There is a high likelihood that you have food right under your nose in the garden or lawn and may not even know it! Not only is it nice to have a free source of food so close to home, but also if you know that certain weeds are edible, sometimes medicinal and often delicious, then it can save a lot of time attempting to remove them from the garden. Here are some of the ‘weeds’ we have growing wild at Loganberry Forest which will be commonly found in temperate climates (globally) and many other climates in Australia.
Oxalis/Wood Sorrell (Oxalis articulata)
Oxalis grows rampant in our veggie garden and is a perennial green which appears in spring and summer from tiny bulbs in the soil. It is near impossible to eradicate even with newspaper sheet mulching and thus we have chosen instead embrace it for it’s useful qualities both as a source of food for us and our poultry and as a living ground cover to protect the vegetables it is growing around.It has a distinctive tangy sour taste that is quite pleasant in salads or can be cooked like other tender greens. This flavour comes from its high oxalic acid which means that it isn’t good to eat in large quantities raw as it can leach minerals from the body, but a little bit in a salad is quite pleasant. Likewise my chickens love it but do limit their intake or their egg shells can become too fragile. Cooking deactivates the oxalic acid so it would good added to soups or similar.
Sheep Sorrell (Rumex acetosella)
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is an annual wild herb that grows as a ground-cover in our veggie garden in the cooler season. Chickens love it (hence the name) but it is also edible for humans and fairly tasty mixed in with other greens in a salad, soup or stirfry or cooked with a little butter on its own as a side dish.It has a vining growth with small ovate pointed leaves and white flowers. It is said to reduce insect damage too in the garden so is overall a highly useful plant.
Lambs Quarters/Fat Hen/ Goosefoot (Chenopodium album)
Mallow (Malva neglecta)
An edible leafy green with a mucilaginous quality that can be used to thicken soups and historically used instead of gelatine to make marshmallows. It’s relatively flavourless.I have seen it claimed that hanging this plant in peach or nectarine trees can help prevent leaf curl – however it hasn’t worked in my experience. I do find it interesting to note that it is growing under our peach tree on our property and nowhere else (so maybe intentionally planted there by the previous owners?), although I have often seen it growing beside footpaths elsewhere.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Plantain (Plantago major)
We have the narrow leaf plantain variety which grows in our lawn (there is also a wide leaf type). Like almost everything on this list the leaves are edible although you’d want to find young tender ones as otherwise they seem a bit stringy. Personally I don’t eat plantain, I instead use it medicinally on the skin. It has the wondrous affect of stopping itching when crush up and applied. It’s even better than tea-tree oil on a mosquito bite so is a godsend at a social BBQ, if i’m bitten since it grows almost everywhere.
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
A perennial berry that is considered a noxious weed in Victoria, Australia and abundant both on our property and in many roadsides and hedgerows. I make a point of collecting a few kgs of while blackberries for jam and my freezer each summer. The leaves can also be dried and used as a tea.
Lambs Quarters Pie Recipe
1 large chopped onion
3 cloves crushed garlic
12 cups of lambs quarters leaves, stems removed and chopped.
Splash of apple cider vinegar
200g of fetta or goats cheese
1/4 cup chopped mint or other herbs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 packet filo pastry
Sesame or Poppy Seeds (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Cook chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil in a large pot or skillet until soft. Add fat hen and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Cover to let the leaves steam and wilt a little then remove from heat.
3. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and let cool a little.
4. Crumble fetta or goats cheese and chopped herbs and mix though.
5. Mix in the 3 whole eggs.
6. Add ground nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste
7. Prepare the filo pastry. Between each sheet brush with melted butter, layering at least 12 sheets on a baking tray or pan.
8. Pour in the fat hen mixture into the middle and fold the filo pastry over it like a parcel. Alternatively you can make this dish in a pie pan with filo both on the base and top to cover.
9. Brush the top filo layer with more melted butter and if you wish sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds.
10. Put in the oven and cook for around 40minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
11. Serve hot or cold with chutney or relish.
Want to learn more about edible weeds?
If you are based in Australia I highly recommend The Weed Forager’s Handbook.
An alternative resource if you are based in North America is Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods.