Weeds as Edibles

There are a surprising number of ordinary plants found in gardens that most people would consider to be weeds, partly because they weren't intentionally grown, and partly because of their persistence and hardiness. Some of these unwanted garden guests actually have great nutritional value, and some also have medicinal properties that should be considered before discarding them on the compost heap. Instead of killing them or using them as fertilizer, here are a few edible 'weeds' you might want to include in your meal planning.

Dandelions

Dandelions are one of the most useful of all garden weeds, because nearly every part of the plant has some food value, from the tops of its blossoms right down to the tips of its root system. Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw or washed and included in salads, with the younger leaves being particularly flavorful. The flowers are very tasty, and the roots can actually be ground up and used as a replacement for coffee.

Chickweed

The stems, flowers and leaves of chickweed can all be eaten in salads, and have a flavor reminiscent of spinach. They can also be cooked and consumed as a steamed vegetable, still retaining the spinach flavor. The chickweed plant can also be used to make an appealing and aromatic tea.

Plantain

Obviously this is not the tropical plantain which resembles a banana, since it would hardly be found growing in your garden. The immature leaves of the more common plantain plant you may find in your backyard can be steamed or boiled, sautéed, or eaten raw, while older leaves should usually be cooked to reduce the toughness of the leaves. Even the seeds of the plantain provide good nutrition, and can be ground into a kind of flour.

Purslane

These are some of the healthiest edible weeds to be found in your garden, and they are well worth incorporating into your diet. They contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green vegetable you might find in a grocery store. Purslane adds a pepper-like flavor to salads and stir-fries and can also be used to thicken soups and stews.