Field of Science

Eat the weeds?

Generally TPP like the articles posted at Treehugger, but not this one on edible weeds so much.  The reasons are the usual ones: dubious advice.  OK here's the list of 9 weeds they recommend: dandelion, purslane, clover, lamb's quarters, plantain, chickweed, mallow, wild amaranth (pigweed), curly dock.  The best of the bunch are very young dandelion leaves, but they are better if you get the more upright growing meadow race rather than the very flat rosette lawn-mower selected race of lawns, but even then arugula and mustard greens are better.  Purslane, lamb's quarters, plantain (Plantago), chickweed, mallow, and pigweed are just sort of Ok you can eat them, but do you really want to?  Nothing much to write home about in this bunch except they are edible.  Curly dock has a lot of oxalic acid, and the article recommends changing the cooking water, and generally when that's required you are far better off getting some nice lightly wilted spinach and ditch the dock.  The picture along with the recommendation for clover shows Trifolium praetense, purple or red clover, but the article does not specify.  This is seldom a lawn weed (grows too tall); the more usual species is T. repens, and it and other species contain cyanogenic glycosides (they generate cyanide when eaten).  So this is just dubious advice without being more specific, and there are "clovers" in other genera too, e.g., Melilotus. At the end of the article, they beg off saying this isn't a field guide, but most of these have to be eaten at a juvenile stage, and most field guides focus on more mature flowering stages. Most amateurs aren't good enough to ID many plants in their juvenile stages. Here's an example from a couple of years ago - you pick out the edible wild carrot.  The images show you the problem, but hey, it might be your last mistake.  So basically TPP is never all that impressed by such advice as "eat the weeds".  Many of our leafy greens did start out as agricultural weeds, but they have been selected for better taste (less toxic) and more succulent tissues. Weeds - why bother?


Anonymous said...

Check out the most recent post on Salt and Stone Poetry for a less than enthralled take on dandelion greens.

Unknown said...

Here's my take on eating the weeds -

I eat Chenopodium album (lamb's quarters) fairly regularly, simply because I've got a lot of it reseeding in the driveway of my rented garden every year. I use it in soups instead of Spinach (which is unreliable here in Adelaide) and find it quite palatable. Early in the growing season, I pull the seedlings en masse at a height of about 10cm - just cut off the roots and rinse the tops - who needs fancy "micro-greens"? Later in the season when I'm reduced to a few larger plants I use them as a cut and come again green vegetable, taking off the tender tips at each harvest. Finally, as the plants mature I pick off the young flowering tips which make a tender sauteed vegetable dish, kind of like really tiny cauliflower florets. After I've picked what I want I just let the last few plants go to seed and next years crop is all set. Then as a bonus, I use the dry stalks of the dead mature plants as light weight garden stakes for climbing peas and beans.

Mind you, you can keep the dandelions, I find them much too bitter. Cream of nettle soup is good, but it's not easy to find a stand of nettles in my highly urban area. If I ever get a chance to have a bigger garden than the one I currently have, I might try to give the weeds I like to eat an area of their own where I can harvest a bit more variety and be guaranteed that the plants haven't been doused with any nasty agricultural chemicals.
Ciao, Kaelkitty.