Edible wild plants guide
Anyone who has a lawn or garden can tell you: weeds are inevitable. No matter what you carefully plant or how often you mow, weeds will prevail unless you keep on top of them daily. They’re annoying and unsightly, but guess what? Some of them are actually good for you! This edible wild plants guide will also explain that some of them have good health benefits as well.
Just a couple of warnings: be sure you have the correct plant before chowing down, and avoid any plants that could have possibly been sprayed with pesticides, or worse, been exposed to pet urine. Eww.
Yes, these pervasive yellow flowers (and their puffy white seed pods) are actually powerhouses of nutritional benefits. You can eat every part of a dandelion, including the flower, leaves, stems and roots.
It’s best to harvest and consume in early spring before the flowers form, as it can become bitter tasting, but dandelions can be eaten at any time.
Personally, I prefer drying a few leaves and brewing them in boiling water for some nutritious and cleansing dandelion tea. Add some stevia and lemon for some sweetness. The flowers can also be breaded and fried — but the visual of dandelions being fried in my pan isn’t too appetizing to me. I will stick with tea…!
When I don’t have time to harvest my own dandelions, I use this tea, which is delicious and nutritious!
The dandelion is rich in calcium and iron as well as vitamins C and A. Thanks to antioxidants, the dandelion is good for bone and liver health as well as cancer prevention. Dandelions are also a powerful diuretic, so they’re good for everything from diabetes and blood pressure management to weight loss. They are also high in fiber.
By the way, dandelions have been used in medicine for hundreds of years, the greens have been popular to use just as you would something like spinach, cooked in a dish or used raw in salads and smoothies. Some people make dandelion wine out of the flowers.
You’re lucky if you find a 4-leaf clover because this little cuties are good for your health…! Did you know that the clover is actually related to peas? This pretty weed, especially the red variety, has a wide range of health benefits.
One of the biggest benefits clover has is its antioxidant content. It is very effective against cancer cells; studies particularly note its benefits against breast cancer. Clover also helps with breast pain and inflammation.
Not only is it rich in antioxidants, it also contains a bunch of vitamins, such as A, C, E and various B vitamins, as well as potassium and calcium. This makes it a great choice to add to your diet and boost your nutrition. Other uses for clover, aside from honey, include cough-soothing and reducing various sources of inflammation.
When clovers produce flowers, these can be picked and sautéed. The leaves are not as tasty generally but can be eaten, especially when cooked. You can also make a tea out of dried clover blossoms, or just eat them raw.
Clover sprouts are a rich source of protein (26%), and contain vitamins A, B, C, E and K and minerals calcium, magnesium, postassium, iron, phosphorus and zinc.
You may or may not have heard of amaranth, which is a grain similar to quinoa that’s chock-full of protein. Wild amaranth grows as a weed and can be used the same as any other variety. Like quinoa, you eat the seeds of the plant, so it’s not technically a grain.
Amaranth is unique in that you can also eat the leaves as well, either raw as a salad or cooked like spinach. The leaves also contain some protein just like the seeds.
Wild amaranth, also called pigweed, is one of the highest leafy vegetable source of calcium. It is also full of vitamin K like many other green leafy vegetables, and lots of fiber, which can help lower bad cholesterol.
The vitamin C found in amaranth as well as rutin, a flavonoid, have been shown to reduce the appearance of varicose veins. Lastly, amaranth has a high amount of folate, which helps prevent birth defects.
Around the world, the seeds are used in different ways. For example, it is made into beer in Peru. The leaves can be boiled and then used in any recipe in place of another leafy green, such as mustard greens.
The youngest leaves tend to be the best tasting. If you have enough of the seeds to make it worthwhile, cook them up in place of quinoa. They make a delicious, hot cereal, similar to oatmeal.
This strange sounding plant is a succulent, and can be found in shady areas. Like dandelions, the entire plant can be eaten from the leaves to the seeds to the roots. Purslane has been used for thousands of years in ancient medicine.
One of the biggest benefits to including purslane into your diet is the fact that it contains more omega-3 fatty acids than even some fish oil. Omega-3s are most beneficial for balancing out the good and bad cholesterol in our blood. Eating purslane can have a huge benefit to heart health.
In Chinese medicine, purslane has been used for all sorts of digestion issues including diarrhea. This could be because it contains a high number of compounds that treat inflammation, as well as a wide range of vitamins.
These compounds also have an effect on cancer prevention.
Other nutrients found in purslane include iron, copper, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and it is high in fiber.
Purslane is often found in markets outside of the United States, but in the US, you have to forage it for yourself. The leaves go well when left raw in a salad, but it can also be cooked. You can also coat the leaves in breading and fry for a bit of a different taste.
Lamb’s quarters are related to amaranth, quinoa and spinach, (and have nothing to do with the cute little 4-legged variety), and can be used much the same way as all of them. You can eat the stem, leaves and seeds, gathering the latter much like quinoa or amaranth.
This plant tastes a lot like spinach and the leaves can be used interchangeably. Lamb’s quarters contains a significant amount more of vitamin A than spinach as well as B vitamins, except folate. It is however not as good of a source of vitamin K. It also contains more copper and calcium.
Lamb’s quarters has the health benefits of quinoa thanks to its seeds, namely a good source of protein. Its leaves can make a good addition to any plant-based diet for its similarity to spinach, such as its calcium and vitamin content.
While it doesn’t have as many of the specific health benefits as other weeds, lamb’s quarters is a great plant to add to your diet for overall nutrition and health.
Use small leaves raw in salads, and cook any larger leaves. Try putting some in a food processor to make a delicious healthy pesto by replacing some of the basil. Make a tea by brewing some leaves in boiling water to relieve stomach issues.
If you have any of these plants growing in your backyard, you’re in luck. Edible wild plants are significant sources of nutrients, and even better, they’re free. Why not take a wander outside and see what you can pick for dinner?