Weeds, we all have them growing all over our yards and gardens. They’re found in abandoned fields and amongst the woodlands and so many try their hardest to get rid of them. Yet, there are so many edible weeds.
Food, growing everywhere, free for the taking. Instead of trying to get rid of them, I think we should try to utilize them. After all, they’re going to continue to live on and spread their seeds. They are survivors.
As we broaden our foraging skills, I find myself actively seeking out many of these weeds in our own yard and garden, and many of them are readily available, there for the taking to make into delicious dishes.
There are many, many common, edible weeds growing everywhere going unnoticed. Here are just 24 of them free for the taking (and eating).
24 Edible Garden Weeds
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Of course, dandelions have to top the list. These are one of my favorite weeds! We never have, never will, treat our lawn and we pick dandelions and make delicious things like dandelion jelly and wine along with dandelion salad and even tea!
The leaves, flowers and even the roots of this amazing plant are edible. They are also some of the first flowers available for pollinators, so make sure you share, but they can be picked at any time.
The leaves from the center are the most tender and most palatable, but even the big leaves can be utilized. They can be tossed into a salad or even cooked like you would any other green.
The flower tops can be used to make things like jelly, wine, breaded and fried or even eaten raw (they’re sweet and slightly crunchy).
As for the roots, you can use them to make tea or even as a coffee substitute (who knew?).
Chickory (Cichorium intybus)
Chickory pops up all over our yard almost as prolifically as the dandelions. This beautiful plant grows pretty well along the roadsides just about everywhere in the United States.
The entire chickory plant can be eaten from flower to root. It is best harvested in the spring and the fall as the summer heat often makes it bitter and less palatable, though still edible. If you’re foraging for this, make sure you don’t pick it from right by the edge of the road where runoff tends to accumulate.
The flowers and leaves can be eaten and are quite good tossed into salad. The leaves can also be sauteed like any other green.
Chickory is another root that can be ground and made into coffee. See, and here I thought that coffee would be something we could never produce ourselves….
Plantain (Plantago major)
Note that this is a medicinal plant, so care should be utilized when eating it, but it is edible, nonetheless. And has some amazing medicinal properties as well.
Common plantain can grow… anywhere. And it does. Just about every yard, park, garden and wooded area across the US has this plant growing in it. And it is, indeed edible.
The leaves and seed pods can be eaten raw. However, it’s a bit stringy and the seedpods are a little on the tough side, so most people opt to cook it. You can sautee the leaves or boil them until they’re tender. The seedpods can be used like you would eat green beans.
The seedpods are also good in soups, stir fries or even covered with melted cheese if that’s your thing.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is another prolific weed that grows just about anywhere. It typically is considered an early spring plant and is found in lawns and gardens across the US.
This was actually a popular garden plant in the 1800s, but since it doesn’t do well refrigerated and has to be used up fairly quickly, it fell out of favor and soon became considered a nuisance to most.
Chickweed is a great addition to fresh salads and can be eaten raw or, of course, sauteed like any other green, boiled, or steamed.
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Sheep sorrel is widely available across the US. It tastes amazing with a slight citrus flavor to it.
This plant is great fresh in salads, cooked like spinach and other greens or paired with seafood.
The leaves never tend to grow very large, but the larger leaves (if you come across them) would need their ribs removed as they’re a bit bitter and stringy.
Sheep sorrel can also be used in any recipe that calls for French sorrel, the flavor is the same.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)
Another readily available garden weed is lamb’s quarters. The leaves and seeds of this plant are edible, though gathering enough seeds to eat can be quite time consuming and difficult.
You can eat the leaves raw in salad or sautee, steam or boil them to add to any dish calling for spinach or just to eat alone.
The seeds of lamb’s quarters resemble quinoa and are definitely edible. Though, like I said, it can be difficult to get enough to actually eat.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Purslane grows in just about every garden bed I’ve ever had. And we often find it in patches near the edge of our driveway. It’s incredibly rich in nutrients.
The flavor of purslane is a bit on the peppery side. The leaves as well as the stems are both edible. It can be added to salads fresh or cooked into stir fries for a nice crunch.
Violets grow around our yard every spring. There are tons of species, but the genus is the same. We get the species pictured above most often in our yard and amongst old beds that are currently dormant.
The leaves of violets can be eaten raw in salads (or alone) or sauteed like any other green (or steamed, or boiled). The flowers are also edible and can be eaten alone, candied, or made into delicious violet jelly or wine.
The roots, on the other hand, are not edible.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow grows along the edges of our house and property line. A common herb, this is also considered a weed when it grows in the wild where people don’t care to see it.
It is often made into tea, but the flowers as well as the leaves can also be used. Yarrow is a naturally sweet herb as long as it isn’t cooked. It’s a great combination in salads and can even be used to add flavor to ice cream.
Daisy Fleabane(Erigeron annuus)
In the aster family daisy fleabane is a tall, leggy plant that seems to pop up wherever it pleases, out of nowhere.
Only the leaves of fleabane are edible. And they are hairy which makes them a little difficult to palate, but they are edible, none the less. The leaves can be utilized whenever you’re cooking up other greens and want to add to the bunch.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Our youngest daughter likes to pick all manner of flowers (weeds) out of the yard and chomp on them. Red clover is no exception.
This prolific “weed” grows amongst just about every lawn in the United States and has even been utilized as a lawn replacement as it requires much less water, weeding, and compost to flourish. The leaves and the flowers are edible (thankfully, since my youngest loves to eat the flowers).
Clover is also an important food for pollinators, like most weeds…. You can use the leaves sauteed like any other green. The flowers can be eaten raw, cooked, or utilized for tea.
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
The New England aster is considered an aggressive weed by lawn keepers and a beautiful flower by floral aficionados everywhere.
The leaves, flower and the root are all edible. Though the root is traditionally only used in Chinese medicine.
The flowers and leaves can be eaten raw and added to salads. You can also dry them by hanging them upside down when they’re harvested and wait until the entire plant is dry. You can use the dried leaves and flowers by adding them to salads or making tea.
Years ago our property was full of burdock. This thistle grows tall and has flowers that resemble milkweed. Surprisingly burdock was used as the original recipe for root beer.
The leaves, roots and stems are all edible. The leaves can be a bit bitter, but are great for wrapping foods to put on the fire. The roots are best after the plant has sat for a year as they take on a woody flavor. Otherwise, they taste a little bitter. The stems can be peeled and aren’t as bitter as the leaves eaten fresh.
You can find a recipe for burdock root beer here.
Purple Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)
The entire plant of purple dead-nettle is edible. This plant grows just about everywhere and most of us have seen it, even if we weren’t entirely sure what it was.
The purple tops of purple dead nettle are a bit on the sweet side whereas the rest of the plant tastes more like a floral-flavored green. You can utilize any of it to put into salads, soups, or even to make a smoothie like this one.
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis)
Like sheep sorrel, wood sorrel grows readily and is all edible. The leaves, flowers and seed pods of this plant are all edible and have the same, familiar citrus bite to them as its cousin.
Wood sorrel can be added fresh to salads, added to soups (seafood soups are greatly complimented by this plant), or made into a sauce that you serve atop your favorite dish.
Also known as willow herb, fireweed is often the first plant you’ll see in logged areas and areas hit by wildfires. I remember seeing this plant often in Montana, but not here in Indiana as it only grows in the Northwestern region of the US.
The young leaves can be snapped off while still young and tender and eaten just like spinach or any other green. Once the shoots are a bit older, you’ll probably want to peel the outer layer off.
The leaves can also be dried and used to make tea which has a slight berry, citrus undertone to it. In addition, since fireweed is high in mucilage it can be utilized as a natural thickener for soups and sauces.
Curly Dock (Rumex crispus)
Common in empty fields, along roadways and of course in your garden and yard curly dock is prevalent in all 50 states.
Believe it or not, curly dock is not useful forage for livestock, but it is for humans. Though it is toxic to cattle and sheep, it was an important food source during the Great Depression.
You want the leaves of this plant to be very young and still rolled or slightly unrolled. The older, completely unrolled leaves get bitter in a hurry. This dock is related to both sheep sorrel and wood sorrel, though those two Rumex do not get as big or bitter.
The leaves are best young and sauteed like any other green. The best leaves will be found early in the spring and late in the fall before the cold really hits.
Wild Garlic (Allium vineale)
Once upon a time we lived on 3 acres and had wild garlic growing in patches all over the edge of our lawn and I had no clue what it was. This was, of course, before all of these things interested me.
All parts of wild garlic are edible, though the leaves are the most commonly utilized part of the plant. You can use the leaves in place of basil to make pesto. You can also use them fresh in a salad or put them into soups.
The smell of wild garlic is… well, garlicky which can help you differentiate it from lily of the valley (whose leaves look similar, but is poisonous).
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
Henbit grows readily all over the US and is a member of the mint family. However, unlike mint, it tastes more similar to dead-nettle (a grassy kind of flavor).
The flowers, leaves and stems of henbit are all edible. They can be eaten fresh by adding them to salads or, of course cooked like any other green. It is particularly good boiled, and then seasoned with melted butter and a bit of cinnamon.
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
This creeping plant is a nuisance to most and considered an invasive species. We have plenty of creeping Charlie growing amongst the edge of our garden beds.
The young leaves of this plant are edible and have a flavor similar to mint. It can be eaten fresh by adding it to salads or you can add it to soups or cook it in some butter.
When springtime begins, Mallow can be found just about everywhere. Popping up in garden beds, on roadsides, even through cracks in the concrete. If you’ve been outdoors, you’ve probably seen this weed.
While mallow is completely edible, its flavor is incredibly mild in comparison to most wild greens. In fact, some would even say its flavor is completely non-existent. But, all of the flavorlessness aside, it is highly nutritious.
Like fireweed, this plant is high in mucilage making it an excellent thickener. But, the entire plant is edible, roots, stems, flowers, leaves, and fruit. The fruits are the only thing that have much flavor, a bit of a nut flavor.
Aside from using as a thickener for sauces, the leaves and flowers can be used alongside other greens in a fresh salad.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle is considered an invasive, unwanted weed by many… including livestock who find it unpalatable. While stinging nettle will likely cause irritation and welts if it brushes against your skin, it’s also full of flavor.
Stinging nettles are best when harvested young, and you don’t want to harvest them at all after they have flowered. You’ll definitely want to utilize a pair of gloves to harvest them.
Nettles do need cooked, you can’t eat them raw (can we say, ouch?). Once cooked they can be utilized anywhere you would use spinach. Or you could try this lovely sounding dish.
Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)
Another early wild green, shepherd’s purse can be found everywhere across the US.
The leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers, and even the roots of shepherd’s purse are edible. The leaves are a great substitute for cabbage and take on a peppery taste. They are best young.
The root can be dried and ground up as a substitute to ginger. The seeds are difficult to harvest unless you’re incredibly patient. The leaves and flowers can both be added to fresh salads for a bit of peppery flavor.
Kudzu (Pueraria lobata)
Kudzu is what you find growing up the side of your neighbors abandoned barn all across the south-eastern United States. This invasive, climbing weed can grow up to a foot a day.
The leaves, roots, flowers and vine tips of kudzu are all edible. The seeds and seed pods, however, are not. It has a slightly spinach flavor and is a great addition to stir-fries and even spicy jellies.
Weeds can seem like all they do is take over the landscape and make life difficult, but they do serve a purpose and do have many uses. So, maybe we should eat the weeds instead.
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