Edible Weeds, YUM!

Posted April 25 2013

Written By: Nikki E.


  Now that Spring is here for us (most of us) in the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Earth has come back to life. Birds chirping, butterflies fluttering, and ants busy as usual. I welcome it all with a smile, I embrace the warm breeze and the warmth of the Sun on my face. There is something that came upon me one day, drinking my coffee, staring out my kitchen nook window. It was a beautiful morning, the new green leaves of my Oak dancing with the wind, the skies were turning from the pale gold dawn to a brilliant blue, the Sun peeking over the horizon. I smiled at the sight of it, in all of it's simplicity, all of it's beauty. Then out of the corner of my eye I see something move in my yard, at the trunk of my Oak. It was a cute little squirrel gathering food, I watched him hop through my grass and that is when I realized, wow...Spring really has sprung! 




  My grass isn't so bad but goodness I didn't realize all of the patches of weeds in my yard, they seemed to have appeared overnight! I thought to myself, I really need to get out there and do some weeding. But of course, I put that in the back of my mind and went about my day. Not thinking about it again, until a few days later. I was outside with my daughter, she wanted to check the mail with me, she gets excited about things like that like any four year old does. I stopped to visit my Oak that stands in between my home and the mailbox. I showed my daughter all of the new leaves and as we were admiring the beauty I felt an itching sting on my bare foot. What the heck! At first I thought I stepped on an ants house but realized it was a stinging nettle. Now, most people would curse the thing and be irritated. Me, on the other hand, was reminded that stinging nettle isn't any ordinary weed. It has medicinal uses, and magical. Stinging nettle is also an edible weed! This is how my curiosity began. Looking at all the different weeds that had grown in my yard I decided to do some research. I was surprised to find that so many “weeds” are useful. While people were posting organic weed killing recipes, I found myself offending my new found friends. I felt like shouting out, Don't kill them!! They are useful, Mother Earth has put them here for us to use! While some people may think I'm crazy, that is a-OK with me, I know there are others like me. Read on to find the magical in the mundane, the beauty in some of these so called weeds.




**Please , please, please make sure you know which weeds you are picking. I suggest getting a wild foraging book and do some of your own research. Even though there are tons of weeds that are edible or medicinal, there are also weeds that are poisonous. I am not an expert by any means, I am simply wanting to bring awareness of the resources Mother Earth provides us that we overlook everyday.**

Before picking edible weeds, be sure that they are not growing in an area that was treated for "weeds” and are a good distance away from roads with moderate to heavy traffic (no traffic at all is best).



A lot of us know the typical ones, and if not then here they are:



Dandelion- My sweet, sweet dandelion. How I love thee. Dandelion is found in virtually every zone in the US. Harvest the new greens in early spring to eat. Later in the season, harvest the larger leaves and dry them for tea. The root is ready once hard frost has killed off the green parts. Dandelions can be steamed, used in salads, tea, jelly...so may wonderful things! 




Stinging Nettle
Stinging Nettle- Did you know that nettles contain the highest plant source of iron? It is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and protein. Any recipe you like that calls for greens, such as spinach or kale can be replaced with nettles. Pick nettles when they are younger, before they get fibrous and before they start to flower. Always wear gloves when picking nettles, use a salad spinner and tongs to wash them, and then steam or blanch the greens in salted water to neutralize the venom before eating. After nettles are cooked you don't have to worry about the sting.                        


Chickweed- Chickweed leaves are used by adding them raw to salads and sandwiches, they can be tossed into soups and stews as well. The stems and flowers can also be used in a cooked dish. The easiest way to harvest it is to find the tips, pull them upwards, and snip off the best-looking parts. 





Red or White Clover- My brother has TONS of white clover covering his yard like a carpet. I love the way it looks, the bees love it too. And they are both edible -the clovers, not the bees ;)! Raw in salads, as cooked greens, and even a flour substitute. The young and tender shoots and greens are better, the older ones can get tough. Stick to ones that look fresh and haven't gone grass-like. The flower heads are nutritious and full of protein, for easier digestion they should either be soaked in salty water for a few hours or briefly boiled or cooked before eating. Eating them raw is usually not as good an experience. Adding them to a stir fry, sauteing until well done, or a lightly battered tempura sound like some yummy options. If the blossoms seem past their prime or going to seed, dry them and grind them to be used as a flour substitute.

Other edible weeds that are not so well known, or maybe they are but they weren't to me: 


Beggars Tick
Beggars Tick- I have tons of these in my back yard and have formed a new found love for them. Not only would honey production everywhere be hurt without the Beggars Tick family (In Florida, the Beggars Tick is the third most common reliable source of nectar) but it also an edible weed. The flower, as well as the young leaves (a few at a time) can be added to salad. Shoots, tips and young leaves are good potherbs. There are different species of Beggars Tick, some more edible than others, so be sure to do your research before eating them!

Dock- There are quite a few Dock species (Curly, Butter, Swamp, Yellow just to name a few), most are bitter, a few are tart. The seeds of several docks can be harvested, cooked and eaten. I have read that a lot of people dry the seeds, grind them and use it as a flour substitute.

Florida Betony
Florida Betony- Who knew? The Florida Betony, is one of the most common urban plants found in Florida and, yep, they can be eaten! The young leaves can be used as greens or dried for tea but the best part seems to be the root or tuber. The tubers look like white grubs. I know, I know, gross. But they are actually very tasty and the “cousin” of the Florida Betony is the Crosnes which originated in China and sells for $150 a pound. All we have to do is look in our lawns and get them for free!

The above edible weeds are only just a few, but there are so many more. I encourage you to do some research and learn about what is offered right under our noses. Thanks for reading my first blog and I look forward to hearing from you, learning and sharing. Look for my next blog to be posted on weeds and the medicinal uses! Until next time, Blessed Be.