Embrace the wild and eat your garden weeds! While some foraged weeds can be an acquired taste, you may be pleasantly surprised at how tasty the wild plants in your backyard really are. They also have a surprising amount of nutritional and health benefits and the best part is they’re totally free! I love having weeds in my yard!
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a delicate plant often growing in sprawling mats and has a mild green flavor. It wilts quickly, so eat the tender leaves, stems and flowers as soon as possible after picking. Chickweed contains calcium and vitamin C and is best served raw in dishes that highlight its freshness such as salads, sandwiches, juices and pesto.
Curly dock or yellow dock (Rumex crispus) are related to rhubarb, sorrel and oxalis. Harvest the tender, somewhat sour young leaves before they get tough. High in vitamin C, iron and calcium, they may be eaten raw in salads or steamed, boiled or sautéed like other leafy greens. You can also make dock chips similar to kale chips. Here’s a recipe from Wild Food Girl.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) which is very nutritious may be eaten raw or cooked much like you would use greens like kale or chard. Young leaves offer the mildest flavor and are a gourmet salad green. More mature leaves are bitter but the bitterness is actually beneficial for the digestive system. They’re a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium and calcium. The bright yellow flowers are edible and have more beta-carotene than carrots. Add them to salads, bread and fry them or ferment into a fruity wine. Harvest the roots, dry, roast and brew them for a coffee substitute.
Lamb’s quarters or white goosefoot (Chenopodium album) is a calcium and protein-rich food that tastes like spinach and can be used any way you would eat spinach. New shoots and tender leaves are especially tasty raw while the larger leaves are better cooked. Lamb’s quarters is a good source of several vitamins and minerals. One serving has more than the recommended dose of vitamin A and K, and has significant amounts of magnesium and calcium.
Mallow (Malva neglecta, M. parviflora) are a good source of minerals, calcium and magnesium. They also contain potassium, iron, selenium and vitamins A and C. This mild flavored plant has a mucilaginous quality a bit like okra. Eat the tender leaves raw in salads and smoothies or steamed, boiled or sautéed like spinach. The leaves may also be used in a soothing tea for dry sore throats and coughs. The flowers make a pretty, edible garnish. All parts of the mallow plant are edible; the leaves, the stems, the flowers, the seeds and the roots. It’s from the roots that gives the sap that was used for marshmallows.
Miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is named because it helped prevent miners from getting scurvy, this vitamin C packed green is mild and succulent. Miner’s lettuce is best enjoyed fresh, whether you nibble it on the spot or eat it in a salad or sandwich. It is pleasingly crunchy, mild-tasting, has large leaves and remains tender even when in flower. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of miner’s lettuce contains a third of your daily requirement of vitamin C, 22 percent of vitamin A and 10 percent of iron.
Mustard (Brassica spp., particularly B. rapa, B. nigra) — Wild mustard greens are nutritious and spicy and can be cooked just like cultivated leafy greens. Young leaves have a better texture and milder, less bitter flavor. The flowers are also pleasantly spicy and make a good garnish. Garlic mustard greens are very nutritious as they have substantial amounts of vitamins A, C, E and some of the B vitamins. In addition this wild weed contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, copper, iron and manganese as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is so nutritious, I can’t get enough of them! I eat the young leaves steamed, I dry the taller stalks so I can make infusions in the winter. I have nettles all year round. Harvest nettles before they flower and use gloves, scissors and tongs to avoid touching them directly. If you come in contact with nettles, you will immediately know by the stinging you feel. If this happens look for plantain, a common weed. Chew a leaf of plantain making a poultice and rub this on the area that’s stinging, this plant will relieve the pain. Nettles are great for relieving allergies! Nettles are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Violet (Viola sororia) have a mild flavor and are rich in vitamin C. The flowers make a beautiful garnish for salads, pancakes and desserts where they can be used raw or candied. The tender new leaves may be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. Be aware that yellow violets may have laxative properties. I enjoy violet leaves and flowers in salad, pesto and in sandwiches and wraps. The leaves and flowers along with dandelion young leaves and flowers make a great salad.
Wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) has heart-shaped leaflets and flowers that are high in vitamin C and have a refreshing lemony sour taste. I enjoy eating wood sorrel when I’m out in my gardens and in salads. They are best enjoyed raw in salads, compound butters, juices and as garnishes. The juice can also be used to make lemony sauces and dressings.