Last Updated on May 24, 2023
Did you know many common weeds are edible — AND delicious? Not to mention incredibly nutritious. Yes, there are numerous weeds you can eat!
It’s that time of year when weeds are evvvvverywhere, and homeowners look at their gardens and sigh.
Not me! I give a little cheer and get to harvesting all that delicious, healthy, free food! Ingredients for salads, smoothies, and pizza toppings abound in our yard long before anything I planted is ready to harvest.
Is your yard overrun by dandelions? Purslane? Don’t despair. It turns out these are weeds you can eat, which are not only tasty but brimming with nutrients.
Maybe in time you’ll stop seeing them as weeds, but as valuable and nutritious additions to your edible landscape!
Always consult a good field guide for foragers or enlist a local expert so you know what you’re collecting. While most of these plants are easy to identify, others have non-edible or poisonous look alikes.
Here are my favorite foraging books.
If you’d like to become more expert in the art of foraging, the Herbal Academy has an online foraging course that teaches plant identification and ethical wildcrafting practices.
Yup, there are LOADS of weeds you can eat! Here are some great places to start for the novice home forager.
Weeds You Can Eat: Dandelions
Dandelions top most foragers’ lists of nutritious and delicious “weeds.” Dandelion greens work as pizza toppings, in salads, and in stir fries. I’ve collected more than 35 ways to use these abundant gifts from nature; check out this info on how to eat dandelions.
Here are just a few inventive uses for this easy-to-find foraged food:
♦ Here’s a tempting recipe for dandelion pesto
♦ Salad suggestions from Eating Well
♦ The Splendid Table has a recipe for dandelion flower cookies
♦ Try making healthy herbal teas from the flowers, leaves, and roots. Here’s how to make dandelion tea.
♦ Ashley at Practical Self Reliance turns makes a yummy-looking dandelion and honey ice cream!
♦ 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.
Edible Weeds: Wood Sorrel
Wood sorrel, more commonly known as sourgrass, 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. Here’s what to know about identifying and using about wood sorrel.
Related: How to Identify Elderberry Plants for Delicious Foraged Food
Weeds You Can Eat: Violets
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! They also have some appealing medicinal uses, including as a popular herbal remedy for coughs. Find out more about using violets here.
Edible Weeds: Purslane
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 sorurces of omega-3s. Check out my recipe for a delicious and healthy anti inflammatory smoothie.
Apparently purslane is also good in stirfries, though I’ve never had enough left over from smoothies to try. Read more about purslane and recipes for using it here.
Other Common Weeds You Can Eat
- Lambsquarters, a relative of amaranth and quinoa, is another nutritious green for spring salads and cooking.
- Nettle is not only a super-nutritious green, it makes a soothing tea thought to boost your immune system and alleviate allergies. Nettle’s cousin Canadian wood nettle can be used in similar ways.
- Virginia waterleaf is one of the earliest (though not the tastiest) edible weeds you’ll find growing abundantly before other greens show up.
- Cleavers is a popular spring tonic, great for moving sluggish lymph, treating skin issues, and more. Here’s more about using cleavers plant.
- Plantain, one of several “weeds” and weed-like plants that are excellent additions to your home remedy arsenal. Plantain is great for skin irritation and is a useful remedy for bug bites and an effective natural cough remedy as well.
- Chickweed is another nutritious option, as Michelle from Seeking Joyful Simplicity explains in her post on chickweed pesto. Here’s more on chickweed identification.
- Japanese knotweed is another invasive worth eating, according to Ashley from Practical Self Reliance.
- Even creeping charlie can be cooked like spinach or 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 you can eat are everywhere. Go harvest yourself some free wild vegetables you didn’t even realize you were growing in your front yard vegetable garden!
Other foraged foods you can find growing on trees in your neighborhood:
- Spruce tips (try in these spruce tip recipes; you can also use spruce needles for spruce tea)
- Pine (much of the pine is edible, but the needles are especially easy to brew into a pine needle tea)
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.
Foraging your own food is just one way green living can save you money. Here’s how we’ve saved thousands of dollars with home solar power and energy conservation. Here are lots more ways going green saves money.
Pin to save these fantastic weeds you can eat for later!
Follow my foraging Pinterest board for lots more tips on finding free wild foods!
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.
Sarah UmmYusuf says
This is my favorite part of Spring! We’re renters, and we usually move during the winters (just finished a move last month!), so it’s always fun venturing out in our new neighborhood the next Spring to see what edibles are growing around our yard, nearby parks and trails, etc. Great info here, and we LOVE Wildman Steve! 🙂
Sarah, that’s awesome! What’s to eat where you are? The very first dandelion greens are just starting to appear here, and I’m looking forward to some tasty salad. After I wrote this piece, I was thrilled to discover that even creeping charlie (which grows abundantly here) has edible uses. And it’s one of the first plants to get going. Charlie and dandelion green salad is definitely on the menu here next week!
Mrs Byers says
Just starting this journey and have a lot of these edible weeds around and in my yard. How do I prepare them
Most taste pretty good raw, thrown into mixed salads. Young dandelion leaves will add some bitterness, while wood sorrel will be sour. Violet leaves and flowers don’t taste like much, but they’re pretty and work well mixed with other greens. There are a bunch of links in the post to take you to recipes, and I’m working on a post with dandelion recipes. Pinterest is a great resource as well — just search by weed name. Let me know what you try!
Hey Susannah! Just taking a much needed minute to myself to sip some coffee and read something I WANT to read rather than all the stuff I feel I have to. I’ve read your stuff about edibles before, but it was a great re-read as winter turns to spring and cravings for stew turn to dreams of delicious salad. We’re moving to the woods of northern Minnesota in the next couple of months and between my garden and what grows in the wild, I am hoping to reduce my expenditures at the local supermarket by quite a bit. Have a great Earth Day!
Happy spring, Rachel! Hope you have fun foraging and growing this season. I always look forward to the return of fresh food. Good luck with your move!
Great post and so much valuable information. I love your title too. Nature provides us with so many valuable tools to stay healthy if only we utilize them. What we think as weeds are God’s nutritional powerhouses. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays. Pinned & tweeted!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Marla! Hope you find something healthy to nibble growing in your yard also. 🙂
Just a note to let you know that I have chosen your post as one of my features for this weeks Real Food Fridays blog hop that goes live every Thursday @ 7pm EST. Thank you for being part of Real Food Fridays mission and helping to make this world a little bit healthier every week.
That’s lovely news — thanks so much! I’m so happy I discovered your site and linkup! Looking forward to reading and sharing lots more real food posts there 🙂
Andrea Wyckoff says
Such a fun post! I just spent the afternoon reading through one of my favorite wild food books, “Edible Wild Plants” by John Kallas. Lately I have been obsessed with making cupcakes and “banana-like” bread using fresh picked dandelion petals, but this next week will be all about wild green salads and stir fry.
Thanks so much for the informative and inspiring post!
Those sound amazing, Andrea! Anyone else reading this, here’s a great recipe from Andrea plus more details on dandelions: http://www.forestandfauna.com/dandelion-lemon-paleo-cupcakes/
Angela @ Setting My Intention says
This is SO interesting. I knew about dandelion leaves but didn’t realize there were so many others. I just pulled a bunch of weeds out this weekend when I was cleaning up our flower garden bed. Thanks for this helpful information!
Glad you found it helpful, Angela! Hope you enjoy some delicious new finds next time you’re out doing yard work!
Clever post with priceless information! Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! 🙂
Alicia Owen says
I just tried dandelion tea for the first time about a month ago. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too weird tasting. 🙂 I wasn’t aware humans could eat wild violets as well. We just got a pig for the first time this week and he LOVES them!
So does our resident groundhog! (But he leaves some for us, too.)
Good Monday to you! Just a note to let you know that this post has been *FEATURED* today on “The Art of Home-Making Mondays” at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! Thank you for joining us and we hope to have you share again! 🙂
Thanks so much for featuring this post! And thanks for hosting a terrific linkup!
I’ve never eaten kudzu leaves, but mother-in-law and I used to make gorgeous pink jelly from the kudzu blooms.
Awesome! What did it taste like?
stephanie watts says
I love your site! I’m going to make the cookie recipe for a little weed-eating seminar we’re having at our wellness center this month, as well as some dandelion jelly. Would you mind terribly if we mentioned your “if you can’t beat them, eat them” theme?
Thanks so much for some great recipes, and for sharing your knowlege.
Sounds awesome — I’d like to come! Of course, mention away 🙂 What weeds are growing in your area?
Kudzu is invasive so watch out! Lol
Right, which is why it’s something to forage to your heart’s content. Not recommending growing it, just putting it to use at the dinner table 🙂