Primitive Skills with Invasive Species

Yes, yellow flag iris.

Generally speaking , roughly 50% of what you see are an introduced species , either very early or late … in the Americas. Meaning the U.S.

Some have been here so long, hundreds of years, that it might be wrong to call them invasive . but established.


Around here, the main invasives are garllic mustard, autumn-olive, and japanese knotweed, all of which I use in some way.

I eat a lot of garlic mustard. I eat the leaves when theyre the only green available (but IMO they’re pretty pungent and so I either use them as a seasoning (primitive pesto with garlic mustard & ramp leaves!!) or I only eat a few). My favorite part is the younger juicy stalks in mid-spring, they’re better tasting than the leaves! I gather as many of them as I can, making sure to gather them before they flower because 1) they get very tough when they flower and 2) the flowers turn into the seeds and, as much as I like garlic mustard, I like the diversity of the forests better. I tried drying out the seeds this summer but they were so small and they got stuck in the basket I gathered them in! The dead stalks are very good for starting a fire, as they make less smoke than grass and they catch better, but they’re not that great for after it starts going strong.

I just stuff myself on as many ripe autumn-olive berries as I find, hoping that I don’t get sick afterwards :stuck_out_tongue: I’ve heard that they’re really good for fruit leather, but my main collecting device for them is my mouth and stomach (I really like them!!) I haven’t experimented with the wood yet, but I bet it would be good for making a bow for a bow-drill kit… then again, those aren’t so hard to make.

I haven’t eaten the japanese knotweed shoots yet (I’m planning on it next spring), but, in the fall, when the plants die back, they store drinkable water in their cells! It’s not that much, but you could probably get a good drink out of a whole plant. I also use the cells as containers, but they don’t last that long. I haven’t tried this, but alot of people I know use a tincture from the roots to prevent Lyme disease.

I just started making beaver-tooth carving tools, but since nutria teeth are similar, it might be better to do more with them instead of beavers, as beaver populations are still bouncing back from extinction. Only problem is, there aren’t a lot of nutria around here. I’m currently looking to buy them online.

Trying to revive this thread.

I love love love talking about “invasive” species. I prefer to call them “pioneer plants”. In any case, here in Wisconsin, buckthorn is really booming. It produces lots of berries that the birds love and poop all over the place. I’ve tried thinking of uses for this nasty shrub (although I don’t hold it against the plant). They are prolific which makes me thing BIOMASS. They really could be eradicated quickly if we used them for firewood. I also think they would make good hugelkultur beds. I cut one down in my yard this Spring so I’ll have to try it out.

Autumn Olive is also supposedly pretty bad, but I haven’t seen it where I live. Which is unfortunate because it’s probably my most favorite berry in the world ( tried it while in the Driftless area last summer). I may even plant one in my yard. I personally think it has incredible value as a forage plant. It contains more lycopene than tomatoes. And it’s a nitrogen fixer. Win-win.

Bindweed is pretty bad where I live. It creeps into my gardens and seems especially bad this year. But, again, it creates a ridiculous amount of biomass so I am trying to embrace it.

Honeysuckle is bad too. Haven’t thought of anything for that. I think I read on this thread that it makes good cordage. I’ll have to try it.

What are your thoughts about the possibility of people getting dependent on (addicted to) the introduced species? Suppose you have an invasive species that makes much better and lasting baskets than any native ones? Would it not become the preferred material for making baskets? At the same time, would we lose the knowledge and experience on how to best gather and use the native species?

A good example are potatoes. These came from South America but even in the 16th century they had become staple food to the population in various parts of Europe. And they still are. Only, at lower altitudes they tend to easily suffer from phytophthora in lower, moister climates. So here come the spraying and genetic engineering…

What should rewilders do? Eat as many potatoes as possible to hopefully keep them at bay? Refrain from using them, not only as food but also as a source of starch for many other products? Get to know them better and incorporate them in our lifestyle? Is it different when you live in South America? North America?

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