“A weed is but an unloved flower.” -Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Weeds get a bad reputation. Upon the first opportunity, these unloved plants in our backyards are immediately removed and destroyed! Gardeners don’t even think twice about it. Weeds have no place in the garden. But they do have a place in the kitchen! Before you toss those weeds into the trash, consider eating them. As your mother would say, “Don’t let good food go to waste!” Many weeds are edible and nutritious! They can contain antioxidants, vitamins and even protein!
However, before consuming anything in the wild, identify the plant first to make sure it is indeed edible and not poisonous. As well, avoid plants that have been sprayed by chemicals, and don’t pick weeds near roadsides, as the plants will have absorbed a lot of car pollution.
Here are some examples of edible weeds. Many of these can be found in your own backyard or a nearby field.
The dandelion, the most recognized weed, is a great source of nutrients! In fact, dandelion contains more beta-carotene than carrots. Both the flowers and the leaves are edible. The flowers have a bittersweet taste. Harvest dandelions when the leaves are tender in the early spring or late fall; mature plants can taste bitter. The leaves can be eaten raw in a salad or cooked like spinach. For more ways to use dandelion, see this blog post.
Red cover is weed that is commonly used as cattle food, but it is also fit for humans! Both the leaves and the flowers are edible, but the flowers are preferable. These little pink flowers have a sweet taste, with a bit of a honey-like fragrance and are high in protein. While white clover is also edible, red clover is more nutritious and flavourful. The flowers can eaten raw or cooked. They can also be used to make tea. And just as a precaution, do not eat too many flowers, as it can cause bloating.
Borage can be identified by its showy, blue, star-shaped flowers and hairy stems and leaves. It is known to contain calcium, vitamins A and C, and magnesium. The leaves are edible, but they should be cooked first. The flowers are quite tasty and have a cucumber-like taste; they can be added to salads or candied to make edible decorations for cakes and other desserts. But be careful not to eat too much borage; large amounts can have a diuretic effect.
The name fireweed comes from the fact that this weed is one of the first plants to emerge after a fire and other natural disasters. Fireweed is a good source of vitamins C and A. The leaves and young shoot tips are edible, raw or cooked. Mature leaves are tough and bitter. Some people would even consider early season shoots to be a delicacy! The shoots can be a substitute for asparagus. They can be used in salads, soups or teas. The flowers can be used to make a sweet tasting jelly.
Chickweed is a low-growing plant found growing along fences, rocks and walls in backyards. It can be identified by its tiny white flowers and small, oval-shaped leaves that grow in pairs. Along with high amounts of vitamin C, this weed contains many vitamins and minerals, including: protein, iron, vitamins A, B and D, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The main parts that are eaten are the leaves and stems, which can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, stews, and pasta dishes.
- A List of Flowers You Can Eat (growerdirect.com)
- Purslane (maybegreensomeday.wordpress.com)
- WakingTimes – 52 Wild Plants You Can Eat – 17 April 2013 (lucas2012infos.wordpress.com)
- Weeds That Heal: Chickweed (showmeoz.wordpress.com)