This Examiner has published articles on How to grow a weed-free lawn and identification and elimination of your lawn weeds but there is one final method concerning these weeds you might not have thought of: eating them.
There are actually many edible weeds that are excellent and nutritious food additions to your salad bowl or stir-fry food. Remember though, not all wild weed plants are edible weeds and some can be extremely lethal if eaten. That makes it imperative that you do a little research to learn if the weeds or wildflower you're trying to get rid of are edible weeds before you sample them as food edible weeds. You might just find that you don't want to get rid of them after all as they may be a nutritious food for you.
Edible Wild Food tells us that weeds might not be your first choice for culinary food delights, but there are, in fact, an abundance of edible weeds that are delicious, nutritious, and easy to grow.
What Makes a Weed?
Plants are typically classified as weeds just because it's not where someone wants it to be. Clover in someone's manicured front yard certainly are weeds, while in a wildflower garden it would be a welcome addition.
It is the same with edible weeds. If you're growing them on purpose, it seems a little harsh to still call them weeds, but just maybe that stand of weeds you just can't seem to get rid of will go from being a nuisance to part of a nutritious plant or wildflower dinner.
Types of Edible Weeds
There are many different nutritious weeds that can be harvested and eaten, but the majority of edible weeds are some kind of green or wildflower that you can add to salads. Some examples of weeds that make fine greens are:
Chickweed is an annual wild edible that grows in many locations and as hardy as it is, chickweed is quite delicate. This is an easy-to-grow plant that’s healthy to eat and it produces flowers throughout the growing season even in hot, dry conditions
Dandelion (from firstways)
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, is an edible plant rich in vitamins A, B, C, E and also iron, potassium and even protein. It is also a medicinal herb that is particularly wonderful for your liver.
Dandelion is easy to identify, but people sometimes confuse it with another weed called Cat’s Ear, Hypochaeris radicata. Here is how to avoid a mixup: dandelion leaves are smooth and not fuzzy, and it has just one stem per flower (as opposed to a branching stem with several blossoms).
Lamb's Quarters is an annual wild edible that from a distance, tends to always looks dusty; this is because there is a white powdery coating on the leaves. Lambs Quarters is a purifying plant and helps to restore healthy nutrients to the soil if need be. However, if there is a large patch of lamb’s quarters, be sure that the soil is relatively good and not contaminated. This unique plant tends to spread quickly in areas in which soil is contaminated in order to restore nutrients. This wild edible has an earthy, mineral rich taste; some say is close to chard. It’s difficult to describe, but if you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach then chances are you will like lambs quarter. One lamb’s quarter plant can produce up to 75,000 seeds.
For over 2,000 years people around the world have enjoyed milk thistle in their diet. Just about all parts of the plant have been used as food with no reports of toxicity. Although it can be used as food, milk thistle is better known as having medicinal benefits. It is a great tonic, increases appetite and aids in digestion. It is used by many people, including those who were addicted to alcohol to cleanse the liver. Milk thistle is used internally in the treatment of liver and gall bladder diseases, jaundice, cirrhosis, hepatitis and poisoning (including mushroom poisoning).
Sheep's sorrel (from eattheweeds)
Sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella, is a weed from the Eurasian continent that especially likes to grow in disturbed areas like road sides. You’ll find it now on the sidewalk strips around town as well as in the grassy banks of the interstates. Look for a plant that looks like grass at first until you notice its distinctive brown-red flowers and arrow-shaped leaves. It usually grows about a foot high, not much higher.
The leaves have a lemony flavor very similar to Oxalis species (a.k.a.wood sorrel and sidewalk shamrock), as both contain that tart constituent known as oxalic acid. Sheep sorrel is high in Vitamin C and beta-carotene, too.
It was once a staple food during the Roman Iron Age around A.D. 400, when the juice of the leaves was used to curdle milk and tenderize meat, according to weed historian Pamela Jones. The plant is related to yellow dock.
Those rust-colored patches on the side of the highway are sheep sorrel.
Also, from ediblewildfoods:
Other green weeds can also be eaten cooked. Kudzu, for example, is great battered and fried or in stir-frys. Horseweed and stinging nettle are two more plants that can be eaten if the leaves are cooked.
The chicory root is often used as an addition to or substitute for coffee, and the flowers can be added to salads as well. Goldenrod flowers and leaves can be used to make tea.
Burdock root can be pickled or boiled in soups. The young leaves of plantain plants can be sautéed, and red clover flowers are great in salads, soups or as a tea. Violets and other edible flowers are also good choices for adding to salads or using as garnishes.
Safety Tips From Edible Wild Food
The most important thing when working with edible weeds or a wildflower is making sure you know that the weeds you are planning to eat are indeed edible. Some plants look similar when they are young, and you can get really sick from eating plants or parts of plants that should not be eaten. Some plants, when ingested, can even cause death.
If you are planning to scavenge for edible weeds, make sure you have a guidebook or a knowledgeable person with you who can help you find the weeds that are safe. Someone from your local garden club or wildflower society should be able to point you in the right direction.
Also, make sure you know what parts of a plant are safe to eat. Just because the leaves of a plant are safe, that does not mean the whole plant should be consumed. Again, check the web, or with a guide to weeds or a local expert before you go hunting for weeds and heading for the kitchen.
If you are growing your own weeds or wildflower, do not use pesticides or herbicides on them. Since many weeds aren't cooked before eating, it's a great idea to grow them organically when possible.
If you're not growing your own edible weeds, you need to consider the condition of the weeds you are likely to find on your searches. Some weeds may have been sprayed with herbicides and just haven't died yet.
See the slide show for images of the edible weeds listed above. Also, click here for a quick look at Growing a Winter Garden.