5 Backyard Weeds For A Delicious, Healthy Salad
Yes! you can eat weeds from your backyard!
No, you don't need to be on a survival show to do it... it is actually a delicious and practical way to stretch your food dollar. It can also be a LOT of fun if you like to keep your neighbors guessing... when you start crawling through your yard and filling a large salad bowl you are sure to be the subject of a lot of conversations between closed drapes!
A Few Rules
- Please only pick in your yard if you have not sprayed chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or fertilizers.
- Please don't pick in your neighbor's yard unless you have permission... unless you are a fast runner...
- Please be sure of what you are picking. A good field guide can help you if you are unsure or don't have a more experienced friend to go along.
How to Pick Yourself a Delicious Weed Salad
One of my favorite things about spring is all the fresh young greens that pop up everywhere on our property. I understand the glazed-eyed madness with which our old cow, Ruby, looked 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 and address those of you who have instantly thought, “weeds?... in my salad?”. YES! In early spring, I buy only 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.
Are Weeds Healthy for You?
Yes, in fact, many of the weeds you'll find in your back yard are more nutritious than any garden green you could plant.
Here are some of my favorite young weeds to eat and why:
Dandelion leaf, root 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 (you'll find them in our Nettle Green drink syrup and latte bendable, as well as our Toxin Clearing Tea, and our Free Flow Tea) 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. You can slice fresh dandelion roots like a carrot and add them for crunch! 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 it's 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- especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies! You'll find nettle in our Nettle Green drink syrup and latte bendable, as well as our Free Flow, High Vitamin, Teething Tamer and women's blend teas.
Yellow dock leaf (Rumex crispus)- 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 1/3 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 (We have chickweed in our High Vitamin and our Free Flow teas). 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! So go get started!