Anyone who has known me from childhood will remember that gathering and eating weeds has always been something I’ve done. I would run all over our apartment complex, finding edible plants to make picnics and feasts for my friends and family – and I still do! This time of year some of my favorite edible weeds start springing up in the garden. These are weeds I like and encourage! Not only are they nutritious and healing, but they also have unique flavors that I crave all year when they aren’t around.
Chickweed is a favorite to add to salads. It has a pleasant flavor that I can only describe as “gritty”, which doesn’t sound very good, but it is. It makes you want to eat more! Chickweed is a strong nourishing herb, high in silica, calcium, and other minerals. The saponins naturally present in it nourish the adrenals and help with weight loss. I mostly include in it salads because we never seem to have enough lettuce, no matter how much I plant! You can also cook it as greens, but it makes such good salad, I have never gotten around to trying it that way.
Favorite Chickweed Salad
2 cups of chickweed leaves (I snip off tougher stems, or just use the tops) in a salad bowl
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tablespoon butter
For the dressing:
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
A dash of salt and grind of pepper
- Melt the butter in a shallow pan, and sprinkle the sunflower seeds in an even layer on the bottom to toast.
- While they are toasting, mix up the dressing ingredients with a fork.
- When the sunflower seeds are toasted, sprinkle them on top of the chickweed.
- Pour the dressing over and mix well.
Nettles, despite their stings, is a favorite herb. They are so nourishing and kind to the kidneys, and have supported me through three pregnancies. Not only that, but they make an excellent spring soup (recipe here).
Sorrel, or Oxalis was a favorite of mine from childhood. It grew abundantly in the apartment complex where I grew up. The three rounded leaves look similar to clover, but sorrel has a strongly sour and acidic flavor. Later it will have white or light purple flowers that are also sour with a hint of sweetness. Because it has oxalic acid in it, which can bind up minerals, I don’t like to eat quantities of it. It can be added to salads for flavor and variety.
This is plantain, and is not only edible in salads, but is a soothing, healing herb. I don’t usually eat this herb, as the hairy leaves I find to be ticklish in salads, but I do make a salve with it from home-grown lard or tallow and calendula from the garden.
1 cup of lard or tallow
2 Tablespoons of calendula petals
1/4 cup of plantain leaves, chopped
- Over gentle heat, warm the lard or tallow.
- Add the herbs and stir.
- Allow to very gently keep warm/cook for 1-2 hours, never simmering or getting so hot that it would smoke or bubble.
- Strain into a glass jar. Cap and label it. Lard keeps for about a year, tallow for longer. This salve is excellent for burn, minor cuts and scratches, and chapped skin.