Best Edible Weeds You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

by Samin Rizvi

In the spring and summer, or whenever the favorable weather arrives, the sun and the warmth bring the irresistible desire to grow plants and beautiful flowers. We love to see their dazzling colors that cover up the green meadows and love to look again and again– how they shine under the sun in the garden. But with all of these, comes the unexpected surprises, a few unwanted plants “the weeds”. But do you know that many tasty and healthy edible plants can be found among the common weeds? Wild edible weeds can turn an ordinary dish into an exquisite dish. They also have many medicinal properties. Some of these weeds are low in calories, contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, protein, and fiber.

1. Wild Amaranth

Also known as “Pigweed”, amaranth leaves are treated as a green leafy vegetable like spinach. The seeds of wild amaranth are edible too and can be roasted. They are a good source of free protein.

The young leaves of pigweed are soft and mild in taste and can also be used in salads  or teas and the older leaves can be cooked like spinach. It contains proteins, vitamin A and C and minerals.

This plant can be toxic to livestock animals due to the presence of nitrates in the leaves.

2. Queen Anne’s Lace

The wild carrot is almost identical to the highly poisonous hemlock. So be very careful that you don’t confuse. There are many ways to identify wild carrot, but one important identifier of wild carrot is the smell.

Like carrots, its roots are also edible when young (first year) but can become woody if not harvested on time. Its flower heads are edible too and can be eaten raw or cooked.

3. Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s quarter leaves tend to look dusty and have a white powdery coating on them. This edible weed is packed with nutrition. Its tender leaves are great in salads and can be used as a substitute for other leafy vegetables. Its flowers and seeds are also edible that tastes like quinoa. However, its seeds contain toxic called Saponins in meager amount and should not be consumed in excess. Lamb’s quarters contain some oxalic acid therefore when eating this raw, small quantities are recommended.

However, its seeds contain toxic called Saponins in meager amount and should not be consumed in excess.

This plant can be toxic to livestock animals due to the presence of nitrates in the leaves.

4. Comfrey

Comfrey is a member of the borage family. Although not very aromatic, this herb is known for it medicinal properties and high protein content. Comfrey roots and leaves are also used to treat wounds because they contain allantoin, a substance that helps new skin cells grow to heal the wound quickly.

For cooking, only use young leaves as older leaves grow hard hairs. Apart from that, comfrey can also be used as a garden fertilizer and as mulch.

5. Winter Cress

The Winter Cress is available at the time in winter when most the plants don’t even grow. It belongs to the mustard family and considered as a weed. However, it is a rich source of Vitamin C. The leaves are bitter but best in taste before the plant starts to flower while they are still young and tender. At this stage, they can be added to salads like rocket. It can also be used as a vegetable like spinach.

6. Common Mallow

Common mallow (Malva sylvestris) has many medicinal and edible uses and can be easy found growing wild in most places. All parts of this plant are edible. The leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds can be eaten, whether raw in salads or cooked and like many other leafy greens, usually more tender and tasty when they are smaller and less mature. More mature leaves can be cooked. It has a very mild flavor, although the plant is quite rich in vitamins A, B, and C, along with calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

7. Purslane

Also called “Pussley”, the common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a healthy edible weed from the moss rose family. You might be surprised but in China and India and in many other countries it is cultivated popularly. Also, this nutritious succulent has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy edible plant according to researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It can be a great addition to a salad, soups or stews. It has a crunchy texture and leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked to add a spicy flavor to any dish.

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