Eating fresh picked weeds

I just had my first taste of henbit and purple archangel while weeding in the community garden. Henbit (which is also well liked by our egg-laying bird friends) I knew from childhood as an edible flower with a tiny drop of nectar. I never knew you could eat it for fresh spring greens! I also tried purple archangel Lamium purpureum?) which was very earthy and not as good as the henbit. I already knew you could eat wood sorrel, we used to chew on it as kids and called it sourgrass. Now that I have almost run out of orange juice I am glad the wood sorrel is springing up every where! Our garden is organic--am a bit leery of eating it out of my common yards where the HOA likes to spray glyphoglop.

I just had my very first taste of Asparagus fresh out of the garden, plain steamed with nothing on it. Wowee! Now I am spoiled for LIFE!!! How can I eat lesser California Asparagus now that I have tasted the Real Thing? Unless somebody else around here invests FIVE YEARS of their life and soil to produce more of this stuff for ME then I will be have to droop around discontented that good old English Grass just ain’t what it ought to be.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I suppose it is a one man's trash/treasure thing. Henbit is the most pervasive weed in my garden. It would suit me if it were to disappear from the face of the earth.

Maybe you could borrow somebody's flock of chickens to eat it up the way some people hire a herd of goats to eat kudzu and poison ivy to get rid of it.

Now you're playing my song - I LOVE edible weeds - they are so easy to grow! Michael Pollan lists chickweed and purslane as two of the world's most nutritious superfoods, and I have both in my garden right now. Also I'm letting a huge lambs' quarters/fat hen plant go to seed so i have lots for next year. It is an excellent and protein-rich spinach substitute in high summer when the actual spinach has already bolted and gone to seed. I grew it in the corn patch so it has had a lot of nutrients this year.
I also have a dedicated nettle patch for iron-rich nettle tea. It spreads underground via rhizomes so if you snip it off rather than pull it out it will keep growing through the year. Organic nettle tea is $115/kg at my local whole foods shop..
Henbit isn't ringing any bells though. Will have to keep an eye out. Sometimes I just don't see a weed until I am reminded it exists. Due to self-isolating my daughter and I are having no outings except walking the dog, and our dog walks have turned into weed-walks as i explain the uses of the weeds to her as we go along. I am so excited to have an apprentice witch:)

Purslane I know and have eaten though it seems to have been weeded out by other gardeners. But which plant is your edible version of chickweed? It seems to be a name given to many different plants. If it is in ours, I will happily harvest it!

ClareBroommaker's picture

gkb, I just looked at images searched through duckduckgo and can confirm that at least the first 100 images are the chickweed that is ubiquitus where I live and available to pick right now.

It looks fresh, light, and delightful. I will be eating some this year, but do not find it fresh light, and delightful. The stems are stringy (Mince finely to mitigate that.) and they taste like mud to me. So what? It is food. Mix it with something.

Unfortunately I have a lot more dead nettle than henbit in my close environs. "Unfortunate" because I agree it tastes earthy/muddy. Worse than chickweed. I can walk a little farther from home and find the balance goes the other way-- lots of henbit, little dead nettle. Rurally, unplanted Missouri farm fields in mid-April look like a Monet painting in, washed with the purple haze of a billion henbit flowers. I'm fond of them since childhood when I had the idea to test them for sweet nectar, same as we used to sip honeysuckle nectar in summer.

I don't find either henbit or dead nettle to be much of a bother in my garden. They are ephemerals-- set seed and die before the end of spring-- while also providing shade to the soil beneath, preventing the germination of more troublesome weeds. They do get powdery mildew at the time they set seed and die. They also look kid of ratty in my public-facing garden at that point, so I just pull or hoe them and leave the plant matter as a thin mulch. True, the powdery mildew dust can make me sneeze and get a headache when weeding stirs it up, but henbit and dead nettle are very shallowly rooted so no trouble at all to pull/hoe. These are probably the most innocent weeds in my garden. Bee food, too. Be more careful with these images. Quite a few are not dead nettle.

I have loved henbit since childhood too--to me it is a harbinger of Spring and a beauty to look at.Now I know it as food and egg-promoter. Much obliged for the images. I will give the chickweed a try.

Look up images under the botanical name, yes, it's quite difficult to id plants using their common names, especially weeds, as they are so interchangeable.
My children claim that chickweed tastes like grass, and they refuse to eat it. They are kind of right, but they mostly don't realise that they eat a lot of it in salads and hidden in pesto. The trick to eating chickweed is to not eat the stems which are stringy and difficult to chew, and don't even chop up in a blender. I harvest good long stems with scissors and then snip straight up from base to tip, snip, snip either side of the stem. This way you are left with just the leaves that you can now hide in salads, pesto and stir fries. Heh, heh.

alice's picture

Have seen two local chickweed patches, thanks for sharing the edibility tip.

Also was able to get out for exercise the other day and picked half a bin bag full of stinging nettle tips, I am so pleased I have found a patch away from where the village dogs get walked so not covered in dog wee.

Bashed each stinging nettle stem a few times to flatten while still wearing the gardening gloves and then dried in dehydrator, 7 square foot trays dried for about 18 hours until stems and snap dry, then snap the stems up as I pack the dry nettles into a jar. Yielded 120 g. Hoping to do several more, I have dried between two and three kilos dry weight some years.

Why do you flatten the stem before drying?

alice's picture

Flattening the stems helps the nettles dry evenly. The stems are the thickest part and otherwise the leaves can be crumbling to dust whilst the stems can still go mouldy. I think commercially nettles are put through a chaff cutter or similar to cut the stems into short enough lengths that they do dry.

Ok, interesting, thanks. I cut mine for tea when they are still quite short and young with slender stems, so I don't seem to have that problem.

I was imagining huge trays 7 feet long and 7 feet wide and marvelling at your dexterity in managing them. Then I said Oh! seven SQ FEET, aka 32 inches to a side. Finally, I realized you meant seven trays, each of which holds one sq foot worth of stuff and said duh! to myself. Written language is tricky sometimes. No wonder computers cannot think.

alice's picture

Yes it is important to be precise isn't it, I slipped up a bit there. Nine more 'square foot' trays in the dehydrator with nettles today.

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David Trammel's picture

I was reading this

Looks like a great addition. I recently attended a native plants lecture here and want to look more into adding at least a raised bed or two of non-traditional food plants.

Of course with this health crisis I'm not sure when that will be. I've already had to delay putting in my workshop shed until the Fall. Hopefully we won't see a second outbreak then.

Lambs Quarters is the most delicious weed, in my opinion. It tastes like a slightly nutty spinach. I nibble on it raw, but it is better cooked in large quantities, makes a marvellous spinach substitute. I am leaving a huge plant in my corn patch to go to seed for next year. You will no doubt find it coming up in early summer all over your neighbourhood, if you are even allowed out of doors by then.. hopefully the virus will have passed by then and we can go foraging once more.

mountainmoma's picture

I did not save any seed last year, so cannot send, It just reseeds on its own in my yard, way better tasting than wild lambsquarters, and a much prettier and larger plant. Larger leaves to eat. The inner part of the growing tip of leaves has this wild magenta powder, just a vibrant color. Unbelievably nutritious and self seeds, a real no trouble plant. If it is in the wrong place, it pulls up supper easy and then chickens love it too.

alice's picture

These threads are good, just realized this is what we call tree spinach over here in the English midlands.

Here in Australia we call it fat hen. Or pigweed. This is why weed id is so difficult!
So, lamb's quarters, fat hen, pigweed, tree spinach = chenopodium album :)

mountainmoma's picture

There are different cultivars of lambs quarters, so they are not all the same, but related. Pig weed is a wild lambs quarters, that some areas call fat hen, chenopedium album. ( But I have also heard the name fat hen applied to a different plant out here. ) The cultivated lambsquarters, magenta spreen is the same as tree spinach, Chenopodium giganteum. It is taller, larger leaves, a nicer flavor, etc...

ClareBroommaker's picture

If y'all would prefer to use Latin names from the get-go, I'm comfortable with that. The lambsquarters I eat is Chenopodium album and gets over my head if I let it. The plant I would call pigweed is not a Chenopodium but Amaranthus palmeri

I almost bought Magenta spreen seeds this year on your recommendation, mountainmoma. The larger leaves sound particularly good. But I have such a seed bank of C. album in the soil that I'll just continue to take the lazy way of picking from it where ever it comes up.

I believe I have an offer on here for seed of my C. album. It's been in the refrigerator for years, but I suspect it is one of those seeds that stays viable for decades. So if any one wants seed, I'll look in the back of the fridge for you.

Hey might as well re-post this photo . For scale, that is a 10 inch diameter bowl.

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alice's picture

We also have a traditional chenopodium for leaf use in England called Chenopodium bonus-henricus aka Good King Henry. Funny name, I don't know how the name came about. I have not seen it, only read about it, have only seen Chenopodiums album (which grew vigorously as a weed where I grew up, and is called Fat hen here) and giganteum (tree spinach, an import but it easily self-seeds for a few years).

ClareBroommaker's picture

My husband does most of the cooking, and he is definitely the keeper of the freezer. This morning he took out three bags of lambsquarters that we'd put in there in July 2014. Oops. They were double bagged, so still look and smell fresh. He added a good measure into a curry stew of black beans and corn. The dish is kind of sweet from the corn I guess, but good enough.

I did not remember having frozen any lambsquarters. We do can it though.

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