Edible Weeds


NY Times - IN THE GARDEN; Finding Flavor in the Weeds

Along with gardening season comes the battle with weeds. They compete for soil nutrients, sunlight, and they enjoy disturbed soil. But did you know that many common garden weeds are actually edible? In some cases, they’re quite nutritious and delicious. The following is a list of seven common edible weeds. At least one of them, and, depending on where in North America you live, perhaps a handful of them may be growing in your yard right now. While it’s exciting to find free food and medicinal plants growing in your yard, be sure you positively identify your plants before eating.



Yellow Dock/Burdock:

The long dock taproot is used as a food and
as a medicinal herb. It is a good source of
dietary fiber and certain minerals, including
calcium and potassium. While it was
occasionally sold at small health food stores,
dock has started appearing in mainstream
groceries like Whole Foods, and it may be
growing in your yard right now!




Lamb’s Quarter:

The leaves of lamb’s quarter, also known as
goosefoot, have a pleasant nutty flavor and
are excellent added fresh to lettuce salads,
or cooked and used as a replacement for
spinach. Being related to amaranth and
quinoa, lamb’s quarter seeds are also edible
and a good source of protein, vitamin A and
other vitamins and minerals.




Dandelion:

Everyone knows what a dandelion looks like,
and that dandelion greens are sold as a
high-end salad green at groceries and fine
restaurants, but people do not often put
the two together. Yes, this humble
sidewalk-crack weed is edible. The leaves
taste slightly bitter and are high in iron.
Also, if you can gather enough dandelion flowers, recipes abound for dandelion wine.

Pity the American dandelion. In countries across the world the dandelion is considered a delicious vegetable and is consumed with affection–and dandelion has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. In America, it is most often cursed as an irksome weed and is pulled, poisoned and otherwise generally maligned.

Fortunately, dandelions do have a small and very allegiant cadre of fans here in the States. Along with traditional eaters, a new group of greenmarket enthusiasts, and those interested in foraging and wild greens are taking a shine to dandelions. And for good reason. They are delicious, and hugely healthy.

Nutritionally, dandelion greens and roots are chock full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are one of the most nutritionally dense greens you can eat. Along with the punch of nutrition, they have many medicinal qualities as well. They are potassium-rich and have a strong diuretic quality, as well as efficacy as a blood detoxifier and good for the liver. They have long been used to treat digestive disorders and to treat arthritis and eczema.

Dandelion greens have a reputation for bitterness, but they are nicely so, and the bitterness is balanced by a lovely spiciness similar to arugula. Mature greens can get pretty bitter, but this can be tamed by blanching them.

The time to harvest dandelion greens is early in the spring, when they are their youngest and before they flower. They can be harvested again in late fall as they loose some of their bitterness after a frost. Look for young dandelions growing in rich, moist soil, making sure not to forage close to roads (they can accumulate pollution) or from areas that have been treated with garden chemicals. For a special treat, get out early in spring and look for the crown, which is the cluster of new buds that sits above the taproot. These are the tenderest, sweetest parts of the plant.

Young dandelion greens are tender and delicious served raw in salads or sandwiches. If you use the greens that have been harvested after the plant has flowered, you can blanch them in water to remove the bitterness; dump the bitter water, and blanch them again. You will loose a lot of vitamins this way, but there are still plenty of beneficial nutrients left. Use sauteed or steamed dandelion greens as you would any other greens. Dandelion root can by ground and used as a substitute for coffee, and dandelion flowers can be used in recipes and for garnish.

Click For Dandelions Are A Powerhouse Of Nutrients


Nettles:

Nettles are often one of the least welcome
garden weeds because of their sting.
However, the leaves may be harvested,
cooked, and used as you would use
spinach. They are particularly good cooked
in soup. The leaves can also be dried for
preservation. Nettle provides vitamin C,
protein and many minerals, including iron.
Nettle can also be used as a vegetarian
source of rennet for cheesemaking.


Amaranth:
Also known as pigweed when it grows as a
weed, amaranth is in the same family as quinoa. It was historically one of the staple foods of the Incas and is high in vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, K, B6, and calcium and iron, and the seeds are a good source of protein. Its leaves can be cooked and its seeds can be harvested and cooked the same as quinoa. The mature root is also edible.




Plantain:

Not to be confused with the banana,
lantain
the weed, like dandelions, are a humble
sidewalk weed. There are broad and
thin-leafed varieties. Their young leaves can
be used fresh, and their mature leaves
should be cooked. However, they are
especially known for their medicinal healing
qualities, for instance as a poultice on insect
bites, rashes or cuts. They are said to have
many healing qualities including helping with
coughs and bronchitis.















Purslane:

Purslane is a succulent and its leaves,
stems, and flowers can be eaten fresh or
cooked and tastes like spinach. It is a good
source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It can be
found growing in all 50 states.