Weed Eater: Edible Weeds

Don't abuse them—eat them!

| April/May 2000

  • Herbalist Brigitte Mars has learned to appreciate weeds for their abundant culinary and medicinal value.
    Photograph by John Wiltsie
  • Nearly every part of the dandelion is edible.
    Photograph by John Wiltse
  • Nearly every part of the dandelion is edible.
    Photograph by J. G. Strauch, Jr.
  • The leaves of lamb’s-quarters taste like spinach.
    Photograph by J.G. Strauch, Jr.
  • Chicory leaves can be a tasty addition to salads or cooked as a potherb.
    Photograph by John Wiltse
  • Violets, harbingers of spring, add elegance to desserts and a fresh taste to honey.
    Photograph by J.G. Strauch, Jr.
  • Nettles are high in iron, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
    Photograph by J.G. Strauch, Jr.

Weed Eater Extras: 

Wild Things Soup recipe
Herbal Healing Salve 

Thirty years ago, while living on a farm in Reynolds, Missouri, I used to help a neighboring hill woman in her large, wonderful garden in exchange for fresh farm eggs and firewood. As we pulled weeds, Mrs. Glore, who was old enough to have outlived three husbands, would declare: “Why, youse can eat these. It’s lamb’s-quarters. It’s wild spinach, and it’s good fer ya! Even better than the store-bought kind!” She’d incorporate the weeds into the evening’s dinner, doubling or tripling the yield of her garden. Over the years, I’ve developed my own appreciation for plants that others yank out and throw away. Weeds have survived centuries of adversity and are often much more durable than cultivated plants. Many do well without irrigation, are resistant to frost and trampling, and offer themselves freely and abundantly.


More than thirty bird species including domestic fowl are known to eat chickweed (Stellaria media). The generic name, Stellaria, refers to the star shape of the flowers; some people know the plant as starwort. Chickweed makes an excellent ground cover, as it grows outward instead of upward. It thrives in fertile soil.

Chickweed is delicate, delicious, and high in vitamin C; it has traditionally been fed to frail people to make them stronger. The leaves, flowers, and stems may be included in salads, soups, and stir-fry dishes. They keep well in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Herbalists make the tops into a tea to soothe bladder and bronchial irritation and ulcers; they put them in salves to relieve skin disorders ranging from diaper rash to psoriasis.

(Click here to view a picture of chickweed)

Tom Linton
3/26/2013 11:27:59 PM

Many of pic links are broken



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