Bring a pair of salad tongs with you to do the weeding, because you'll find some delicious and nutritious treats among the invasives that you have to pluck out of your vegetable beds. Some of the most noxious garden weeds are valuable foods packed with vitamins, antioxidants, proteins, medicinal properties, and extraordinary flavor. Since we're all about making good food free, we hope to expand the perception of what good food is actually growing all around us! These plants will help you turn your yard waste into a sumptuous feast of superfoods.
This is a tall Fall-flowering weed that tends to pop up along the perimeters of vegetable beds. When it overstays its welcome in the garden, you can bring it inside and add it to teas and baths. A great source of magnesium, mugwort eases cramps, relaxes the nerves, and improves quality of sleep.
Purslane has the same warrior spirit as the lone dandelion growing up between cracks in a sidewalk, and it has just as many nutritious benefits. This weed is a powerful source of anti-oxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, beta-carotene and Vitamin A. And, it tastes delicious fresh picked or chopped up in a salad. An important note: Don't mistake purslane for spotted spurge, its poisonous doppleganger. Once you know the defining characteristics of each common weed, you can easily tell them apart.
What some call an invasive, others call a staple of healthy eating and natural medicine in the Spring. Because it contains resveratrol, Japanese knotweed has been used for centuries to maintain heart health and cognitive health. Its medicinal value is currently being examined, and early research suggests that it's an effective treatment for the symptoms of Lyme Disease and it's even a cancer preventative. These detoxifying green shoots should be harvested when the plant is young and they can be prepared just like rhubarb or asparagus.
Dubbed 'Nature's Bandaid' by parents, plantain relieves a plethora of summertime woes. And, conveniently, it's growing just within reach in the back yard. Plantain has a cooling energy that soothes sunburned skin; it can be rubbed onto minor scrapes and bruises to promote quicker healing; it can take the itch out of bug bites; it can reduce swelling from bee and fly stings; it can heal a poison ivy rash when mixed with yarrow...this list will go on forever. Plantain may not look too showy, but don't underestimate its serious medicinal power.
Photo courtesy of stepintomygreenworld.com.
This is a starter list to help you find some tasty treats that don't need to be cultivated by a human hand. Look for our next article with a few more wild foods that you'll find growing between kale plants in your garden and in most of our Please Pick gardens. Enjoy your good eats!