Foraging is a popular way to fill our tables with interesting and nutritious foods for free. Wild greens abound in many regions, making salad fare easily available for the adventurous palate. Many of these are considered weeds and studiously managed in the cultivated garden. But if we can turn off our distaste for them, the weeds in our landscapes can provide important supplementation to our daily diets.
Eat the Weeds
I am a known weed-a-phobe. I hate weeds. This is probably mostly because I keep a chemical free landscape and must hand pull any that occur in my garden. It is a tedious process, especially with unkempt properties flanking my land. I have tried weed barrier fabric and black plastic to keep some of the pests down, but in the end I am not the victor. Nature will have its way, and it is a test for my aching back to survive.
I am also fairly knowledgeable about wild plant foods. I have several foraging books in my library to which I refer when I find an interesting plant that might be edible. Two of the most prevalent edible weeds in my garden are dandelions and purslane.
Love the Dandelions
The dandelion greens are delicious, and I know mine are chemical free and safe to eat. I have made the flowers into dandelion wine which was yummy, but mostly I add the greens to enhance my salads. I have never tried roasting the roots, but apparently the resulting hot drink is a good coffee substitute. There are many nutritional benefits to dandelion greens which are filled with vitamins and minerals and may have antioxidant properties.
That purslane though, really gets my goat. It spreads out in these mats with tiny yellow flowers. In essence it is fairly attractive, but it is a true pest. Any little bit of leaf or root left behind by hand pulling will result in a new plant. I battle all summer to keep purslane from taking over my garden. Some would say to let it be, but it doesn’t have a purpose and spreads too readily.
I know you can eat it. I tried it. It was gross. The texture is mucilaginous. Gummy, slimy, and a general palate downer. I didn’t like the flavor and the tongue feel reminded me of okra, a vegetable I truly dislike. I ate it raw, but you can cook it like other greens, although I’d imagine it is even more distasteful cooked. Even my mate, who will eat anything he finds in nature, did not like the plant.
I have tried some other weeds such as oyster plant or Salsify. I haven’t derived great pleasure out of most of the edible weeds that have adorned my dishes, but it’s always worth trying a new thing, especially if it is free. In today’s economy, food is at a 40-year high, which is bad for our budgets. Finding foods that grow wild could be a way to ease the pain in our wallets, while providing health benefits and flavor.