I always say, “A gardener’s best revenge is to eat the weeds.” I’ve been doing it for 30 years, and can testify that my health and the health of my garden have never been better. Here are a few hints for gardeners who’d rather eat their weeds than hate them, and for non-gardeners who are adventurous enough to try out nature’s bounty.
View your weeds as cultivated plants. Give them the same care and you’ll reap a tremendous harvest. Harvest frequently, and do it when the weeds are young and tender.
Keep those annuals pinched back. You wouldn’t let your basil go straight up and go to flower; don’t let your lamb’s quarter, either. One cultivated lamb’s quarter plant in my garden grew 5 feet high and 4 feet across, providing greens for salads and cooking all summer long, and a generous harvest of seeds for winter use.
Here’s how to tend some of my favorite garden weeds:
Lamb’s Quarter [wild spinach] (Chenopodium alba, Chenopodium quinoa, and related species): Put young leaves in salads. Cook older leaves and tender stalks. Dried leaves can be ground into flour, which can replace up to half the flour in any recipe. Dried seeds can be cooked in soups and porridge.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea): The fleshy leaves and stalks of this plant are incredibly delicious in salads and not bad at all preserved in vinegar for winter use.
Burdock (Arctium lappa): Roots of non-flowering plants harvested after frost make vinegar that is deep and richly flavorful, as well as a worldrenowned tonic. Petioles of the leaves and the flowering stalk are also edible; for recipes see my book, Healing Wise.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota): Chop the leaves finely and use in salads. Flowers are beautiful, edible decorations. Harvest and cook the roots of non-flowering plants in the fall.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): The leaves can be eaten at any time, raw or cooked, but are especially tasty in the fall—not spring! Roots can be harvested any time; pickle them in apple cider vinegar for winter use. Dandelion flower wine is justly famous.