My 5 Favorite Weeds: If You Can’t Beat ’Em…

I’m turning my annoyance toward weeds into delicious meals, one wild green at a time.

by Cyn Cady

My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Cyn Cady ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

… Eat ’em!

At least, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to about the weeds in my yard. I’ve stopped looking at weeds as annoying competition for my landscaping and veggies, and started looking at them as, well … delicious. A brief excursion into the side yard this morning resulted in a foodie-heaven breakfast: wild greens and leftover Spanish rice, topped with poached eggs. And weeds … I mean, “wild greens,” are free! Cost-free and labor-free (except for the work of picking and prepping). Let’s face it, Mamacita Nature is a much, much better gardener than I am. Her stuff grows like mad without fertilizers, extra watering or cultivation.

So far, these are my top five favorite edible weeds: They’re easy to ID, easy to pick and pretty darn tasty. It’s also tough to overharvest these, as they are as tenacious as a honey badger and as hard to get rid of as head lice.


My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Cyn Cady ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

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Vying for the title of “Cutest Weed,” with its delicate leaves and adorable tiny white flowers, it’s also prolific and yummy. Now that I know how to identify it, I’m seeing it everywhere. It’s made a broad carpet in an area below my deck, and because it’s not interfering with any of my other plantings, I can leave it there until I’m ready to toss it into a stir-fry or salad.

2. Yellow Dock

My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Rachael Brugger ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

This stuff is everywhere! I’ve been using the young, tender spring leaves in salads or lightly sautéed with other wild greens, but the seeds can be used to make flour. (It’s a relative of buckwheat.) This involves a lot of grinding or milling or whatever, so I won’t be whipping up loaves of dock bread anytime soon, but I might toss a few seeds onto my oatmeal later in the season.

3. Dandelion Greens

My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Sarah/Flickr ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

Dandelions are SO annoying. The little puffballs scatter at the slightest breeze and bammo, they’re everywhere. I’m not really a lawn person, but if I were, dandelions would really tick me off. Luckily, the young greens are tasty, which motivates me to get at them before they go to seed and take over the universe.

4. Milk Thistle

My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Cyn Cady ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

Until very recently, my interaction with the thistles in my yard was limited to hacking wildly at them with a hoe and muttering angry inappropriate things under my breath (or at the top of my lungs, depending on who was in earshot). Once I learned that the leaves and stems of milk thistle are delicious used as a veggie or salad green, I started picking and trimming leaves, but quickly realized that the thistles would grow and propagate waaaay faster than I could eat them. The trimming process was time-consuming, and borrrrrring. The solution? Thistle juice! I can cram loads of untrimmed leaves (and the roots!) into my juicer and extract super-potent green juice. Add a squeeze of lemon and maybe an apple for sweetness, and even the kids will drink it. I don’t even have to threaten to ground them.

5. Miner’s Lettuce

My 5 Favorite Weeds - Photo by Cyn Cady ( #weeds #edibleweeds #foraging

I have to admit, I’ve never really thought of miner’s lettuce as a weed. I snacked on this a lot as a kid; it grows pretty much everywhere. The raw leaves are tasty but very delicate; they don’t hold up to cooking very well, but work great in salad or juices. When I nibble on it as I roam around the property, inspecting the fence line or looking for trees that need trimming, I’m 10 again.

Is adopting my new role as a human Weed Eater actually considered farming? Maybe not directly. But it is related to that larger task, or what Aldo Leopold describes as the “…oldest task in human history, to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.” So instead of grubbing out weeds … I mean, “wild greens”… by the roots and eradicating them completely from my personal landscape, I’ll turn them into dinner, and leave a little space for them to keep growing in the corners of the yard.

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