Intro to edible weeds
If you want to make gardening as easy as possible for yourself you will need to adjust your eating habits. Eating what grows easily in your area instead of what you’re familiar with because it’s in every supermarket all year round. Hmmm, that’s a change we would collectively do well to embrace. Bit by bit. We’ve had a few generations of standardised convenience-eating but pre WW2 and supermarkets, this approach was normal.
The easiest plants of all to grow are weeds. As you know, they do a great job of growing themselves. There are an abundance of edible weeds and wild growing plants to get to know. Some are tastier, more common and more useful than others. Just like with supermarket greens, some make a main portion and others are best used as herbs or to add variety to a salad.
In your backyard you most likely have dandelion, hawkbit, cat’s ear/flatweed, thistles and chickweed. Each of these can be used as a main vegetable.
Dandelion (taraxacum officinale), hawkbit (leontodon taraxacoides), cat’s ear/flatweed (hypochaeris radicata), and hawksbeard (crepis capillaris). The good news is that each of these are mistaken for dandelion and you don’t need to be able to identify which one is which as they are all edible. True dandelion is highly nutritious but the others are also good for you too! No need to get hung up on it. They will be more bitter than you are probably used to. The fleshier leaved ones (ie not thin and papery) can be simmered for 15 mins to remove the bitterness. Remarkable they hold their shape and make a great substitute for cooked spinach.
Thistles. The most versatile and common thistle is sow thistle (sonchus oleraceus) which is sometimes confusingly also called milk thistle along with another thistle!!. This is the soft leaved thistle. Throw the leaves in stews, casseroles, stirfrys. It doesn’t have much flavour. It’s just an inoffensive green. The stalk can be peeled and used like asparagus. If you have Scottish ancestors, thistle was a staple in the time before potatoes were introduced to Scotland in the 1600’s.
Chickweed (stellaria media). It’s tasty season is almost over. This is a cool season green that’s best eaten before it starts flowering. It’s still perfectly edible after flowering, just stringy-er and so not as nice. Chickweed has a lovely nutty flavour fresh and makes a good addition to patties, stews, casseroles and salads.
This is just a tiny taster to a whole world of local edible wild plants. If you’re interested in more, follow my new art / book project Eat Your Weeds – common edible weeds & useful wild plants in the Bellingen area
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