You know it is spring when the first plants that pop up are weeds. We call them weeds since they show up where we don’t want them but in reality, they are really just unloved flowers. But do you realize that some weeds are quite nutritious? Listed below are 3 spring weeds I bet you didn’t realize you can eat. So go forth and eat weeds!
There are several weeds you can eat:
- wild garlic
- creeping charlie
- garlic mustard
- hairy bittercrest
- And more.
In this article, I will be focusing on wild garlic, garlic mustard, and creeping charlie.
This weed (um, I mean plant) is one of the banes of my existence. It showed up with a vengeance this year.
Wild Garlic (Aliumn Vineale) is a member of the allium family. This plant is not Ramps which has a much wider leaf.
(I have talked about it in quite detail HERE.) One year I had over 150 plants in my back garden. It thrives in clay soil, which of course I have.
Removal is not easy until the plant is quite tall. It looks a lot like a skinny garlic hence the name wild garlic. However, it tastes more like an onion.
To cook with it, you need to remove the paper outside which is much thinner than a regular onion. The bulbs are quite small just like a garlic.
If you want to try wild garlic, don’t pull them unless the soil is really wet and the garlic is quite large. Otherwise, you won’t get the bulb. Use a skinny spade to dig them out. Simply dig 6 inches and lift up the soil and remove the bulb. If you don’t remove the bulb, the plant will return along with its buddies.
Wild Garlic appears both in spring and fall.
Mary Jasch writes in her article, Power Plant:
Wild Garlic and and Wild onion “encourage the growth of pro-biotics and inhibit bacteria. They are useful against colds, coughs, asthma, bacterial infections, breathing problems and tumors and are anti-clotting agents.”
I bet you’ve seen this plant. It is quite invasive. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinali) is a member of the Brassicaceae family. Its flower heads taste like broccoli. (Garlic Mustard in flower is pictured at the beginning of this article.)
It is known for its high levels of vitamin C and A.
According to the Hiker’s Notebook of the Sierra Club Pro:
“Ingesting the leaves has been used to induce sweating and to treat respiratory disorders such as bronchitis and asthma. Applied as a poultice externally, it has been found to be effective as a palliative for the itching caused by insect bites and stings. The seeds have been used as a snuff to induce sneezing.”
It first appears as a rosette in the spring with kidney shaped leaves. (Think of a bouquet.) As it grows, it resemble a mint plant with its spear-like head. It is a biannual so it produces a white flower in the Spring in its second year.
It tastes like mustard. No lie. I dug it out since it has a taproot that looks like horseradish. It was in one of my herb beds and the last thing I need is for that plant to go to seed. The seeds are viable for 5 years.
Every part of this plant is edible from its leaves, roots to its seeds. You can eat it plain in salads or cook it.
Here are some ideas how to cook with it. (Of course, you can make pesto, which uses the root as well.) The roots by the way taste like a mild horseradish.
I actually made an apple cider vinegar mixture (recipe to follow) and dried the leaves for tea. I also froze the roots to make a tincture with them.
I know. What a name. Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is a member of the hederacea family. Some people call it ground ivy. You may have seen it in your lawn since it has a dainty purple flower. For years, I thought they were violets. In actuality, violets have a larger flower and heart like leaves. On the other hand, Creeping Charlie has a kidney-like leaf and small dainty flowers.
It taste minty with a menthol like taste. I didn’t particular like it. You might feel differently.
Although there are few scientific studies on creeping charlie, this plant has been used for medicinal purposes. The herb is reputed to ease ringing in the ears, kidney disorders, coughs, constipation caused by lead poisoning, and tuberculosis.
Herbalist Kathy Turcotte writes:
“As a lotion or compress, ground ivy was used to cleanse sores and ulcers. When combined with yarrow and chamomile flowers, it made an excellent poultice for abscesses, boils and skin tumors.”
Some people say you can’t eat it; others say you can. This question was presented on Garden’s Alive Q and A section. They respond as follows:
“The potential downsides? The plant has caused illness and even fatalities when grazing horses ate too much. And mice fed only the plant for 3 to 4 days died. Because the plant contains the essential oil pulegone, women who are pregnant or lactating should avoid it. And common sense requires that anything remotely approaching excessive use would be extremely unwise.”
Additionally, they conferred with James Duke, Ph.D., retired USDA botanist and author of many plant books. He uses the plant as tea. However, Duke notes always proceed with caution when trying any new herb. He states,
“After steeping the herb in hot water for ten minutes, they drank the tea, and within five minutes experienced labored breathing, swelling of the throat, and difficulty sleeping. Symptoms abated in 24 hours”.
Don’t Eat Weeds If You Don’t Know Their Identity:
Don’t eat weeds that you aren’t sure of their identification. Take it to your county extension or a nursery for an identification. Or sign up for a nature walk so someone can show you how to identify weeds. Some weeds are poisonous or can cause dermatitis.
Also, I am not a doctor so all medicinal information above is for educational purposes. I find plants fascinating.
Up next Chickweed, Violets, and Hairy Bittercrest.
Join the Conversation:
Do you eat weeds? If so, which ones?