Ah, spring. The sun is shining, the rain is falling, the flowers are blooming—and the weeds are growing. Before you pull and toss those pesky plants invading your garden, take a moment to identify the weed. It might be worth keeping! Not only are many weeds edible, but like other “leafy greens,” they’re packed with vitamins and nutrients. Here’s a look at some common edible weeds and their health benefits.
Dandelions: Easy to identify, this king of weeds can bring a lot of good to your life. Dandelions are high in iron, potassium, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and D. This edible weed can also be turned into a detox tea or supplement useful at cleansing your liver. Toss dandelion leaves into a salad or steam the leaves with garlic, chili pepper flakes or a seasoning of your choice. (Discover more health benefits of dandelions.)
Purslane: This wild-growing succulent plant is high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E, and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium. (Discover more health benefits of purslane.)
Stinging nettles: This edible weed has a prickly exterior, but don’t let that prevent you from digging in! (Just be sure to wear gloves when collecting it.) Stinging nettles are an excellent source of vitamins A, B and C, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Stinging nettles are also useful at treating conditions like arthritis and seasonal allergies, and because they’re a diuretic, they’re a useful food in a detox diet. (Discover more health benefits of stinging nettles.)
Chickweed: This creeping annual is high in vitamins A, D and B and minerals like iron, calcium and potassium. As a diuretic and appetite suppressant, chickweed is sometimes used in weight loss plans. Chickweed is also useful at treating respiratory ailments like asthma, allergies and bronchitis. (Discover more health benefits of chickweed.)
Lamb’s quarters: The leaves of this edible weed taste like spinach, making it easy to toss into a salad. Loaded with calcium, beta-carotene and vitamin C, lamb’s quarters leaves are good eaten raw or cooked into casseroles, egg dishes and grain salads. (Learn more about lamb’s quarters.)
A word of caution before you start pulling weeds to eat: only collect weeds from areas that you know are free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. As with all foraging, proper identification is essential, so think about investing in a book such as A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants or enlisting the help of a local botanist or herbalist to take you on a “weed walk.”
For a quick tutorial on identifying some of the weeds mentioned above, check out the slideshow 7 Edible Weeds.