Have you ever wondered why some plants make weeds of themselves ? It's as if this wild vegetation prefers human company to life in the pristine wilderness. Ironically, its because many of these plants were naturalized many centuries ago by our ancestors for food and medicine. I've been eating and enjoying beneficial weeds for over 20-years in addition to more normal foods, for their flavor, freshness, and nutritional value.
By using those weeds as food, you will realize a number of benefits: (1) you get an early spring harvest at a time when most gardens are just getting started. (2) You increase the productivity of your garden. (3) as with most other homegrown food, you'll save money. This particular food is especially economical, it's totally free. (4) you'll expand your own culinary horizons. There approximately 50,000 edible plant species in the world, but the average American eats only 30. Hence, if you only use 3-kinds of weeds as part of your diet, you've probably increased your food choices by 10%.
Purslane, this common garden weed is rich in flavor and nutrients. Many garden seed catalogs now list purslane and Dandelion's. Purslane prefers sunny spots in sandy rich soil. It carpets the ground, rarely growing more than 5-inches high. The succulent, purplish-green leaves range from 1/2 to 2-inches long. The tender red stems bear tiny, 5-petaled yellow flowers at their tips. The whole plant is edible. Some purelane lovers have found that they can use one plant from June till August, just by snipping off the tips of the stems.
Raw purslane has a pleasant crunch and is a good salad green. An interesting purslane cole slew can be made by chopping up the raw leaves and stems, mixing with chopped carrots, and other raw vegetables and blending with commercial cole-slaw dressing. Purslane's great taste, high level of nutrition and low caloric content (the plant is 92% water, similar to cabbage).
Like most of us Americans, dandelion is an immigrant, brought here by the earliest English settlers. It was considered absolutely essential for survival and was given an honored place in the kitchen gardens of the day, providing food, medicine and wine. Because it is an effective diuretic, it has been used for kidney stones, weight loss, and edema. Its ability to cleanse the system of toxic matter makes it valuable in clearing up disorders.
Every part of the dandelion, with the exception of the seeds and flower stalks, is useful. Eat the young leaves in early spring, either raw or steamed.
Dig up the roots anytime, although they will be highest in nutrients in
the fall. Boil them like parsnips. You can also use them as a caffeine-free coffee substitute,while enjoying dandelion's health benefits.
Chickweed is quite possibly the most common weed in the world. It, too, is a small plant, rarely reaching more than 5-inches in height. Weak-stemmed, it seems to spread out horizontally along the ground. It prefers rich soil, a little shelter, and cool weather.
The whole plant, above ground, is edible raw or cooked. Raw, it has little flavor. For this reason, it is one of my favorite plants, because with its mild flavor and crunchy texture, I can use it just like lettuce, as the base for salads. It mixes well with any other more strongly-flavored salad fixin's such as watercress, radishes and peppers.
Cook chickweed just like spinach: steamed, it even tastes like an extremely mild spinach. As it cooks down quite a bit, use a lot. Because its flavor does not overpower others vegetables, it's a good thing to add to the green pot to stretch other greens.
When you mow your lawn, does the scent of onion or garlic fill the air? Lucky you! There are a great many species of these two closely related herbs, But any plant that smells strongly of onion or garlic is onion or garlic and is edible.
Dig the bulb up to see which one you have. Just like their domesticated relatives, onions will be layered and garlic will be made up of cloves. Don't be fooled by their small size, their flavor is often stronger than domesticated varieties. Use the green tops like chives or green onion tops.
I hope you will want to try eating some of the weeds in your backyard. They'll add freshness, flavor, and variety to your diet, as well as increasing the productivity of your organic garden. Bon Appetit!
Copyright · 1995 The Garden
March 22, 2009 2:43 PM