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Gardening can be difficult and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Why not make the most of the plants that volunteer to grow your yard?
These are commonly called weeds, but throughout history many of these hearty little plants have provided people in all walks of life a wealth of tasty nutrition.
In this article, we will discuss some of the most common edible backyard or garden weeds and provide some ideas to help you make good use of them. Read on to learn more about edible lawn and backyard weeds.
Be Sure You Know What You’re Eating!
Naturally, not all wild plants are edible. There are some that are actually poisonous!
Before you venture into your backyard to gather your dinner salad, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with a good wild plant identification book.
Of course, you can also look up all of this information online. One very good resource is the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. You can find their website here.
Here you will find slideshows and interesting information on a wide variety of edible wild plants.
In addition to knowing which plants are edible, it’s important to know which parts of the plants are edible. Do a little studying be certain you are eating the right parts of the plants you gather.
This will enhance both your enjoyment and your safety when eating wild plants.
Harvesting your plants from a clean environment is also very important. Native plants that have been sprayed with pesticides and chemicals are no better for you than domestic crops that have been sprayed with these poisons.
You should not harvest plants along a busy roadside because they are likely to be contaminated with pollutants from car exhaust.
Additionally, it may be unsafe to harvest plants in ditches because of possible contamination of surface water. Naturally, you would not want to harvest your plants in an area frequented by wild animals dogs or cats.
Easily Recognized Common Edible Weeds
1. Purslane is a highly underrated super-food. This amazingly hardy weed grows anywhere there is a scrap of soil and a ray of sunshine. You can find it growing from the cracks in sidewalks in busy cities.
Purslane has a zingy, lemony flavor, and it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can enjoy the leaves, stems and flowers as additions to salads or lightly sautéed on their own or in a stir-fry.
Do be aware that there is another plant that looks quite a bit like purslane but is not edible. Luckily you can tell the difference because the purslane look-alike (spurge) is filled with milky sap. Purslane is not.
Know that generally speaking, plants that have milky sap are not edible.
2. Everyone is familiar with dandelions. What you may not know about these hearty, cheerful little volunteers is that they are one of the most healthful edible plants on earth.
You can eat every part of the dandelion plant. The leaves are filled with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, K and C. They are also rich in potassium, calcium, manganese and iron.
Tender, young dandelion leaves are the best and are available in abundance in the early spring. In the summer time, you can still pick tender leaves by watching the plants from which you have already gathered leaves.
Dandelions continue producing new leaves throughout the growing season to take the place of those that you have already harvested.
These leaves can be added to soup or salads. You can also enjoy them as cooked greens by sautéing them with a few hot red peppers, some garlic, olive oil and salt.
The flowers can also be added to salads, or you can batter them lightly and fry them for a tasty snack. You can also make wine by fermenting the flowers with yeast and raisins.
Dandelion roots can be used like chicory roots as a coffee substitute. Like chicory, most people do not like the dandelion roots on their own, but they make a nice addition to your favorite coffee.
3. Plantain is another amazingly abundant edible weed. It grows in two types, broadleaf and narrow leaf. Don’t be confused by the name!
This is not the tropical plantain that is a type of banana. This plant is a type of wild greens that hails from Spain and the Caribbean.
Plantain was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers and became known as “the white man’s footprint” by Native Americans.
Both broad leaf and narrow leaf varieties are extraordinarily nutritious because they are simply chock full of vitamins, minerals and especially iron.
Larger leaves can be tough and bitter, so it’s best to collect the leaves when they are small, young and tender.
One good way to ensure that you get a good crop of young tender leaves is to simply mow your plantiain patch and then watch for the new growth.
Plantain greens taste a little bit like asparagus with a nutty aftertaste. You can prepare them just as you would any other greens by steaming, pan frying with a little olive oil or adding to stir-fry dishes.
Plantain is best when it is cooked quickly and at a high temperature.
4. For a natural spinach substitute that is much more healthful you may like to try lambs’ quarter. This flavorful weed is also known as goosefoot. The leaves have a slightly velvety texture and are coated with a fine white powder on the underside.
Gather leaves that are young and tender from the top of the plant. You can prepare them just like spinach by steaming or boiling them quickly or sautéing them.
They taste quite a bit like spinach and somewhat like Swiss chard. They impart an aftertaste that is slightly nutty.
A single cup serving of this tasty, natural spinach substitute provides 10 times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin K. It also provides three times more vitamin A than the RDA.
Vitamin C amounts depend upon growing conditions, but it any growing condition this plant provides abundant amounts of vitamin C. Furthermore, it is rich in magnesium and calcium.
5. Stinging nettles are both edible and drinkable! You have to be careful when you gather them to avoid being stung, but is fairly simple.
Just be sure to wear gardening gloves or simply hold the container in which you wish to gather your nettles under the plant and cut off the stems so that the plants you gather fall directly into the container.
Nettle leaves are quite tasty either boiled or steamed. If you boil them, you can use the water in which they have been boiled as tea.
It is delicious on its own, or you can add honey and lemon just as you would with any herbal tea.
Whole nettle plants can also be gathered and dried during the spring and summer to be used as tea throughout the year.
When you dry nettle plants, the needles fall off and you don’t have to worry so much about handling.
Stinging nettles provide a wide array of impressive health benefits. They are a good source of protein and full of minerals that cannot be found anywhere else other than in specifically prepared supplements.
Among these are sulfur, iodine, silica, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
Explore The Wide World Of Tasty, Nutritious Edible Weeds!
The edible native plants listed above make up just a short list of the many tasty, health-giving weed you can gather on your own. Here are a few more wild edibles you may wish to explore!
- Chicory leaves can be eaten as greens, and the roots can be dried and ground as a coffee substitute.
- The leaves of Dollar Weed are nice additions to salads and soups can be cooked like spinach.
- Sheeps’ Sorrel looks like red clover. It’s slightly sour leaves make a nice addition to salads.
- Both the flowers and leaves of violets are tasty in salads.
- The young leaves and roots of garlic mustard are edible.
- The tender tips and shoots of chickweed are edible.
- The leaves of creeping Charlie are good in tea.
- The leaves and roots of wild garlic are edible.
- Burdock roots are edible.
Edible Weeds Provide Great Nutrition & Vigorous Landscaping Absolutely Free!
You can harvest a great deal of very tasty and nutritious food from your backyard by simply shifting your gardening and landscaping focus slightly.
The edible plants that volunteer in your yard are more likely to be healthy and strong than anything you can purchase and plant. The reason is that native and wild plants choose their environment, and that happens to be the environment you already have.
When you encourage edible weeds in your yard, you don’t have to keep a jungle! You can manage these wild plants with trimming and gentle relocating to keep your yard looking manicured.
When you take advantage of wild plants as part of your ornamental and edible landscape, you can reap tremendous benefits with very little effort.