A weed is simply any plant growing in a place where it’s unwanted. And, the tenacious little things generally share a couple of common—and annoying—characteristics: hardiness, adaptability and a tendency to take over, pushing out native species in the wild and ornamentals in the garden.
Many of the worst offenders are introduced species, such as garlic mustard, which was brought here by English settlers. Without any natural predators, it soon went wild. And it’s no wonder: spend a day yanking weeds and your throbbing fingers will tell you that nature designed these plants to outlive us all! Crowns practically flush with the ground, tap roots four feet long, leaves and stems that snap at the crown or root. They are survivors. As the Buddhists say: “What you resist, persists.” The answer then, is acceptance. Dandelions are going to sprout up in your pristine lawn. You can live with them, mow them down or pull them. We suggest you go one step further and put them on the menu.
Dr. Phil likes to say, “They can kill me, but they can’t eat me!” Yeah, well, that’s because Dr. Phil isn’t a weed. Those you can kill and eat—and they’re delicious and nutritious. Take a close look at that expensive box of California micro greens you picked up at the grocery store: recognise anything? Yup, those are dandelion leaves.
Many so-called weeds are bursting with high-quality nutrients, with vitamin C topping the list in many. And, as one municipality after another wakes up to the dangers of herbicides, smartly banning them, there will be more and more weeds for you to deal with. Here’s a list of the most common, abundant, good-to-eat weeds, easy to find in your own backyard. But before you get out your salad bowl and clippers, there are a few precautions to heed before you weed:
- Get your soil tested. Depending on the history of the land, contaminants such as lead, may be present.
- Don’t pick the wild things from the side of the road. These weeds are full of pollutants from vehicles and road chemicals.
- Don’t eat what you’re not dead certain about—get it? Dead certain? Buy a field guide or better yet, go out with an experienced forager or foraging group the first time.
Main image taken by Signe Langford