Eating weeds

Posted: Friday 18 March 2011
by Kate Bradbury

A weed is just a plant growing in the wrong place, and in my garden ... the more green leafy weeds in my plot the better...

Dandelion leaves and flowersA 'weed' is just a plant growing in the 'wrong place', and in my garden, most weeds are more than welcome. There are some exceptions, of course - Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam to name two - but the more green leafy weeds in my plot the better, as far as I'm concerned.

I've still not found time to sow any salad leaves this year. Luckily, there's plenty of self-sown wild leaves in the garden. The hairy bittercress I introduced last summer has made itself at home, politely growing in the gaps between the wall and the trellis. Its dark green leaves taste similar to watercress or rocket and are loaded with vitamins and iron.

Dandelions are another nutrient-rich garden weed. Fresh, new leaves can be added to salads or dried to make tea, while, according to folklore, the long taproot makes a good liver tonic and could even cure gallstones. A small seedling appeared in one of my pots last week, but I'm letting it grow and seed around the garden before I start tucking in. I've also acquired a 'mixed bag' of salad leaves in a trough I filled with soil last summer to see what weeds I could 'catch'. So far there's some orache, clover and fat hen. Yum.

Nothing says 'spring' like the first nettle soup of the year. A small clump of nettles appeared in my garden soon after I converted it from a paved courtyard last year. It's not large enough and doesn't get enough sun to sustain breeding butterflies (most of which require large swathes of nettles in full sun to lay eggs), so I can munch away without feeling guilty. I can't wait for my first nettle soup of 2011, perhaps accompanied by a wild salad of hairy bittercress, orache, fat hen and clover.

If you're waging a war on garden weeds, why not view them in a different light and start eating them? Arm yourself with a good field guide to ensure you're not eating anything poisonous, and look on weeding as harvest time.

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Gardeners' World Web User 18/03/2011 at 18:01

Please note that medical advice is for people NOT to take dandelion if they have gallstones or gallbladder problems without consulting their doctor. There appears to be no scientific evidence for improvement of these conditions, and in fact the plant can cause inflammation of the gall bladder along with other side effects. Even Holland and Barrett offers this warning.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/03/2011 at 18:28

@whizzyfarmer Probably why Kate said "while, according to folklore,"...

Gardeners' World Web User 18/03/2011 at 22:46

In the war dandelion root was dried and ground to make "coffee". Wild garlic is great but the secret of enjoying all salad weeds is to catch them young and tender to avoid bitterness.

Gardeners' World Web User 18/03/2011 at 23:59

When I weed my veg plot I always throw the weeds into my chicken run. The hens love them and often eat the roots as well. Weeds converted into eggs!

Gardeners' World Web User 19/03/2011 at 19:40

Nettle soup is superb, very healthy but use only the tender little leaves at the top of the plant, so you need a fairly big patch to collect enough

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