I’m thinking of a magic word. Not abracadabra or even please but… edible! Edible is a magic word because it can transform an ornamental plant into one that is also useful or a “weed” into one that ticks both boxes.
The particular specimen I have in mind this afternoon is Chamerion angustifolium, better known in the UK as Rosebay Willowherb. It springs up in all sorts of places, including broken and blackened landscapes like urban bomb sites in World War II and produces a tall stem with attractive leaves and topped by purple flowers. The flowers become bunches of seeds with fluffy wings which spread far and wide on the wind (including to a patch behind one of our pear trees) and the cycle continues.
It turns out that the pith inside the stems is edible, tasting like a rather gelatinous melon. It isn’t going to win awards for flavour but is a pleasant enough snack and a handy reward after doing some weeding in the garden. The dried leaves from growing tips can also be dried and used as a tea (known in Kaporie Tea in Russia). I’ve got some drying out on the windowsill and I also tried an infusion of fresh leaves, which tasted a bit like pea pods, green but fresh and quite enjoyable.
The flowers can apparently also be made into a syrup although we have quite a harvest of soft fruits from the garden which need processing so that may have to wait for another day.