It feels like summer! The weeds in my garden say so. What I mean is, the prolifically growing weeds sprouting up everywhere (I daren’t blink) tell me the growing season has begun. I enjoy spending time outside in my garden, I love the flowers, the buzz of insects, the song of the frogs, and we have so many birds, so many. Our garden is rife with life, and it makes me happy. Except for the weed life, which I feel you can never turn your back on, not even for a minute, because they grow from a barely visible sprout to man-eating ‘feed me Seymore’ little shop of horrors plant overnight. OVERNIGHT I tell you!
So, imagine my delight, my joy, when I discovered how many of these weeds are deliciously edible. Call me sadistic, but I find consuming pesky weeds extremely gratifying! So here are a few frequently featured weed pests in my garden (chances are, they are in yours too) you can confidently add to your barbecue salad. Of course, be responsible, make sure you know what you are eating before you eat it or feed it to others.
Dandelions – it’s all edible, roots, leaves, flowers, go for it! The more mature leaves can be bitter, young leaves are best but older, ahem; ‘more mature’ leaves can be boiled to remove the bitterness. Boil the roots before eating as well, and I have heard (don’t quote me) that in a pinch, dandelion roots can be a stand in for your morning coffee. Just pick some roots to dry, roast them in a cast iron pan and add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried roasted roots to simmering water for 7 to 15 minutes. Voila. Let’s go camping!
Purslane – Gandhi named purslane amongst one of his favorite foods, and elsewhere on this planet, it is grown on purpose. How lucky are we that it insists on growing here for free! All season long. Ask me, I know. This little plant has more omega 3’s than any other plant known, it has a light flavor, and can be eaten raw, boiled, or scrambled into eggs. It’s heart healthy!
Sheep Sorrel – okay, no matter how dire the apocalypse, my family will not starve. I have this stuff everywhere, it’s the first thing up out of the ground, and one of the last things to die back – the word invasive was coined to describe this blasted plant. It also has a light, lemony flavor, tastes better than spinach, is wonderful in salads and on sandwiches, and is widely used in French cuisine. Bon appétit.
Bishops Weed – Do you have this? I’m so sorry. You have my deepest sympathies. Truly. Also galled Ground Elder, this weed is one of the MOST obnoxious in my garden. The (insert profanity here) plant is tenacious, and I’m tenacious, so I know it when I see it and we have a real battle of the wills going on. So get out there and harvest, harvest, harvest! You can’t kill it, I promise, take as much as you want. Eat the leaves and stems cooked or raw; I like to burn them to a crisp. Just kidding. It has a taste similar to celery, and is apparently called Bishops Weed because it used to be grown at all the monasteries to treat grout. Maybe I should just give up and drink more red wine.
Clover – Yup, the bees will thank you. The butterflies will thank you. And your grass will thank you as it is a nitrogen fixer that actually IMPROVES the quality of your soil. You can eat the leaves and stems; I think it tastes kinda grassy raw, so not my favorite, but I am told it tastes better cooked although I haven’t tried it yet. My husband is pretty conservative when it comes to food, and he is a sweetie. He has not done anything in a long time that would make me mad enough to march right outside, and come back in with a handful of clover to cook for his dinner.
Garlic Grass or Wild Garlic – you will know you have it if you mow over it. All you will smell is garlic. Also a hard one to kill (I pull and pull and pull and it just keeps growing). Makes great pesto, good with eggs, and I’ve used it in soups, on pizza, in scrambled eggs, quiches – even garlic bread – with great success!
By Pam Denholm