Eat Those Weeds

Sep 29, 2022

I’m a big fan of eating weeds. But first, what even is a weed? A common description is that it’s simply a plant in the wrong place – meaning us humans don’t want it there as it may be compromising the ecological integrity of that place or crowding other plants we want to thrive. But I do believe that all plants are special in their own way. And while I do weed out certain plants in my garden (usually to stop them taking over), others I cherish and smile with joy when I see them volunteering throughout our garden.

Obviously, if you’re not sure about a plant, don’t eat it. Check out a couple of the best resources going around at the end of this blog for some thorough guidance. 

Exhibit A is our current salad patch below. Technically I only planted lettuces here, but then all these “weeds” started emerging and I said ‘yesssss’. What was once a garden with one type of salad green has becomes a bed with around five. Let me show you around.

Our current salad bed, full of edible weeds and a few lettuces

Wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

First up we’ve got a type of wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis). I say ‘a type’ as there are so many variations that pop up in our garden, they seem to evolve over the seasons, twisting and turning and manifesting in slightly different configurations. But they always deliver a strong mustard/wasabi taste – so really “lift” your salads. They’re left over from some mixed green manure crops I’ve grown over the years, I always let a few stay as they’re simply so tasty!

Wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis)

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a rambling plant that’s also very sticky as it’ll stick to your clothes and hair so is commonly known simply as ‘sticky weed’. This one’s a bit “scratchy” to eat, but I chop it up finely and mix it through my salads with other greens which helps it blend in nicely. I’ve heard it gives some people a rash – if this is you, I wouldn’t be eating it. Apparently the seeds are wonderful to eat as well – I’ll be trying that shortly.

Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a rambling plant that will creep in and around your main crops – acting as a brilliant living mulch, protecting your soils from the strong sun and preventing evaporation in the process. The whole plant is very juicy and mild in flavour so I find it really easy to eat.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a bit of a rockstar weed. You can recognise it by it’s fluffy seed head, bright yellow flowers and hollow stems. It’s actual leaf has very pronounced teeth, so once you get your eye in you can spot them pretty easily and quickly. You can eat its leaves and yellow flower petals in your salads and dig up its deep tap root to roast and grind up as dandelion “coffee” (there’s no caffeine in it, but has a similar taste). You can read about this process in an older blog I wrote here. 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seed head and flower above and leaf below.

The benefits

The benefits of getting to know your weeds and eating some of them are vast. There’s the obvious things like it’ll save you time in having to actually weed the garden. But there’s there’s also soil health – soil doesn’t like being naked and as you can see from my photos above, the weeds are filling in all the space provided. This actually does a range of things including reduce evaporation, provide more root mass for the biology to benefit from and (if there’s left over plant materials) add more organic matter to the soil.

And then there’s your health, interestingly some of these weeds are way more nutritious then any of the vegetables you carefully pamper in your garden. Dandelion is a source of source of vitamin A, vitamin K, calcium and iron and “according to data from the US Department of Agriculture, it was one of the most nutritious leafy greens around.”

In summary, weeds are often an untapped resource and they’re probably thriving in your garden as you read this. Why not make the most of them and starting eating some! Above is a little snap of my evening salad – it’s 80% weeds with a few lettuce leaves thrown in on top. As well as salads, all these weeds can also be used in smoothies, pesto, spanakopita, pies and stews – pretty much anything!

Weedy Resources

If you’d like to learn more and find some amazing resources – here are two of the best.

 

your thoughts:

1 Comment

  1. Yvonne

    My favourites…weeds….
    Another one that grows abundantly in my garden is puha (Sow Thistle). I frequently add it to my pasta dough. Today I made fritters with puha, eggs, breadcrumbs, ground walnuts, savoury yeast, garlic, grated onion, a pinch of chilli, salt and pepper. Very tasty and an easy meal.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

Reo Mesh Garden Arches

Reo Mesh Garden Arches

I'm a big fan of reinforcement mesh (aka reo mash) as a material to use for making simple and super strong and versatile structures for plants to grow on. I'm always keeping an eye out for scraps of the meh at our local tip shop, alas it's highly sort after. So...

Verticillium Wilt In Your Fruit Trees? Bugger.

Verticillium Wilt In Your Fruit Trees? Bugger.

Over the past few years I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with my two apricot trees as they've never really thrived. Symptoms included not fruiting well, sparse leaf and dead wood starting to appear in the canopy branches. Finally this year while we were...

How To Make Yacon Syrup

How To Make Yacon Syrup

I grew Yacon/Peruvian ground apple (Smallanthus sonchifolius) for the first time this past season and I'm a huge fan. I scored the tubers from a fellow keen gardener, Matt, who lives around the corner from me. He popped a few tubers in my hand and I popped them in my...

Home Harvest 2023: Host Call Out!

Home Harvest 2023: Host Call Out!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold our fourth annual “Home Harvest” garden tour in the nipaluna/Hobart region!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative. Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on Sunday March 19th, 2023 in and around nipaluna/Hobart where […]

Crowdsourcing Photos For My New Book!

Crowdsourcing Photos For My New Book!

Hi Friends, I’m in the process of writing my second book about how to grow food in any climate in Australia (due out late 2023 with Affirm Press). As it’s covering the whole, vast country I would so very dearly love to include photos of edible gardens in different climates to show folks what’s possible […]

Mounding Potatoes – Or Not

Mounding Potatoes – Or Not

There are many varieties of potatoes (aka spuds) but only two key categories they all fall into. Determinate and indeterminate. Determinate potatoes don’t grow very tall and only produce spuds in one layer of soil so you don’t need to mound them. They also generally mature quicker than indeterminate types, a good thing to know […]

How To Grow Food From Scraps

How To Grow Food From Scraps

As I have a large garden and the luxury of space, I don’t usually make time to experiment with growing food in tight spaces. But I’ve always been curious about growing food from scraps. So I made the time – thank you curiosity. I saved some scraps from going straight into the compost bin and […]

Vote For Gardening Australia!

Vote For Gardening Australia!

Hello Dear Friends, I have two bits of exciting news to share with you, which can be summed up with Costa’s (host of Gardening Australia) gorgeous smile below… After being a guest presenter on Gardening Australia since 2019, I recently became an official permanent member of their team. Oh the joy!!! This is very exciting […]

Home Harvest 2022

Home Harvest 2022

We’ve just wrapped up our third Home Harvest. It was so good that I’m sharing it with you here. But first, what even is it?? Funded by the City of Hobart and supported by Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania, Home Harvest is a one day self guided edible garden tour around the nipaluna/Hobart […]

Home Harvest Host Call Out!

Home Harvest Host Call Out!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold our third annual “Home Harvest” garden tour in the Hobart region!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative. Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on Saturday March 5th, 2022 in and around Hobart where […]