Edible weeds can be found right in your own backyard – if you know where to look!
I love the idea of edible weeds.
They’re things you would pull up anyway from your garden beds, but they don’t have to go to waste.
You can either feed them to your chickens and reduce your poultry food bill, or cook them up for yourself and your family!
Anything that takes a potential waste product and turns it into free food is a game-changer in my book.
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Weeds are considered “invaders” or “plants out of place.”
Although, I’ve often heard them called “plants where we haven’t discovered the benefits of yet”.
Our ancestors knew the benefits of weeds, though.
Wild garlic was cultivated near our villages as far back as the bronze age.
In the Foxfire Series, the Appalachian Old-Timers would talk about harvesting a wild greens salad as early as possible in the Spring to “cleanse the blood”.
Weeds like dandelion, poke, ramps and more are full of the vitamins and minerals we need after a long, cold Winter.
While completely unproven scientifically, I believe wild foods tend to be more nutritious than cultivated varietals. Compare 1 cup of dandelion greens to 1 cup of spinach, for example:
|Total omega-6s||144 mg||7.8mg|
|Vitamin A||5588 IU||2813 IU|
For more information why omega-3s and omega-6s are so important, check out TED Talk: Depression is a disease of civilization by Stephen Ilardi.
So while Spinach beats dandelions on a few nutrients – the simple fact that you don’t have to spend any time or effort growing dandelions makes them a win in my book.
So I’ve come up with a list of safe and tasty edible weeds that you might find & harvest (instead of removing) in your own backyard:
Edible Weeds in your own backyard
1. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
One of my favorite edible weeds is dandelion because of the many things it can offer.
From their flowers down to their roots, everything is edible!
Though the leaves may be a bit bitter-tasting, their flavor and aroma can be added fresh to any salad to give it a bit of bite, like arugula, or sautéed like spinach.
The flowers can be battered and deep-fried and the roots can be dried and used in a tea to replace coffee!
Dandelion also has a number of medicinal properties, but to list them all and do it justice, I’ll save it for another blog post.
2. Burdock (Arctium SP.)
Burdock is a native plant from the family Asteraceae, which grows in scrubs, roadsides, woodlands, fields, and wastelands.
They are commonly harvested around summer to fall.
In my area, people like to use their heart-shaped leaves for medicinal purposes, but for my family, they are a perfect ingredient to a healthy vegetable salad!
One of burdock’s most valued nutritional components is vitamin C, which is necessary for collagen formation and stronger immunity!
Although it may be a bit of a task to pull them out of the soil because of their sticky burrs, their tasty edible parts will prove to be worth every time and effort you put into it.
I recommend you try to boil, fry, or sauté the roots if you want to grab tons of its health benefits.
3. Plantain (plantago spp.)
Plantain is one of those under-appreciated medicinal herbs. It grows prolific everywhere – parks, roadsides, front lawns, everywhere.
Both young and older leaves are edible and are usually added as ingredients to soups and stews!
But you can also eat them raw as long as you carefully rinse them before eating.
Plantain is one of those edible weeds that adds flavor & color to a vegetable salad!
Just chop the young leaves finely and then sprinkle them into your salad if you want to add a bit of a crunch!
Medicinally, plantain lends itself to treating skin conditions and is my favorite “spit poultice” for bumps and scrapes.
Simply rip off a leaf, chew it up a bit and place the spit poultice on any insect stings, bruises, etc.
4. Chickweed (Stellaria Media)
Every year, hundreds of lawn lovers pull out a lump of chickweeds in their backyard, not for dinner, but for maintenance and pest control.
Pulling out chickweeds is like wasting away food – nutritious food!
Chickweeds, like other edible weeds, are fully packed with nutrients, such as Vitamin C, zinc, beta carotene, and calcium.
Almost all parts are edible (leaves, stems, flowers, seeds) and they are perfect ingredients to your stews, soups, and salads!
They usually grow in cold weather seasons (December), so if you want to harvest them during that time, it’s better to do so before the snow begins.
Although chickweeds can be eaten raw, cooking them enhances their flavor.
5. Clover (Trifolium SP.)
Clover is another one of those incredibly prolific weeds. It is part of the legume family, and helps to fix nitrogen into the soil, increasing the soil health.
In fact, we’ll often sow clover as a cover crop to increase soil fertility and is a decent pasture for most livestock.
The leaves and stems can be eaten fresh in a salad, or sautéed in butter and garlic (everything’s better with butter and garlic), but my favorite is clover flower tea.
The clover lends a sweet honeysuckle-type flavor to tea and is also medicinal!
(Stay tuned for a post on the medicinal benefits of clover!)
6. Violets (viola spp.)
More than just a beautiful accessory in a bouquet, violets are edible weeds that have a lot to offer!
They can easily be spotted anywhere (preferably in rich soil) because they have no known look-alikes!
The edible parts (leaves and flowers) are the best part of violets because they contain high levels of Vitamin C and A.
Violets’ leaves are often chopped finely and sprinkled into salads to neutralize flavor and to add a deeper color, while the flowers are made into candies and jellies because of their delightful taste and fascinating purple color.
I, personally, love making violet lemonade with them.
Violets are one of the first edible flowers to show up in our yard and is a bright, beautiful, welcome sign of Spring.
It still shocks me how bountiful nature is when you know what you’re looking for, and to know there’s an entire buffet of FREE, nutritious and often medicinal plants right in your backyard!