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.

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