By Sally Bishop
Medicinal and edible weeds?! But a weed is just a useless nuisance, right?
Well, a weed is simply a plant that's growing where you don't want it to. You might be surprised to learn that identifying weeds in your own yard can actually be beneficial.
There are three main ways these plants can be used:
Yup, identifying weeds can come in handy for everything from a dinner salad to a cough remedy! Below are some common medicinal and edible weeds you might find in your own area:
Ah, the poster child of unwanted plants, identifying these weeds is easy. Every time I see that commercial with the poor hobo dandelion plant wandering down the street, I want to invite him to my house. She makes up for her bad reputation by being the most versatile of edible weeds you'll ever find.
Lambsquarter, or wild spinach, is like free spinach, but more nutritious. Also called goosefoot (the leaves look like geese feet), fat hen or pigweed, its mild flavor make it well suited for just about anything. Lambsquarter has more vitamin A than spinach, and three times as much calcium.
Sounds like marshmallow, doesn't it? Well, the original marshmallow treat was made from the root of this plant. Boiled in water, it makes a (don't gross out) mucilaginous goo. Add beaten egg whites and sugar, and you have marshmallows.
Mallow is one of those brilliant weeds that resist eradication by snapping off at the base when tugged, so the root is ensured to grow another plant. Loosening the dirt around the plant with a shovel is the best way to get it up.
I had no idea what mullein was until a few years ago, when herbs and edible weeds really grabbed my attention. It's not a small weed, and is rather majestic to me.
Mullein has large, soft, fuzzy leaves, and stays close to the ground its first year. Being biannual, in its second year, it grows a flower stalk that can top 6 feet! The flowers seem to bloom randomly up and down the stalk, so that makes harvesting them interesting, but avoid the seeds, as some sources say they are toxic.
Nettles is the only weed on this list that I don't have in my yard, but I buy dried nettles and drink its infusion often. It's one of the most important nourishing herbs, as it contains many vitamins and minerals. They are often called "stinging nettle" because of a chemical on the hairs of the leaf, but once cooked or dried they no longer sting.
I was so excited when I first started identifying weeds such as plantain in my yard! The taste is quite acrid so, like mullein, it's not always included on the "edible weeds" list. It is safe to eat, however. Whatever chemical makes that acrid taste is also responsible for an amazing ability to heal the skin.
Violet is a plant I have a hard time calling a weed! It doesn't produce as prolifically as dandelions; it doesn't have thorns or spines; nor does it strangle other plants. It's such a small plant, and the spring flower so delicate, I admit to nurturing violets wherever I find them in my lawn.
Start identifying weeds in your area! Do you know their names? Poke around and you will surely find some medicines and other fun uses, for free, right in your back yard.
But remember: Before you eat or otherwise use any plant, be sure you have identified it correctly! The internet, your local extension office and the resources below can help you in safely identifying the truly medicinal and edible weeds.
Click on any of these Amazon books to learn more about medicinal and edible weeds:
Identifying your own edible weeds can be fun and beneficial. When you're ready for more fun and beneficial steps, check out the links below:
When you're ready for a few more steps:
Whatever step you take next, remember to have fun!
#1-174 For references on this or other pages, please visit environmental articles.
*Please read our disclaimer regarding all health opinions shared on this site,
as well as our advertising and affiliate disclosure.
*Any health-related topics shared on this site are solely the opinion of the author or guest author. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Sustainable Baby Steps is not a replacement for your own best judgment or a medical professional where indicated. Always consult your own opinion and/or your health care provider when making important health care choices. Read our entire disclaimer here.