A Handy Edible Weeds Guide: Unexpected Nature’s Bounty

edible weeds

An edible weed is my favorite target for foraging. They are easy to find and are delicious in many different preparations.

If you want to live in better harmony with the land then what better way to do it than to start living on plants that grow just about everywhere.

You probably can’t make them the whole of your diet, but you can certainly add weeds to your diet and gain a world of flavor and taste you never knew existed.

Here’s what you need to know!

The Basic Rules Of Edible Weed Consumption

OK, before we get down to flower talk we need to be clear about some things because eating edible weeds is not always entirely straightforward and there are 8 “golden rules” you should apply to your habits:

  1. If you aren’t 100% certain what something is, you don’t eat it. Some plants are highly toxic. We don’t want you or anyone else to poison themselves. Learn from experts, learn from the internet and always make sure that you are confident you know what a plant is before it goes in your mouth. An edible weed is a good thing, some of the tastiest come from invasive plant species but your primary duty is not to find out what someting tastes like until you’re sure that it is an edible weed.
  2. Learn when a plant is most edible. Plants will change over time, their chemistry may alter when in bloom, or when it’s dropped its seeds. Learn how this affects taste and the nutritional content of your food. Early spring is a great time for plants like garlic mustard, wild garlic, and dandelion greens. Young leaves of wild plants are often among the tastiest as are young shoots.
  3. Learn where your favorite plants prefer to grow. Some plants love a bright, breezy field, and others hide beneath the shade of a tree. If you stumble upon a plant you love growing in the wrong place – be very cautious and make sure to identify it properly.
  4. Don’t pick contaminated plants. That means avoid plants that pets have peed on, and that they haven’t been sprayed with untreated water (which can lead to liver flukes – nasty). Many plants are edible raw and eaten fresh but dog urine won’t make for healthy wild edibles.
  5. Always try small amounts first. If you have picked up the wrong thing, a tiny amount probably won’t do much more than give you a sore tummy, whereas eating pounds of it might kill you. It helps to know what something tastes like too – if you think you’ve got a member of the mint family and it tastes like wild garlic? Put it down.
  6. Always ask before you take stuff. If you’re on private land, you should get permission from the person who owns it before you pick your edible weeds.
  7. Take no risks with mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms are no joke. We’d recommend that you only eat mushrooms if you have a fungi expert on hand to verify what you’ve picked. Even handling the entire plant, when it comes to mushrooms, could be lethal.
  8. Don’t commit eco-terrorism. Only harvest enough plant to meet your needs and don’t pick so many that they won’t grow back again.

10 Edible Weeds That You Should Be Able To Find Near You

OK, so now, let’s look at 10 common edible weeds that most people will be able to find near them (at some time of the year or another).

Burdock (Artcium Sp.)

They’re a pain to get out of the garden because their roots grow so long but it is 100% edible and very popular in Asian cuisine. These invasive weeds have a slightly bitter edge when eaten by themselves. The leaves are a great addition to curry and many people also use them in a tincture for their anti-inflammatory properties. The flower stalks can also be eaten and have a very creamy taste.

Cleavers (also known as Bedstraw) (Galium Sp.)

This can be used to create vegetable rennet if you want to make your own cheese and the leaves are meant to be good for treating urinary tract issues. You can add it to stews to give a bit of a bitter bite to things.

Curly Dock (Rumex Sp.)

Almost every dock species is, in fact, edible and the roots are both edible and medicinal. The best thing about dock plants though is the seeds which can be ground into a flour that’s reminiscent of buckwheat flour.

Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)

Almost everyone knows that dandelions are edible now and they’ll pay a small fortune for them in a store when they grow pretty much everywhere for free.

eat dandelions

Try not to pick them in Spring because bees love them, the yellow flowers are covered in pollen, but you can make everything from wine to ice cream with dandelions, they’re delicious. The dandelion plant tastes like heaven.

Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria Japonica)

This awful predatory weed is doing untold environmental harm to the world but it’s very tasty and eaten raw has a sort of rhubarb-tinge to it, but if you cook it, it’s not dissimilar to asparagus. They say it can also help with Lyme disease.

Mallow (Althaea Sp.)

This stuff grows everywhere and is ideal for flavoring marshmallow candies. The leaves work great in a salad too.

Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca)

The shoots when cooked in butter are very much like asparagus but be very careful there are toxic forms of milkweed and dogbane, which is highly toxic, also looks like milkweed. Only eat it if you’re 100% certain of what you’ve got.

Plantain (Plantago Sp.)

It’s a bit tough for your salads but cook it up and substitute it for spinach or kale and it works wonders. It’s also good for insect bites, allegedly.

Queen Anne’s Lace (also Wild Carrots) (Daucus Carota)

The flowers, greens and wild carrots are all very edible and delicious but don’t mistake this for water hemlock which is very similar and deadly poisonous.

Stinging Nettles (Urticia Dioica)

Everyone hates nettles but get some gloves and long sleeves on and you can turn these monsters into something super tasty. Potato, leek and nettle soup is our favorite.