The Cottage Smallholder

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bindweedThe long period of rain and a few weekends working has given the bindweed the sort of break that it needs to really romp. In fact some more remote parts of the garden it looks as if we are deliberately cultivating the weed. We have most varieties from the dinky miniature columbine to the Jack and the Beanstalk sized plants that can smother a shrub in days and have to be attacked with secateurs.

I hate bindweed. The appearance of the pretty bell shaped flowers flags the need to grab a small machete and act immediately. If the bindweed goes to seed the problem will be much worse next year.

Every spring I dig out wheelbarrow loads of its roots, dry and burn them. For a few weeks I think that I’ve finally killed it off and gradually, stop checking so thoroughly. Even though I suspect that it is silently creeping through the branches of large shrubs and twisting through the stems of plants I rarely spot it. Until, seemingly overnight, it has the garden in its grip again.

As the season progresses there is less time to deal with this bully unless it is romping towards our edible produce. But today, out in the sunshine for the first time in weeks I hacked and tugged at the jungle. I filled four barrow loads with the weed which is now drying in a large heap beside the bindweed crematorium. An incinerator for burning the most truculent weeds.

Taking a break I decided to find out if bindweed has any culinary uses. I know that ground elder, my other enemy, is edible and was surprised to discover that you can eat bindweed. This useful website explains that it can be eaten in moderation as it has a purgative effect. I nipped straight out to the garden and sampled a leaf. It was quite tricky to chose which would be the right leaf to ingest. I tried a big leaf first. It tasted quite fresh and salady initially but with a nasty burst of bitterness that lingered in the mouth. I tried a tiny leaf hoping that the taste would be milder but the same bitterness came through. If you need a purge, bindweed soup could be just the answer. The roots are edible too.

Clearing barrow loads bindweed can be satisfying only in the short term, if you ignore the roots it will grow back quickly. Many gardeners encourage it to grow up canes and then poison the lot. I’m not keen to go down the poisoning root as it’s easy to loose precious plants in the process.

Tips and tricks:

  • If bindweed has got a firm grip in your garden, don’t struggle to remove the twisting stems from your shrubs and plants. If you snip the stems near the ground it is much easier remove the bindweed when it has wilted. If you don’t have time to remove the bindweed make sure that you nip of the flowers and buds to stop it self seeding.
  • When making a new bed or replanting an old one, try a dig down to at least twelve inches. We do this twice and always find a lot more bindweed roots the second time.

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  1. daniel

    Young bindweed shoots are quite delicious!

    Also I’ve managed to severely discourage bindweed with a heavy mulch around your plants.

  2. FYI:
    C-Statin – Anti-angiogenic therapy involving Bindweed extract

    Cancer is surrounded by many small blood vessels (angiogenesis). If the angiogenesis is inhibited, cancer cells will be starved. Bindweed, (Convolvulus Arvensis), the most common weed in North America, has been shown to be a potent non-toxic anti-angiogenic agent.

    C-Statin, whose major component is bindweed extract, is now registered as a food supplement, available on the web, and is used in anti cancer therapy by Neil Riordan, who now runs the Immuno-Technologies Cancer Clinic in the Bahamas.

    The immune system plays an important role in the anticancer battle, and Bindweed has also been shown to boost cellular immunity in cell culture. C-Statin can be taken orally, but it is usually administered intravenously for the best results.

    Respect bindweed; every nasty plant may have some biological use that we haven’t discovered.

  3. Is there any truth to the rumour that you can use bindweed to control leaf-curl in fruit trees? Apparently in Spring, when new fruit tree leaf growth is happening, you pull up your bindweed and drape it in the branches of the tree and it stops or cures leaf-curl. Could this have anything to do with the slight alkalinity and toxicity of the bindweed?

  4. We have a terrible problem with it and it is choking the Hawthorne edge we used roundup and killed one of the hawthorns leaving a lovel gap for the burglars we can see it spreading everywhere HELP!!!!!!!

  5. Hi all, Just browsing through this fab website. Was looking for a recipe for a rich tomato and basil sauce and became totally distracted!! Has anyone thought of keeping a tortoise/tortoises – they absolutely love bindweed. In fact I can’t seem to grow this in my garden and purchase seeds to replant from time to time for my tortoises.

    • Tortoise Lover

      Hello Elaine.

      I concur my Russian Tortoises Love bind weed and eat so much I cant keep it in my yard in Colorado, … My yard is barren of all Dandelion as well. I have to forage for weeds for them in fields behind my house. So please keep in mind Russian and Greek Tortoises are a great eliminator of Bindweed.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Helen

    I’ve no idea. But it is a laxative – say no more.

  7. Do you know if bind weed is poisonous to cattle?

  8. Johnathan

    I grow bindweed – more accurately ‘Bellbind’ – convolvulus sepium. ‘Bindweed’ convolvulus arvensis, is the smaller version that prefers to spread over the ground. It was once regarded as a cottage garden plant; often grown over the ‘netty’ (earth closset) or any other feature that was to be disguised.
    Mine covers a garden fence. It grows from a bucket suspended from the fence palings – it is NOT grown in the ground! I also grow it on a dead tree; again, from a bucket held between the boughs of the tree. It is beatiful when in flower. I quite like its foliage too.
    However, you MUST ensure that it is never given the chance to cast a running spur…..which can grow at an alarming rate. At the height of its growing spate its main shooting spur can grow up to fifteen inches, or more, in a day! I have sat and literally watched the plant grow. It visibly quivers and eases forward; then it rests for a few minutes before repeating the performance. It is utterly fascinating to watch.
    When the shooting spur is in danger of going where it should not, just turn it to another direction, or just snip it off. It will eventually fight back with another vigorous, shooting spur; so never leave it unattended for very long, or it will escape and cause chaos!
    It’s a very ‘hands-on’ sort of a plant. I love to train mine in intricate cross-over weaves; like a living, flowering tapestry. Its rapid growth and willingness to be tampered with makes it almost ‘pet-like’, but beware, it can become a beast – so keep it caged!
    Convolvulus should NOT be eaten! It is indeed a laxative – it was the main ingredient of old fashioned ‘jalap’ – however, its strength cannot be guaged by quantity; so unless you are a research chemist, just don’t risk it; the results could be very messy indeed!

  9. Munkeybeans

    Hi all,I’ve just found out that the creeper I have potted and climbing around my bedroom is bindweed!
    It appeared outside where it has smothered a rose,but I like the look of it so I gave it a biggish pot and some string to climb
    It’s so satisfying to watch as it just grows so well!

  10. Bindweed is unloved by farmers – it transfers from field to field on harvesting and cultivating equipment. Tis, for sure, pretty with those delicate white flowers. Supposedly, some part is good for some cancer – I do not know more about it. Treating it with roundup, salt or other methods just slows the growth – soils containing spores last 20 years or more, per information from my pappy about 45 years ago. Good luck with your gardens.

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