Edible Weeds – Forage Your Yard!

“A weed is a plant whose virtue is not yet known”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a photo tour of five ‘weeds’ likely growing in your yard that you can eat!  We use all six to make our ‘weed salads’ which we eat all summer long!  The children love finding and eating many of these plants in the yard as well.  There are several other uses for each as well.  Weeds are great at up-taking nutrients from the soil, so eating them provides a great source of vitamins and minerals.  Their nutrient density is far greater than that of cultivated greens, as they grow in places where they will thrive, not in soils used repeatedly for mono-cropping.  With that in mind, be careful where you harvest from, ensuring the area has not been sprayed or contaminated.  To avoid this problem, we harvest from our own yard.  So, here’s my list of edible weeds to try:

1: Lambsquarters – a beautifully mild and soft leaf.  Great substitute for spinach in recipes, but we usually eat it raw as a nice base for salad.  Leaves can also be dried and powdered to make a flour substitute.  Lambsquarters has the second highest in nutrition of all wild foods following Amaranth.  It is high in Vitamin A and K, and also a great source of calcium and protein.

Lambsquarters

2: Plantain – young leaves make a nice addition to salad in moderation, as the leaves can be a bit tough.  Older leaves can be cooked like spinach or used it instead of cabbage for ‘cabbage rolls.’  Rich in iron and vitamins A and C.  As a side note, plantain is great when used as a poultice on stings or bites, just chew it up, spit it out, and pile it on top of the affected area, covering with a large leaf or bandage to hold it in place.

Plantain

3: Clover – Lovely little round leaves and flowers that make a nice addition to a salad as well.  The petals of the flowers have a beautiful sweet taste, so I usually pluck them before serving to take advantage of this!  It is also considered to be one of the richest sources of isoflavones.  It makes a lovely tea and can be brewed to assist with women’s moon cycles or menopause.  Clover is a source of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

Clover

4: Mallow – a soft mild tasting, but slightly mucilaginous leaf (gummy-like quality once chewed) that makes a nice addition to salads.  The flowers are also edible, but the cheeses (flower buds) are particularly good!  Great source or flavinoids and vitamin C.  Another side note, Mallow tea left to steep for a long time in not quite boiling water is great for dry coughs or hoarseness.

Mallow Mallow Cheese

5: Wood Sorrel – I saved my favourite for last!  This ‘weed’ is everywhere and tastes amazing!  Its distinctive heart shaped leaves make it particularly easy to spot.  It has a sour, lemony flavour.  It makes a delicious addition to salads, including its little yellow flowers.  The leaves are soft and delectable.  We also use this plant as a garnish for the top of soups.  Although I haven’t done it yet, I’m sure if I collected enough of it, I could make a sorrel soup!  High in oxalic acid, so should not be consumed in large quantities often as it inhibits the uptake of calcium.  This ‘weed’ is particularly high in vitamin C, and has historically been used to treat scurvy.

Wood Sorrel

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2 comments

  1. I only knew of one of these! You must come help me forage my yard, I want to be sure we are eating the right weeds. Your pictures are very helpful though! Do I need to be careful of anything dangerous looking similar?

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    1. Good question…the answer is no. Most plants are safe to consume. The ones pictured in this post are also very easy to identify with no similar relatives (except the lamb’s quarters, which looks similar to catnip – but that is also obviously edible). I’d be happy to facilitate a weed walk at your place!

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