Monday, May 23, 2016

You're eating WHAT? A short guide to edible weeds

Everyone already knows that dandelions make for some good eating and some dandy wine, right? Whether you add the greens to your salads, saute the roots, or batter and fry the blooms, you're in for some tasty and nutritious treats that are absolutely free. While it's better to harvest and use dandelions than kill them off with toxic weedkillers like Roundup, it's good to also keep in mind that they are often the first real food for our beloved bees, so make sure you leave plenty behind for them!

Dandelions aren't the only yummy weeds sprouting up in yards across the country, however. Here are just a few harvest-worthy weeds to tempt your palate:

  • Purslane [Portulaca oleracea] -- The greens are a nice addition to a tossed salad and are packed full of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids (who knew, right?). And from what I understand, it's best to harvest this week early in the morning when it has 10x the malic acid content than later in the day. WARNING: Hairy-stemmed spurge looks quite similar to purslane, but is poisonous! Make sure you know the difference before you consume these greens. Click here for more information.
  •  Henbit or dead nettle [Lamium amplexicaule] -- Don't let the name scare you! The leaves boast a sweet, peppery flavor and can be eaten cooked or raw. Again, this weed is another great addition to a salad. Even though it's in the mint family, people tend to equate its taste to that of kale. Just make sure you snip 'em before they blossom! 
  • Common or ground plantain [Plantago major] -- If you harvest the leaves when they're young and tender, this weed is quite tasty. Older leaves tend to be tough, but are good for stews. Common or ground plantain is known around the world for its medicinal properties and nutritional benefits. The leaves contain a variety of minerals, including calcium, along with the same amount of vitamin A as a large carrot (100 grams of plantain).
  •  Lamb's quarters [Chenopodium album] -- The leaves of this weed, which often look dusty, are similar to spinach and can be eaten raw, sauteed, or steamed, although they are quite acidic, so cooking is recommended to eliminate the oxalic acid. Every part of this plant is edible, including the seeds, shoots, leaves, and flowers.

This probably goes without saying, but please, please thoroughly wash any and all weeds you harvest. All sorts of nasties, chemical and otherwise, could ruin a good thing!

Happy foraging!

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional or nutritionist. I'm just a blogging grandma. While I am providing pictures, many weeds have similar appearances and could be poisonous. Always seek more information for your own health and peace of mind.


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