Before you start to remove weeds from your garden again– READ THIS POST! Learn about the edible weeds that are healthy and taste great.
In the spring and summer, or whenever the favorable weather arrives, the sun and the warmth bring the irresistible desire to grow plants and beautiful flowers. We love to see their dazzling colors that cover up the green meadows and love to look again and again– how they shine under the sun in the garden. But with all of these, comes the unexpected surprises, a few unwanted plants “the weeds”.
But do you know that many tasty and healthy edible plants can be found among the common weeds? Wild edible weeds can turn an ordinary dish into an exquisite dish. They also have many medicinal properties. Some of these weeds are low in calories, contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, protein, and fiber.
Which parts of edible weeds are the best to eat?
The nutritional value of the plants depends on the vegetation period, so you should find out what is the best time to begin harvesting. For some weeds, flowers are harvested when they are still in buds and for others, the best time is immediately after development. Depending on the species, you can cut the whole inflorescence, pluck individual flowers or just tear the petals.
Leaves are tastiest and healthiest when they are young and tender although they are not suitable for long-term storage. Roots should be harvested when the plant is dormant, in the spring or autumn.
1. Wild Amaranth
Also known as “Pigweed”, amaranth leaves are treated as a green leafy vegetable like spinach. The seeds of wild amaranth are edible too and can be roasted. They are a good source of free protein.
The young leaves of pigweed are soft and mild in taste and can also be used in salads or teas and the older leaves can be cooked like spinach. It contains proteins, vitamin A and C and minerals.
This plant can be toxic to livestock animals due to the presence of nitrates in the leaves.
2. Queen Anne’s Lace
The wild carrot is almost identical to the highly poisonous hemlock. So be very careful that you don’t confuse. There are many ways to identify wild carrot, but one important identifier of wild carrot is the smell, it smells like a carrot.
Like carrots, its roots are also edible when young (first year) but can become woody if not harvested on time. Its flower heads are edible too and can be eaten raw or cooked.
3. Lamb’s Quarters
Lamb’s quarter leaves tend to look dusty and have a white powdery coating on them. This edible weed is packed with nutrition. Its tender leaves are great in salads and can be used as a substitute for other leafy vegetables. Its flowers and seeds are also edible that tastes like quinoa. However, its seeds contain toxic called Saponins in meager amount and should not be consumed in excess. Lamb’s quarters contain some oxalic acid therefore when eating this raw, small quantities are recommended.
However, its seeds contain toxic called Saponins in meager amount and should not be consumed in excess.
This plant can be toxic to livestock animals due to the presence of nitrates in the leaves.
Comfrey is a member of the borage family. Although not very aromatic, this herb is known for it medicinal properties and high protein content. Comfrey roots and leaves are also used to treat wounds because they contain allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow to heal the wound quickly.
For cooking, only use young leaves as older leaves grow hard hairs. Apart from that, comfrey can also be used as a garden fertilizer and as mulch.
5. Winter Cress
The Winter Cress is available at the time in winter when most the plants don’t even grow. It belongs to the mustard family and considered as a weed. However, it is a rich source of Vitamin C.
The leaves are bitter but best in taste before the plant starts to flower while they are still young and tender. At this stage, they can be added to salads like rocket. It can also be used as a vegetable like spinach.
6. Common Mallow
Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) has many medicinal and edible uses and can be easy found growing wild in most places. All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds can be eaten, whether raw in salads or cooked and like many other leafy greens, usually more tender and tasty when they are smaller and less mature. More mature leaves can be cooked.
It has a very mild flavor, although the plant is quite rich in vitamins A, B, and C, along with calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Also called “Pussley”, the common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a healthy edible weed from the moss rose family. You might be surprised but in China and India and in many other countries it is cultivated popularly. Also, this nutritious succulent has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy edible plant according to researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It can be a great addition to a salad, soups or stews. It has a crunchy texture and leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked to add a spicy flavor to any dish.
Chickweed grows in a unique, intertwined manner, and it has small white star-shaped flowers. The stems have a thin line of white hair that grows in a weave-like pattern. Chickweed’s stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible. This delicious weed has a mild, refreshing flavor. The leaves and stems can be added to salads like lettuces or cooked as greens. It is loaded with nutritious elements and has many medicinal uses too.
Chickweed’s stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible. This delicious weed has a mild, refreshing flavor. The leaves and stems can be added to salads like lettuces or cooked as greens. It is loaded with nutritious elements and has many medicinal uses too.
The plantain is found in meadows, pastures, roadsides or in neglected sites. The herbaceous plant is up to 50 centimeters high, the narrow leaves are up to 25 centimeters long. It erupts a mushroom-like aroma. Plantain can be used in a preparation of soups, salads or as a vegetable. The juice of crushed leaves helps against itching.
The stinging nettle is one of the most easily identifiable weed and invasive too. But do you know it is highly regarded for its protein content? It has the 16 free amino acids. Nettle is also rich in vitamin A and C, iron, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants. The young leaves are cooked. Its soup is also popular in many countries.
However, when dealing with nettle, make sure you wear gloves as its hairs can cause skin irritation or dermatitis.
Dandelion has a very bad reputation as a weed, especially among those who like to keep a clean and green lawn. However, this plant is pollinator’s favorite and also this plant is edible, from the roots to the flowers. The dandelion leaves can be harvested too at any time in the growing season.
12. Common Burdock
This biennial weed is very common along the ditches but also in the mountains at low altitude. The first-year roots and second-year stems can be cooked by boiling for about 20 minutes, then season to taste. Before cooking, the stems must be peeled and roots scrubbed in order to remove the bitter rind. Immature flower stalks may also be harvested in late spring before flowers appear; their taste is similar to that of artichoke. The Japanese have been known to eat the leaves when a plant is young and leaves are soft.
Beyond occasional hunting, this common herb goes unnoticed on the lawn but it is very important for bees and bumblebees. The flowers and leaves of clover can be used to add variety to meals. A few raw clover leaves can be chopped in salads or sauteed and added to dishes for a green accent; and flowers, whether red or white, can be eaten raw or cooked, including dried for tea. The refreshing acid flavor spices salads or vegetables.
Also Read: How to Grow Clover
Watercress is rich in minerals, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. It is rich in nutrients. This perennial plant has hollow stems and small heart-shaped leaves. The peppery flavor of watercress is sharp but not bitter. This water-loving plant can be found growing near creeks and ponds or nearby to other waterbodies. There are many delicious watercress recipes you can easily find on the web.
15. Shepherd’s purse
This plant is related to mustard family, it looks like dandelion and tastes like rocket.: The other distinguishable feature of Shepherd’s purse is that it is up to 50 centimeters high and have white flowers. You can find this plant on sunny, nitrogen-rich clay, sand or gravel soils. The taste is somewhat reminiscent of rocket and its leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves are a watercress and cabbage substitute and become peppery with age. The flowering shoots can be eaten as well.
16. Water Spinach
In most tropical parts it is considered as a weed. This semi-aquatic plant is a creeper that grows in or near the water on moist soils and has light green ovate leaves, its stems are hollow, so they can float on the water. Both the leaves and stems are edible and can be used as the way you use spinach. Under tropical conditions, water spinach can be harvested throughout the year, as the leaves grow again after harvesting. In cooler climates it is grown as annual, mostly in wide containers.
Also Read: How to Grow Water Spinach in Containers
Finally a Tip!
If you have doubts on the recognition of a certain plant– “Please Avoid Eating It” until you are sure which plant it is. You can ask your gardener friends for the help or download one of these plant recognition apps.