Weeds. We hate them. They compete with our fruit and vegetable crops for nutrients, water, and light. They are overachievers when it comes to growth. Removing them mechanically is hot, dirty, tiring, backbreaking work, and removing them chemically is poisonous to our environment and hazardous to our health. Of course, you can lay down mulch, which is a less labor intensive and more environmentally friendly way of controlling the weeds. But I’m going to offer you a fourth option. To paraphrase a passage from the bible, open your mouth wide, and I will fill it – with weeds. In other words – eat them!
“This time, he’s gone too far,” you mutter to yourself while shaking your head, “Is he actually suggesting that I should put those horrible things in my mouth? Chew them and swallow them? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. But before you call the men in white coats to have me fitted for an arms-binding overcoat and permanently relocated to a padded mansion, please hear me out. No, I’m not suggesting that you should eat thistle or ground ivy. But believe it or not, there are many plants that grow with impunity in our gardens that are actually fit for human consumption.
Dandelion – They are the scourge of those who want a sea of uninterrupted green grass. But dandelions are a nutritional powerhouse! They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and carotene. The greens are loaded with calcium, iron, and antioxidants, and contain more protein than spinach. The flowers can be used in salads and breads and can also be used to make wine. The roots can be dried and ground and brewed to make a coffee substitute.
Red clover – Red clover is chock full of protein and is also an excellent source of beta-carotene, many of the B vitamins, vitamin C and bioflavonoids. The flowers can be used in teas and salads and can also be pan roasted into a crispy treat.
Chickweed – This low growing succulent is overflowing with nutritional goodness — vitamins, minerals, and omega-6 fatty acid derivatives to mention a few. Leaves and stems can be added to salads or prepared as a cooked green. Use it sparingly, however; consuming too much at one sitting can cause diarrhea.
Purslane – Purslane, with its thick, fleshy stems and leaves is another nutritional powerhouse containing generous amounts of iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and C. Purslane is often used as a spinach substitute, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
And that’s just a small sample of the many edible weeds out there.
Remember that as long as there are gardens, there will always be weeds. But don’t let them get you down. If you can’t beat ‘em – eat ‘em!