5 Weeds You Can Eat
Photo credit: k|e|n|g|
1. Dandelion (Lion’s Tooth) – Everyone has seen this common “weed” in their yard, or creeping up around the edges of a sidewalk. No amount of mowing or pulling will discourage the determined dandelion, and they usually just grow back tenfold. Yet this common weed holds incredible nutritional value. “Dandelions are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and it even has antioxidants. For example, one cup of raw dandelion greens contains 112% of your daily required intake of vitamin A and 535% of vitamin K,” explains Edible Wildfood. Contrary to popular belief, dandelions are actually good for your grass and garden, as their long taproots help summon minerals and nitrogen to the surface where shallow-rooting plants can take advantage of them.
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2. Catnip (Catmint) – When I lived in Wyoming, this wonderful purple, herbaceous plant grew wild in the alleyway behind my house. I had no idea what it was, but it had such a great color and smell, I picked some and put them in a jar for decoration. After asking a friend, I soon found out it was none other than catnip! It’s so-called because the scent has a strange fascination for cats, who will destroy any plant of it that may happen to be bruised, but it’s good for humans too! Catnip’s small, young leaves can be eaten raw. They have a mint-like flavor that makes them the perfect addition to fresh salads or as a seasoning in cooked foods. Catnip leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried to make herbal tea.
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3. Lambs Quarters – This plant is commonly found in gardens, as well as near streams and in forests. Its leaves always look dusty from a distance due to a white coating. It produces tiny green flowers that form in clusters on top of spikes, and the leaves are said to resemble a goosefoot. Lambs Quarter was called one of the most nutritious plants in the world by author and foodie Michael Pollan, and it’s not hard to see why. A relative of beets, spinach, and quinoa, “it’s sort of a super-food — high in Vitamins A and C, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, manganese, potassium and iron,” writes Ava Chin for the NY Times. It’s reported to be rather bland when eaten raw, but especially delicious when the leaves are sauteed or added to smoothies.
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4. Queen Anne’s Lace (Wild Carrot) – I lived in New Hampshire as a child and I used to see this delicate wild flower growing in meadows and along country roadsides (yeah, they still have those in New England). What I didn’t notice was how closely the Queen Anne’s Lace’s leaves resembled the feathery leaves of the domestic carrot. If I had dug up its roots, I would have been shocked to learn that a similar vegetable was growing beneath the soil! If you catch this weed before it flowers, the finger-like roots are edible just like the carrot–perfect for stews or chopped into a salad. According to Live Science, “The white flower head is edible raw or lightly battered and fried. The seeds work well in soups and stews and can flavor tea, too.” (Note: Queen Anne’s Lace bears a striking resemblance to poison hemlock, which can be lethal for humans. As with all foraged foods, be sure you’ve got the right plant before harvesting, and definitely before eating.)
Photo Credit: Jesse Taylor
5. Broadleaf Plantain (Common Plantain) – True to the nature of a “weed,” this plant can grow just about anywhere. Its habitat extends throughout Ontario and most of North America as well as in Europe and Asia in meadows, pastures, lawns, roadsides, gardens and waste places. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with the banana-like food that grows in the Caribbean. According to Live Science, the “plantain has a nutritional profile similar to dandelion — that is, loaded with iron and other important vitamins and minerals.” The entire plant is edible, though some portions are more work than they’re worth. When green, tender and no longer than 4 inches, the plantain’s roots have an asparagus-like taste and are delicious when pan fried.
Note of Caution: Be sure to learn to positively identify any and all wild plants before ingesting. If you’re not 100 percent sure, DON’T EAT IT! Also be aware of the location in which the plant is found. Many public areas are sprayed with pesticides which means the weeds will be too. Also, some of these weeds are attracted to contaminated areas because they’re well equipped to clean them up. If you suspect that an area may be contaminated by chemicals, garbage, etc., it’s best to leave those weeds to do their work alone.
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