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Book Review: Good Weed Bad Weed

Good Weed Bad Weed:

Who's Who, What to Do, and Why Some Deserve a Second Chance


by Nancy Gift

95 pages

St. Lynn's Press, 2011

List price: $17.95

With the successful format of Good Bug Bad Bug, Nancy Gift tackles that other nemesis of gardeners everywhere - the weed. Every garden has them and Gift sorts them out for us - 43 of the most commonly found.

At first glance, I cringed when I saw a couple of weeds listed as good, when they clearly are not good in my garden. But Gift expects that reaction and says so. Disagreement over what constitutes a weed has been going on for a very long time. But as the subtitle says, some deserve a second chance and Gift explains why. Mostly it's about changing our habitual and cultural thoughts and being open to seeing the attributes of what we consider to be a weed.

Take purslane, for example. Purslane grows easily in my northwest Ohio gardens and is a nuisance to farmers. But in some cultures, it's highly prized for its edible properties. It's gaining in popularity in this country as well, and after seeing it sold in a farmer's market in Seattle this summer, my view is changing. Weeds are plants too, and Nancy Gift helps us sort them out organically, even including recipes to make use of them on the dinner table.

As with Good Bug Bad Bug, the spiral binding and coated pages make this a book that will stand up to practical use.

Nancy Gift is an assistant professor of environmental science and acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, four chickens, one cat, and a lawn full of many beloved weeds.

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Read Kylee Baumle’s blog, Our Little Acre