Money in Weeds
MONEY IN WEEDS
reprinted from The Maine Farmer: An Agricultural and Family Newspaper, May 10, 1906
One of the simplest and most novel ways for a boy to earn money is by gathering the leaves and roots of weeds that grow by the roadside, and in the fields where they pester the farmer.
The most annoying weed the farmer has to deal with is “witch-grass,” “couch-grass,” or “quack-grass.” It was regarded once as a good thing, but it has become a nuisance. It is a coarse grass growing in clumps of two or three stems from two to four feet high from a creeping, pointed rootstalk, and bears densely-flowered, spike-like heads resembling those of rye and beardless wheat. The stems are round, smooth, thickened at the joints, and hollow, bearing from five to seven sheath-like leaves. The grass is one of the most difficult weeds to eradicate on account of the long-jointed root-stalk, each joint of which is the source of a new plant.
These roots are caught by the harrow when the land is cultivated, and it has to be dumped of its trailing burden at the edge of the patch. Here is the chance for the lad after money. The part of the grass most valuable to the pharmacist is the part most aggravating to the farmer. It is the long, tough, creeping root-stalk which creeps along just under the surface. In color it is pale yellow, smooth, about one-eighth of an inch in diameter, with joints at intervals of about an inch, from which slender, branching rootlets are produced. The tip of a root is needle-pointed.
After the root-stalks have been collected and washed, the rootlets should be removed and the root-stalks cut into short pieces about two-fifths of an inch long. The lever-feed cutter that farmers use for cutting corn fodder is good for this work. The chopped roots should then be spread out to dry on shelves in a shed or barn where there is light and air. They should be spread thinly and turned from day to day until completely cured. This process takes from three to six weeks. Be neat, for the bright, clean roots bring the highest prices.
In the drug trade “witch-grass” is known as triticum. As sold at stores it is in the form of small angular pieces, straw-colored, shiny and hollow. For medicinal purposes, it is almost wholly an imported article. About 250,000 pounds are imported annually from Europe, and the price paid is from three to seven cents per pound. In selling drugs, a sample lot, a handful, should be sent for inspection and quotation to the nearest commission merchants dealing in drugs, whose address may be secured at the home drug store. “Witch-grass” roots are best gathered in the spring when the land is under cultivation.
Later in the summer a new weed, the dandelion, is at its best for medicinal purposes. This common plant thrives everywhere but in the South. It is found in fields, in the rank roadside growths, and is especially annoying on lawns. The part of the plant valuable as a drug is its long taproot from twelve to eighteen inches long, thick and fleshy like a parsnip dull yellow or brownish on the outside, clear white on the inside, odorless and very bitter. A thick, milky juice oozes from the root when it is cut or bruised. The time to dig the root is from July to September when the milky juice is thickening and the bitterness is increasing. The root should be thoroughly washed and dried. It wrinkles lengthwise in drying, and decreases in weight one-half. Last year the imports of dandelion root amounted to 115,522 pounds, and the price paid varied from four to six cents per pound.
Other weeds that are valuable as drugs, wholly or in part, are the burdocks, mullein, lobelia and tansy. Ambitious boys may pick up considerable money in collecting drugs for the market, and even “grown-ups” may find it profitable. The modern manufacturer is successful in proportion to his ability to utilize the by-products of his factory. In the same way, farmers and farmers’ sons may convert the necessary evil by-products of their business, the weeds, into coin of the palm.—American Boy.