Common Edible Weed Plants

Marian Peck shares information on common edible edible weeds, where to forage them for free, how to identify them, and charts of their health benefits and nutritional value.

| March/April 1986

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    Wild lettuce (right) and mallow (far right); the leaves of both are pleasant potherbs when gathered while still young.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Amaranth is a common wild green, and its seeds may have a future as a hardy cultivated grain.
    PHOTOS: ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    The common garden pest chickweed can be eaten steamed or raw.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Broadleaf plantain, another green that's tasty if picked while young and then steamed, is a common weed across much of the U.S.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Purslane (far left) is an invader familiar to most gardeners. Members of the wild mustard family, like this winter cress (left), produce tasty greens and broccoli-like unopened flower buds.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Dandelion leaves, harvested before flowers form, are a favorite green of many ethnic groups. (Violets, also seen in the picture, have edible leaves and flowers that, with a good bit of effort, can be turned into a delicate jelly.)
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Curly dock tends toward bitterness. Boiling the greens in two or more changes of water is recommended.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON
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    Nutritional comparison chart for edible weeds.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Common edible weed plant chart.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Watercress (far left) can often be found in supermarkets, as well as in slow-flowing streams. Lamb's-quarters (left) are among the best of wild potherbs when picked while still young.
    ALISON PECK AND ARLINE RICHARDSON

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This spring, you can get more flower and nutrition from your diet, reduce your food budget, enjoy satisfying time in the outdoors, and clean up your fledgling garden in the process. 

The dinner party was going smoothly, warm with friendship and spiced by good conversation and (I thought) good food. Then my friend Nella paused, fork in midair. 

"What's this funny leaf in my salad?" she asked. 

I'll admit it. I have, at times, stooped to tricking my friends into sampling a number of wild edible weed plants, and I'll admit, too, that those experiments have, more often than not, ended in failure.



Most people are, it seems, pretty well preconditioned against tasting vegetables that don't have a regular place in the produce aisle of the neighborhood supermarket. For one thing, such individuals probably fear being poisoned by a misidentified plant. Most wild foods, though, are easy to recognize. After a little bit of research, you'd be as likely to misidentify, say, the delicious potherb lamb's-quarters (Chenopodium album) as you would mistake spinach (a decidedly inferior steamed green!) for cabbage. (Of course, many parts of our common garden vegetables — including the leaves of potatoes and rhubarb — are quite toxic, yet the same people that fear wild edibles often trust themselves when harvesting their own gardens!)

Other folks, and my friend Nella falls into this category, have simply spent so much time ripping winter cress, purslane, lamb's-quarters, and other such "weeds" from their vegetable plots that they have a hard time thinking of these wild edible weed plants as anything but "the enemy."

imv
7/24/2017 7:11:26 PM

the pictures are so small, its difficult to identify the plants, and cannot read the chart at all. No way to enlarge them or print them?







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