Are your weeds just trash?
When it comes to gardening many times we see plants we did not intend to grow as pests. However these weeds can have a variety of positive purposes in our gardens. Some weeds, like Black Medic and Hop Clover help to bind nitrogen and replace this vital element in the soil. Other weeds ward off bugs and help keep our plants healthy. Still others have a more basic purpose. They can be eaten by us! Here are some weeds that are not only fit for human consumption but can be quite tasty and nutritious also:
1. Dandelion (http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5062/5566871810_9d6a6c31f9.jpg) – The Dandelion is one of the most nutritious weeds you can eat. Easy to identify by its single yellow flower that turns into a fluffy white seed head, this weed is full of vitamins, minerals and protein. You could survive on this plant alone for a short time. The flower is edible raw and can be added to salads. The seed head is not edible, but the stems, leaves and even roots are. The leaves have a bitter flavor and can be added to salads and sandwiches. They are best served with a strong oil and vinegar dressing. The leaves can also be wilted in a bacon fat rendering and are quite tasty that way. My favorite rendering includes green onion and a bit of sugar. You can boil the roots for twenty to thirty minutes and eat them or roast and grind them into an acceptable coffee substitute. Some people even make Dandelion wine.
2. Cat’s Ear (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/6971201505/) – Similar in look to the Dandelion, this weed is actually edible too. You can tell the two weeds apart because the Cat’s Ear has multiple yellow flowers per plant and also has a solid stem and not a hollow one. The leaves are less bitter than the Dandelion, especially before the flower appears.
3. Dollar weed (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3581/3412816435_8db02691d9.jpg) – This scourge of yards everywhere is edible and has a flavor like cucumber. Only the broad, flat leaves are edible and it is better to pick the ones that are smaller than a quarter in diameter as they are the most tender and flavorful. You can eat them raw or pickle them in a sort of kimchee or sauerkraut like fashion. The stems and roots are stringy and inedible.
4. Clover (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/3405367901/) – The classic white flowers are an icon of sorts in the weed world. Not only are the flowers edible but they make a tasty and nutritious tea. The leaves of the clover are also edible and can be cooked into many dishes for a boost of protein.
5. Indian Strawberries (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/3343139572/) –The tiny red fruit of this wild strawberry relative is easy to spot popping up in your yard. While the berries are nearly flavorless and very bland they can be eaten raw and provide some essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Lamb’s Quarter/Goosefoot/Pigweed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/5643945774/) – This common summer weed can grow quite tall, over five feet, and is even more nutritious than spinach. Use the leaves in salads or cook them in soups and stews. The stem is also edible and can be diced and added to a variety of dishes. Full of vitamins, minerals and protein the small leaves and stems are the best for eating and can be harvested from spring until the first frost. Seeds can be harvested from late fall into early winter. The seeds can be boiled like couscous or roasted and ground into flour. The leaves can also be frozen for later use. Just blanch in boiling water for one minute, shake dry, and seal tightly.
7. Mallow – This tiny weed sprouts an equally small flower and is a super food. Packed with nutrients it can taste bitter but is easily dried and added to soups, smoothies and other foods. The leaves and roots have a thickening agent that works great in stews.
8. Pineapple Weed (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/4839854552/) – This weed thrives in dry and beaten down areas like dirt roads, foot paths, and driveways. It can be made into a calming tea similar to chamomile. The crushed plant can also be rubbed on the skin as a weak insect repellent.
9. Pink Primrose (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/4491935956/) – Found growing in ditches and yards all over, this pretty little flower is easy to spot. The leaves are edible before the flower forms however so look around for the plants that have not bloomed yet. The flower petals can also be eaten raw and added to salads.
10. Shepherd’s Purse – The leaves of this tall and slender weed can be eaten raw or cooked and have a mild mustard flavor. The seeds have a stronger peppery flavor and are tasty to munch on raw or add the whole seed stalk to salads for a peppery kick. You can also dry the seeds and then crush them for a pepper substitute.
11. Violet (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/3280589160/) – Wild Violets can be found in many areas and are full of Vitamins A and C. Harvested in spring, the leaves and flowers are eaten raw and can be added to salads and smoothies.
12. Wine Cups – This purple flower is often found in yards and along highways. The leaves are similar to okra in that they can be added to cooked dishes to thicken them up. But the real value comes in the tubers. The tubers grow the largest in winter and are hard to find if you have not marked where the flowers formed. However they can be cooked and eaten like potatoes and are very nutritious.
13. Wood Sorrel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/16402403@N00/3412817521/) – When I think of clover my mind flies to Wood Sorrel. As a child I often mistook the tiny purple or yellow flowers and heart shaped shamrock leaves for clover. The leaves of this weed are slightly bitter but full of vitamins and can be eaten raw. They can be added to salads for a tangy kick. The flowers are also edible though mostly flavorless. Too much of this plant can cause kidney stones to form so avoid eating them with milk products.
14. Spiderwort/ Day Flower (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3305/4614268764_a463ae9a20.jpg) – This blue flowered and narrow leaved weed is very distinctive and can easily be spotted in your garden. The stems and leaves act and taste like okra and can be added to cooked dishes to thicken them. The leaves are also edible raw. The sticky sap can help to treat minor burns.
15. Purslane/ Sedum/ Stone Crop (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3006/2794973462_b4d07f60d5.jpg) – With thick looking leaves and stems this distinctive weed loves to grow in sidewalk cracks and along foundations. It is very nutritious and tasty raw or cooked. Full of vitamins and minerals this plant can be steamed, roasted or cooked in any variety of ways. The biggest stems can even be picked like cucumber. It loves hot weather so it will stay green even in the hottest summer sunshine.
16. Sow Thistle (http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3472/3180598301_02e26f9c57.jpg) – Growing to waist high or even higher, this huge weed pops up where you would least expect it. The entire plant is edible before the flower buds form and is great steamed. The flower buds can be eaten raw or cooked but are best used by pickling and making them into a caper like food. Young leaves can be boiled, steamed or eaten raw. The stem can be peeled and cooked like asparagus. The roots of the weed are bitter but can be roasted and ground for a coffee substitute.
These are just a few of the many weeds you may be throwing out every day. As you can see there is more to these pests than what meets the eye. Before you yank out your next weed try to find out if there is something else you can do with it. From tasty snack to bug repellent weeds can be more than just garbage.
This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from http://www.housekeeping.org She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.