Wild Edible Plants in Your Garden

Some wild weeds in your garden, including purslane, dandelion, violets, and chickweed, are actually edible delicacies.

| June/July 1992

  • 132-022-01i1
    The tender red stems of purslane bear tiny, five-petaled yellow flowers at their tips. The whole plant is edible.
    PHOTO: PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.
  • 132-022-01i5
    Wild onion/garlic makes an interesting addition to salads.
    PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.
  • 132-022-01i2
    Violets are one of our best-loved wildflowers, and they are still good food, high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
    PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.
  • 132-022-01i4
    Dandelions were considered an absolute essential for survival in bygone days.
    PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.
  • 132-022-01i3
    Chickweed is probably the most common weed in the world. The whole plant is edible, raw or cooked.
    PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.
  • 132-022-01i6
    Wood sorrel, also known as "sourgrass," is a favorite of children.
    PHOTO RESEARCHERS, INC.

  • 132-022-01i1
  • 132-022-01i5
  • 132-022-01i2
  • 132-022-01i4
  • 132-022-01i3
  • 132-022-01i6

At this time of year, weeding is one of our most important gardening chores. Weeds, those unwelcome trespassers, can grow rapidly, choking out our tender hybrid flowers and vegetables. Although we spend so much of our time fighting them, comparatively few of us actually know much about weeds.

Have you ever wondered why some plants make weeds of themselves? It's as if this wild vegetation prefers human company to life in the pristine wilderness. Ironically, it's because many of these plants were naturalized many centuries ago by our ancestors for food, medicine, or other purposes—they're actually semi-domesticated. Although we abandoned them as our lifestyles changed, they faithfully continue to follow us!

Most of those dreadful weeds are edible. Some are choice, and are cultivated in other countries and by those of us who still appreciate them. I've been eating and enjoying wild edible plants—beneficial weeds, you might say—for over 20 years in addition to more "normal" foods, for their flavor, freshness, and nutritional value. They're also free—another inescapable attribute.

By consuming those wild edible plants, you will realize a number of benefits: One, you get an "early harvest" at a time when most gardens are just getting started. Two, you increase the productivity of your garden. (Weeds, you'll come to see, are not pests—they're homegrown food.) Three, as with most other homegrown food, you'll save money. This particular food is especially economical—it's totally free (you didn't even have to pay for the seeds). Four, you'll expand your own culinary horizons. There are approximately 50,000 edible plant species in the world, but the average American eats only 30. Hence, if you only use three kinds of edible weeds as part of your diet, you've probably increased your food choices by 10%! And five, it's easier to avoid using herbicides once you view weeds as food, helping the environment.



Although wild plant life varies in different climate zones, there are quite a number of wild edible plants that are considered "cosmopolitan"—they thrive nearly everywhere. Here are just a few of the most pervasive garden or "lawn" weeds. If you are familiar with these plants, feel free to experiment with them. But don't try eating anything you're not sure of. Check its identity with a good field guide, your local agricultural extension agent, or park ranger. By the way, many nature centers and state parks offer edible plant walks. This is one of the best ways to learn more about wild foods.

Purslane, Portulaca oleracea

Also known as "pulley." this common garden weed is rich in flavor and nutrients. Purslane's a popular vegetable in many parts of the world, including Holland and France. If you've visited Mexico, you may have enjoyed it as "verdolago." In fact, part of its scientific name, oleracea, actually means "like a garden vegetable." No less a personage than Henry David Thoreau praised purslane in the classic Walden, when he wrote "I have made a satisfactory dinner off a dish of purslane, which I gathered and boiled. Yet, men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for lack of necessaries but for want of luxuries."






Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters