All too often, homeowners and gardeners wage war in their lawns and gardens against the plants that grow incredibly well there, but that arenít intentionally planted, and many times, the justification for these battles all comes down to the words we use to describe them.
When we buy and plant packets of common flower, vegetable, or herb seeds, we spend a lot of time, energy, and water in our efforts to get those seeds to germinate and grow, and take pride in our green thumb and homegrown food supply.
But when a plant that we identify as being a weed is found growing in our lawn or garden, out comes the trowel and hoe (or for the ruthless and impatient gardeners, weedkillers such as RoundUp), and we may spend the entire growing season keeping these opportunistic and resilient plants at bay, in order to have neat and tidy garden beds and uniform lawns. And itís too bad, really, as many of the common garden weeds are not only edible and nutritious, but can be a great homegrown (and free) addition to our meals.
Part of the resistance to eating plants that we believe to be weeds, in my opinion, is that we are conditioned to only consider the items we find in the grocery store as food, and not things that the rest of the neighborhood sees as unwelcome invaders in lawns and gardens. And unless weíve been exposed to eating plants that are seen as common garden weeds, and had them prepared for us, weíre probably not likely to try to eat them on our own. Once in a while, we might come across dandelion greens or purslane for sale in the produce section of the grocery store, or the farmers market, but for the most part, many common edible garden weeds arenít available anywhere else except for our lawns or garden beds. And thatís a shame.
Although the edible weeds that you can find in your yard might be different ones than the ones I find in my yard, due to weather, soil conditions, and geography, here are some of the most common garden weeds that can be used for both meals and medicine:
The quintessential garden and lawn weed, dandelions have a bad reputation among those who want grass that looks as uniform as a golf course, but every part of this common edible weed is tasty both raw and cooked, from the roots to the blossoms.†Dandelion leaves†can be harvested at any point in the growing season, and while the smaller leaves are considered to be less bitter and more palatable raw, the bigger leaves can be eaten as well, especially as an addition to a green salad. If raw dandelion leaves donít appeal to you, they can also be steamed or added to a stir-fry or soup, which can make them taste less bitter. The flowers are sweet and crunchy, and can be eaten raw, or breaded and fried, or even used to make dandelion wine. The root of the dandelion can be dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or added to any recipe that calls for root vegetables.
ZooFari/CC BY 3.0
Purslane can often be found in moist garden beds, lawns, and shady areas, where it lies close to the ground and often goes unnoticed. This humble garden weed, however, is a nutritional powerhouse, as it is said to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable, and can be a great addition to a salad or stir-fry, or used to thicken soups or stews. Purslane is a succulent, with a crispy texture, and the leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked to add a peppery flavor to any dish.
Cliff/CC BY 3.0
Other than the occasional four-leafed clover hunt, this common lawn weed goes mostly unnoticed, but is an important food for honeybees and bumblebees, and clover leaves and flowers can be used to add variety to meals. Small amounts of raw clover leaves can be chopped into salads, or can be sauteed and added to dishes for a green accent, and the flowers of both red and white clover can be eaten raw or cooked, or dried for tea.
4. Lambís Quarters
Wendell Smith/CC BY 3.0
The young shoots and leaves of Lambís Quarters (also known as goosefoot) can be eaten raw in any vegetable dish, or sauteed or steamed and used anywhere spinach is called for. The seeds of the Lambís Quarters, which resemble quinoa, can also be harvested and eaten, although it takes a lot of patience to gather enough to make it worthwhile.
About the Author
Derek is a digital dad with an analog streak, as comfortable with a smartphone as he is with pencil and paper. Heís got a soft spot for babies, bicycles and bouldering, and is the Head Shoveler at his mini-farm startup in New Mexico. You can also find him letting it all hang out on†Twitter,†Facebook, and†NaturalPapa.