Harvest Edible Wild Herbs: 16 Backyard Delicacies

  • When he was young, Contributing Editor Jim Long's maternal grandparents encouraged his interest in plants, helping him identify delicious violets (shown here) and other edible wild plants in woods and meadows.
    Photo by Rob Cardillo

Violets (Viola spp.) are all pleasant and colorful in salads and can be candied for decoration on cakes and other desserts. Violets are easy to recognize once you look at the flower and leaf shape in a field guide.

(Click here to  view a picture of violets .) 

Chickweed (Stellaria media) can be gathered in springtime and cooked as a green vegetable; it can be frozen; or you can dry it and make it into a beneficial first-aid salve. This is one of the first plants up in the spring and you can look for it in your garden, along the foundation of your house and at the edges of the lawn. It is a creeping plant with a single, central stem. Gather it before warm weather; once the weather warms, this plant will begin to turn yellow, scatter its seeds and die. I like to mix chickweed with henbit and lamb’s quarters in approximately equal portions and boil them together briefly, season with some crumbled bacon and a teaspoon or two of vinegar, and enjoy as a refreshing, vitamin-rich, springtime vegetable side dish.

(Click here to  view a picture of chickweed .) 

Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule). You’ll find this in moist, rich fields, lawns and the edges of home gardens. Most likely you have this plant in your lawn or garden beds. As early as January in the Midwest, this plant is already green. By early spring, tiny purple flowers cover the plant. Skip the weed-killer on your lawn and snack on this weed. It dies when hot weather begins anyway. The nutritious whole plant can be harvested and used as a vegetable greens plant in early spring before it fully flowers. 

(Click here to  view a picture of henbit .) 

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