen. this was the garden that my mother and her friend dee tended, with a little help from tony, who insisted that he use the rototiller.
my memories of that garden are strong. hiding in the asparagus fronds so much bigger than i. the taste of a tomato on a cool summer night, still warm with the heat of the day with nothing on it but a little salt, the juice rolling down ones chin. the taste of fall snow peas just a touch sweeter from first frost. the yellow jackets swarming around the picnic table covered in juice from my mom and dee processing tomatoes for sauce.
all of these memories we essentially flooded back to me that summer afternoon with the scent of galinsoga. i don’t think i’d smelled that weed in 20 years and in that garden was the only place i’ve smelled it until jay’s. when i moved to detroit i didn’t see any galinsoga – not in the gardens at home or in the gardens at work. over the last few years i’ve noticed it invading the gardens at work – but no other gardens in detroit. i’ve come to regard galinsoga as an indicator of high fertility soils – just my hunch based on where i had seen it before – and my hopes that soils at work were becoming in better shape.
doing a little internet sleuthing seems i am not alone in this hunch – so lets hope that the galinsoga is a good sign. it is however known as being a real difficult weed to deal with and so much as i might love the memories it transports me back to – i rip it out at first sight.