Is your yard overrun by dandelions? Purslane? Don’t despair. Enjoy the free food!
Yup, you can eat them. Dandelion greens work as pizza toppings, in salads, in stir fries. Here’s a tempting recipe for pesto! (And some salad suggestions from Eating Well. Even a recipe from the Splendid Table for a dandelion flower cookie!) Sarah at Nature’s Nurture has a wonderful collection of ideas for using dandelions in an impressive array of recipes. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could roast the roots for a coffee-like drink.
Though usually seen as exceptionally pesky weeds, dandelions are versatile and very nutritious. The flowers are also important early food for bees, so if you want to help out our pollinators, try to leave some dandelion flowers in your yard in early spring, when there’s not much else for them to eat.
Wood sorrel, which I’ve heard referred to as lemon hearts (love that!), is one of the next edible weeds to appear. It has delicate heart-shaped leaves that taste vaguely lemony. Great in salads, or to nibble on while you’re working in the garden. Kids love them, and my 5-year-old will happily pick herself a snack while she’s keeping me company. Sprinkle them on your salad or let your toddler nibble them while you dig up dandelions.
I’ve always been a big fan of violets, which spread nicely to shady areas and make a great groundcover. After all my failed attempts at vegetable gardening in the front yard, they have been a welcome takeover. Imagine my delight when I discovered you can eat them as well! A couple recipe ideas here and here. Or just toss them in salad, or candy them for cake decoration.
I’m eagerly awaiting the reappearance of my purslane, a rockstar of the weed world. High in vitamin E and other nutrients, it’s also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s. Check out my recipe for a delicious and healthy purslane-pineapple-ginger smooothie. Apparently purslane is also good in stirfries, though I’ve never had enough left over from smoothies to try. Read more here.
Other weeds to explore: Lambsquarters, a relative of amaranth and quinoa, and plantain, one of several “weeds” and weed-like plants that are excellent additions to your home remedy arsenal. Chickweed is another nutritious option, as Michelle from Seeking Joyful Simplicity explains in her post on chickweed pesto. Even creeping charlie can be cooked like spinach and brewed into a healthful tea. Though it doesn’t grow in my region, kudzu (the weed that ate the south) is also edible. If you’ve tried it, leave a comment and let me know how it is!
These weeds are everywhere. Go harvest yourself some free wild vegetables you didn’t even realize you were growing!
These are just a small selection of some of the edible weeds you might find in a yard near you. If you want to explore more, my go-to resource for foraged edibles is Wildman Steve Brill. Check out his comprehensive list of edible wild plants you might find in your yard (as well as his amazing recipes using wild foods. Cattail soup anyone?). I also love the information at Eat the Weeds and Edible Wild Food.
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Follow my foraging Pinterest board for lots more tips on finding free wild foods!