NOTE from Matt & Betsy: We’re so excited to share today’s article from one of our brand new writers, Dawn Combs! Her wealth of knowledge will amaze you as you enjoy her upcoming articles. Please join us in welcoming her to the DIY Natural team!
One of my favorite things about spring is all the fresh, young, green, edible weeds that pop up everywhere on our property. I understand the glazed-eyed madness with which our cow, Ruby, looks at the freshly sprouted green of the spring pasture. I feel the same as I walk around the yard seeing all the new yummy leaves and flowers.
I often feel overwhelmed with the idea that I’d really like to eat most of them while they are small – how can I possibly eat enough of them before they get too big and tough?!
I suppose I should back up a step to address those who may have instantly thought, “weeds? in my salad?”. YES!
In our house we buy a small head of lettuce each week for a family of four. We eat a lot of salad, so you may well wonder how that stretches so far. Every salad uses a small pinch of lettuce greens as a base… it is the canvas, so to speak, upon which we paint with all the foraged spring greens and flowers.
A Few Great Edible Weeds
Here are some of my favorite young weeds to eat and why:
Dandelion leaf and flower (Taraxacum officinale)
All parts of the dandelion are edible, delicious, nutritious and healing. PLEASE don’t spray your dandelions – eat them instead. They are important for the health of your liver and kidneys and they are critical for the health of our bee population. Don’t forget to add the flowers to your salad, they are bright and sunny and you will be surprised by their sweet flavor.
Dandelion leaves are higher in beta carotene than carrots. They contain higher levels of iron and calcium than spinach and don’t contain problematic oxalic acid. All parts of the dandelion contributes vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, E, P and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc to your diet – all free for the taking from your own backyard!
Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Spring is the best time to catch these before they get too big. Choose the burdock rosettes that have more than two leaves. They will be your second year burdock and will have the larger roots. Carefully dig them with a small shovel or a hand trowel as they have a very long tap root. This root is a nice tonic for the liver, helping to reduce congestion and aiding with the reduction of both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It is high in beta carotene and calcium. I like to slice it and top my salads just like I would a carrot.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
Sometimes you want a hot salad when spring days drift back into cool temperatures. You don’t want to eat stinging nettles fresh, but if you lightly steam them they can be tossed with a dressing and served as a side dish or they can be combined with some chopped almonds and feta and added to the top of a salad. The taste of steamed nettles is like a cleaner, brighter, richer spinach.
Nettles contain high levels of minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium and sulfur. They are very high in chlorophyll so its perfect to address low energy levels. Nettles are a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene and the vitamins in the B-Complex. They are one of the highest vegetable sources of protein. You’ll definitely want to treat your kidneys and liver with a delicious nettles tonic this spring!
Read more here about identifying, harvesting and eating nettles.
Yellow dock leaf (Rumex crispus)
Also known as curly dock or curled dock, the delightful, bright lemon flavor of young yellow dock leaves surprises most people. It doesn’t surprise the bunnies in your garden – it is their favorite spring snack. You will definitely want to grab a handful of these to chop into your salad. As with many of the spring weeds, this plant is a liver tonic. Yellow dock leaf contains ⅓ more protein, iron, calcium potassium, beta carotene and phosphorus than spinach and more than double the Vitamin C.
Chickweed leaf and flower (Stellaria media)
Every year I watch for my chickweed patches to return. They are one of the first to get lush and ready for picking. To me, this spring creeper tastes like fresh corn on the cob. It is especially useful to help with the congestion in the body that accumulates over winter. Chickweed contains quite a lot of Vitamin C as well as B6, B12 and D. It is a good source of beta carotene, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, sodium, copper and silicon.
Trust me, you WANT to get out there and eat your weeds!
Are you using edible weeds in your meals?
Which ones do you like?