About this time of year, what with all the rain we’ve been having here in Greenville, people begin to notice the abundance of weeds poking up in the places that they don’t want them. Personally I feel like I have been waging a one man ar against all the morning glories trying to pop up and take over our garden (furthermore I suspect I am loosing in this endeavor). Weeds can be a serious pain in the ass for even the most simple gardener. They spread and conquer like nothing else. And while some, like morning glory, are really not worth anything at all (save maybe their pretty blooms . . . which come out at night. Lame), others can be put to use.
The New York Times has an article about a week old about the eating of various plants traditionally considered to be weeds. it is a worthwhile read in that it reminds us that in essence, weeds are just plants growing where we don’t want them, it is not necessarily because they are useless (though some, morning glories and Bermuda grass, serve less purpose than others. One should note that morning glories can be quite poisonous). A lot of plants that are considered weeds can be used for their edible parts. through this spring we’ve been letting a lot of lamb’s quarters grow throughout the yard and then harvesting their leaves, which have a kind of spinach like quality and taste and thus make a nice complement to salads or other things that spinach grows well in.
In the past I have cooked with other things that could be considered weeds. Things like wild onions or oxalis. I’ve been interested in using dandelions (though have not yet), and while I am not up to the work, every time I see some poke sallet I consider the possibility of rendering the new shoots into an edible vegetable (it requires multiple soakings in boiling water to remove potentially harmful toxins).
At the Organic Grower’s School this year Eliza and I sat in a class about wild harvesting and learned about the myriad numbers of plants that can be used and harvested for their edible bits. So often we overlook a lot of these plants. Either we don’t notice them at all or we find them a nuisance. But knowledge of potential uses is worth having, simply because it can provide for a number of opportunities to try something out of the ordinary.
Eliza sent me a link to the blog Eat the Weeds this morning which focuses almost entirely on wild foraging and use of edible plants often thought of as weeds. Additionally, the New York Times’s article contains a slideshow with images of a number of edible “weed” plants that might be growing in your area.
A Note of Consideration: Before you eat any wild plant, make sure you know what it is by carefully IDing it. This is a sentiment that I express all the time in regards to mushroom foraging but it is just as important in regards to eating wild plants, as some of them can be very poisonous and potentially deadly. Honestly, I find that there is a kind of bias towards fear of mushrooms when, in consideration, plants can pose just as much risk, but people seem less averse to them. As a rule, one should perform careful IDing on any wild things they forage and eat, whether they be mushrooms, berries, nuts, roots, leaves, etc. If you are uncertain what something is just don’t put it in your mouth. Not loss or risk in not eating something.