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250. Edible Weeds with Organic Gardener Podcast Listener “That Crazy Neighbor!” Matthew Zoeller | Denver, CO
28th October 2018 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:09:38

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“That Crazy Neighbor!”

I don’t think there could be a more fitting guest for episode 250 is a listener who reached out to me with a question and after a bit of prodding agreed to share his own expertise on a topic about sustainable living, eating locally, and growing your own food in the middle of Denver, Colorado!

AGAIN~ I apologize, IDK what happened my mic is barely picking me up. So sorry :((

A fellow educator and self-proclaimed president of the Patti Armbrister fan club! Matthew will charm your hearts as he share’s his passion for eating edible weeds right out of your neighbor’s yard. A neighbor we all want living next door I know you will love this interview with Matthew!

I always say that newer gardeners are great at remembering newer lessons. It’s kind of like when you first start teaching, new teachers sometimes can tell you more things that are new to you.

Welcome to the OGP today!

I’m super excited because I talked a listener to come on and share because he sounded like he already knew a lot. We even went to the University of Montana at different times but we’re both alumni!

It’s an honor… that was the most flattering into I have had in my life! Let me mention I haven’t been on other podcasts, I called in once to a radio!

Before you know it you’ll be hosting your own podcast. I never thought I would have a podcast, even after I joined my podcasting group, I still didn’t think I would have a podcast and I love it!

Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I live in Denver, proper in the urban heart of it, I teach high school, but I’m mostly from Montana, we went to University of Montana, maybe at the same time but I think you were before me.

I’m in Denver and I’m into super nutrition eating healthy! I know that’s true of a lot of people and I know in Denver there’s a lot of hipsters

We’re a blue state through and through

My wife and I and our family have a foot in two worlds, in some ways were fairly conservative Christian and on the other side we’re 

into herbs and have opinions about organic that are too liberal for our conservative friends and other opinions about things for our liberal friends. So 

it’s kind of fun place to be

Can I share a short story?

I think I’m a fairly normal dude I have short hair

funniest description of me,

last summer

we decided we’d get chickens and there are dumpsters full of wood probably 50% of your listeners are driving to Denver as we speak, it’s an official statistic

investing in our

free wood in dumpsters all summer long, so I told my wife, 

I’ll just build a chicken coop, it’s just a box and doesn’t need electricity. 

Im not incredibly handy

I would be running with my kids and scope out the dumpsters

I would grab the pieces I want

if they would fit, I didn’t have to take my car. 

neighbor next door

you are the example of that crazy neighbor

the other neighbor who’s British, he says, 

“Well do you have an example of a crazy neighbor?”

I said no,

He said, “Well I think you’ve found your answer.”

(this comes out better listening to Matthew’s British accent imitation.)


is poignant

we did finish the chicken coop

paid for some


It is legal up to 8, we had 6 all last year, we recently got two more! 

its awesome having chickens in Denver! IDK why everyone doesn’t But lots of people come over they’re just blown away! I can see why would be but it’s actually kind of rare

observe and rare

and how easy it is

they instantly eat all of our compost! In the summer we have Japanese beetles so my daughter and I go out there and catch them! 

It seems like a lot of work, on an average 8 minutes a day! Most days it takes 2 minutes a day but some days you have to clean the pen every once and a while. 

its fun having chickens in Denver

I’m curious what you do with all the eggs? Give a lot to your neighbors!

we eat a lot of eggs

some are not pulling their own weight

we consistently eat all the eggs they give us!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I know you were gonna ask this, because I listen to your show all the time!

I don’t have a good answer

I don’t know if I remember, I do know that my mom and dad grew up in Minnesota

They lived the farm life

wake up early

go to bed late

As soon as they left Minnesota, they were not eager to recreate that there was no real nostalgia.

We had a long period of years we never grew much other then flowers

I didn’t start growing anything edible till I had a paycheck and lived in my own house. I was like I’m gonna really own this, that was like 10 years ago. 

Now for sure I do, I started caring more

IDK what would count as my first gardening experience. 

Did you ever go see your grandparents? did they still have the farm?

it just

one side of my grandparents died when I was fairly young. 

gardening wasn’t a big part of it and the other side of my family they kind of left the business same time as we did and moved to Arizona.

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I guess just the internet, and I’m not afraid to ask for help

I ask a lot of people questions

What I notice about gardens people love to talk about gardens

it’s like in college and every body was in a band

they wanted you to come to their show

gardens are like people’s bands

I see their yard and say what is that?

people are thrilled to tell me about it!

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything.

My husband’s still learning, I’m for sure still learning, I know a lot of my listeners have been doing this a long time. 

I’ve been thinking about this of course

I’ve had this phone call, like 50 times already in my head, 

I had the same thing, I thought I’m gonna remember this! 

I was gonna be so funny! 

I had a list

This is a good segue!

growth mindset pun intended 

keep learning and getting better

I was somewhere was talking to this guy who was busy doing some intense WOOFING

He came back just full of knowledge and I just happened to hang out with him in the summer one time in Nebraska! 

He was telling me the irony of this soup kitchen somewhere, here’s what’s funny about all this, is at their feet are all these weeds and those weeds are far more nutritious then any kind of soup in any grocery store right now. 

I knew a little bit, that you could eat dandelion but it’s bitter and gross whatever

  • stinging nettles
  • lambs quarter
  • marijuana

which was right next to us and we were in Nebraska

it just blew my mind

all ten feet from us

little bit extreme!

I was like “you can’t just pick it right now and eat it?”

this is basically like lettuce

we should clarify what kind of weeds we mean

if it says, edible and weed and from Colorado!

such a conversation topic everyone is always asking me “what’s it like having legal weed?” I don’t smoke it . I’m not interested, I just know there’s a lot more traffic.

So this guy he taught me about lambs quarter

well maybe he’s just a wild card dude

lambs quarter is an edible weed you can just eat it raw

I say it has some taste

taste likes a green

no one would notice

  • aromatic
  • pungency
  • cousin of spinach

interesting thing about lambs quarter it’s really close it’s like a first cousin of quinoa

There’s lots of videos of people telling you how to tell the difference, the fact that you have to have a video to tell the difference, that was really fascinating at the time!

In Denver, are probably about Montana too, you know people love quinoa that is basically growing in your backyard. 

I haven’t really gotten into the grains

take off the part that would be the part that would make the

Some people do make lambs quarter seed bread

I’m more lazy then that, I’m pretty big on just straight up 

salads and leafy greens.

it gets big

We get a reddish purple one, I have always cooked it. I remember talking to Joe the Mason, who works at an elementary school in Maine, he talked about growing it there. Someone was telling me about the seeds, if they could do something to lambs quarter, they could make a fortune, I can’t remember, it grows so much beter in Montana then spinach is, which is not easy to grow in Montana. It’s pretty and grows like a weed. 

I personally don’t think spinach is that good

I eat tons of it, but it’s more then just a vehicle to carry my dressing and other stuff

perfect example of what is a weed, and eating what a weed is.

I don’t walk into every room and my agenda you should just eat your weeds!

When it comes up I will stand up for my agenda and it’s funny because you can’t convince people, lambs quarter can’t be edible because I didn’t plant it

Because spinach is a lot of work! It just does not grow as well as lambs quarter. 

One of my friends, if you buy a house in winter and the lawn is covered in snow

snow melts

starts to bloom in the spring

They tell you the whole yard is kentucky blue grass but then it grows and if all spinach grew up and you find your covered your yard as green spinach

would you mow it?

They say, No, I’d eat it

get that out of there and put in the grass

if there’s something that healthy that easy growing on its own, it’s worth learning a little more and give it a try. 

They get nice size leaves. 

I kind of gave up on spinach this year, I finally grew dinosaur, lacing kale, and it is still growing, so why grow spinach. The kale is more nutritious too! 

I had at the same experience pretty much

let me run you through my list of Edible Weeds

I’ll tell you if you haven’t noticed me pulling wood out of people’s dumpsters. I’m a little cheap.

I would call that thrifty. There’s lots of good stuff in the dumpsters. 


stinging nettles

beneficial properties

resources in people’s top few

If you look up the top detoxifying herbs


24 ounces on amazon

stinging nettle extract

everything I’m about to tell you



stinging nettles

don’t even know if they grow in my zone or zip code

never seen them in Colorado



ate stinging nettles

prepped them in a way that they don’t sting


since learning about weeds

Now I have a fairly good repertoire ~ of Edible Weeds

go around to other states and other places

I was thinking

3,5,6 here

these are the ones I have the majority of people will be able to find without much effort

One that everyone knows dandelion is an edible weed

Dandelion is, anyone can look this up anywhere, but dandelion is a pretty heavy hitter! It is nutritionally dense. Every part is good you can make: 

  • wine out of the flowers
  • eat the leaves straight up
  • freeze them
  • dehydrate them and use them as a tea
  • sprinkle them on a salad
  • sneak them in

We have a lot of dehydrated dandelion to use it as tea

Root is good for all kinds of things

bake them following the directions to make coffee

I felt like a cowboy when I was drinking it but it was a lot of work, so I only did it the one time. 

If you look up the medicinal qualities of dandelion

It seems like it’s too good to be true

  • loss of appetite
  • upset stomach
  • eczema
  • bruises
  • lots of different things

I find if I eat them raw, I didn’t like them at first but now I eat them straight up

start small and cook them into things, dandelions are fairly easy to eat. 

Next on my list is...