Dictionary.com defines weeds as,
Our society is taught to pull weeds, stomp out weeds, or spray them with chemicals.
According to the definition above, a weed is a “valueless plant” that grows where it is “not wanted”. BUT, what if I told you that EVERY plant has value of some sort!! It is very possible and likely the plant is not valuable to you or it is growing in an area that you don’t want, but I challenge you to take a moment to readjust your thinking! In some cases, you should, by all means pull the stubborn, uninvited plants or stifle their growth with mulch. I fully admit I am not a fan of weeds taking over a garden or plot of land. BUT if you get to know the weeds that surround you, you may find nature has produced amazing plants, that grow wild, for YOUR benefit! Here in the midwest we have an abundance of sustainable and usable greenery that volunteers itself, wherever possible (albeit, sometimes in places we don’t appreciate). When managed and identified correctly, these weeds can be eaten, used medicinally, or sometimes aid in revealing soil quality or needs.
So, it is time to change your mentality of weeds! Here is some information to guide your weed-loving journey!
17 Edible Midwest Weeds
- The Dandelion greens can be used in salad or mixed in green smoothies.
- Roots can be used as a coffee substitute or in place of most root veggies in recipes. (Ever heard of Dandyblend?)
- Adorable yellow flowers can be added to flower crowns. 🙂
- The flower heads before they bloom can be boiled and are said to taste similar to asparagus!
- You can Eat purslane raw or add it to stir fry, soups, or stews. It is very high in omega 3, and you could munch on it at anytime of the day!
- You can eat both the greens and the little purple flowers it produces.
- And of course, like almost anything green it has an amazing list of nutrients, including, calcium, chromium, magnesium, vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus…etc…
- Similar to those above, you can eat Plantain, like a salad green. I like to use it the same way you would eat spinach.
- Medicinally, this amazing plant soothes bug bites, burns, rashes, and aids in healing wounds. (I have used this on more than a few bee stings and it takes the pain away, almost immediately.
5. Lamb’s Quarters.
- You can munch on Lamb’s Quarters fresh, straight from the ground. Think of using this plant just like spinach, as well.
- You can use chickweed, medicinally by making a ground poultice for minor cuts, burns, or rashes.
- This can also be made into a tea. (although, it is a mild diuretic, eating too much can cause diarrhea)
- You can eat both the greens and flowers, raw or cooked.
- According to Jayne Leonard, “This garden weed is a great source of vitamins A, D and C, as well as iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc!” If you don’t like the taste when eaten fresh, she suggests you can still reap the nutritional benefits, by hiding it in soups and stews.
- In addition, this amazing blog on Naturalivingideas.com, talks about how it can be used medicinally, as a topical treatment for minor cuts, burns, eczema and rashes. It’s also a mild diuretic and is said to relieve cystitis and irritable bladder symptoms.
- Eat raw or cooked, but tastes best when young and tender.
- These have anti-inflammatory benefits and can enhance cell renewal. As well as other health benefits when used for its herbal qualities, here.
8. Wild Amaranth (Pigweed)
- Young leaves in salads and seeds like store bought amaranth.
- And do I need to mention, it is green. Therefore, it is HIGHLY nutritious, especially high in Vitamin C and Omega 3s. 🙂
9. Curly Dock
- I found great descriptions of Curly dock (also called yellow dock) on this website, but I can honestly tell you, I have never eaten it, myself.
- Apparently, leaves can be eaten raw when young, or cooked when older, and added to salads or soups.
- A coffee substitute can be made by the mature seeds, when roasted. And the seeds can also be eaten raw or boiled and snacked on.
- The stems, when peeled, are also edible, yet, I can’t imagine why you’d want to eat the stems.
- Derek Markham, on treehugger.com, reminds us that, “Dock leaves are rather tart, and because of their high oxalic acid content, it’s often recommended to only eat them in moderation, as well as to change the water several times during cooking.”
- We all hate the little sticky parts of burdock, however, the plant stalks can be stripped of their rinds before the flowers open and can be boiled like a vegetable. Some have said they taste similar to asparagus.
- You can use sorrel like any other salad green.
- Oh and guess what?! It is full of nutrients. 🙂
- Flower crowns and daisy chains would be my go-to use for these, but apparently, there is more these little guys are good for!
- The greens and petals of this common garden flower can be eaten either raw or cooked, although some find the flavor a little bitter.
- And according to naturallivingideas.com, “Daisies have been brewed into a tea and used in traditional Austrian medicine for gastrointestinal and respiratory tract disorders. They also have anti-inflammatory properties.”
13. Stinging Nettle
- This is yet another popular medicinal and edible weed, although you’ll require gloves or thick skin when picking it!
- The leaves are said to help fight allergies and hay fever.
- It’s also used for urination problems and kidney stones, as it is a diuretic. It can also aid in receiving joint ailments.
- I love the nutrition information Jayne Leonard gives in her article about edible weeds, “Nettles are rich in vitamins A, B2, C, D, and K and have important nutrients like antioxidants, amino acids and chlorophyll. They’re also a good source of calcium, potassium, iodine, manganese, and especially iron.”
- You can blend nettle up into a green smoothie or try boiling it and adding it as a side dish or into a stir fry (like collard greens.) You can also make some delicious dips, teas, soups and even pesto out of this amazing little plant!
14. Creeping Charlie
- Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. While the leaves have a mild bitter flavor they can be added to a mix of greens to add a little bite or tang. Like many mentioned above, they can also be cooked like spinach, added to soups, stews, or an omelet.
- Leaves can be dried to create a tea.
- More information on creeping charlie can be found here.
15. Wild Garlic
- This plant looks similar to normal garlic, but has delicate white flowers and thin shoots. It can be used anywhere one would use garlic, green onions or chives.
- Of course the nutritional value of this wild plant is also fantastic, as it has the same antibacterial, antibiotic, antiseptic and anti fungal properties as the garlic one would buy in the grocery store. In addition, according to this article by Joanna Blythman, wild garlic, more than any other variety, has been shown to have the greatest ability to lower blood pressure.
- Chicory usually has a little blue flower and is found growing wild along the roadside.
- It has a somewhat bitter taste, but can be used in tea or cooking.
- On Webmd.com Chicory is touted for its medicinal benefits. Apparently Chicory is well known for its toxicity to internal parasites and is good for the liver and gall bladder. It can also be used in other ways, such as calming an upset stomach, stimulating appetite or relieving constipation.
- As a cooking tip: If you try boiling the leaves before sautéing or adding to dishes. This process can remove some of the bitterness. Roots can be baked, ground, and added to tea or other hot drinks.
- Roots have sometimes been ground and used as a coffee substitute.
17. Queen Anne’s Lace or Wild Carrot
- contains beta-carotene and other properties that are used to treat bladder and kidney conditions.
- Sharp and strong carrot-like/vegetable root.
- While it is edible, and nutritious it is not considered very tasty.
[Special Note: This is not meant to be taken as sufficient information to build a weed-filled diet. This should not act as a certified field guide, but another source to help inspire your interest for discerning weeds. Before you ever eat anything, be sure that you’ve positively identified it as an edible plant, and know how to prepare it. If you are unsure, don’t risk it. In addition, unless you know for sure how a plant or plot of land has been treated, sprayed, or used by local wildlife, avoid plants that grow outside your yard or on public property.]
Overall, I hope you are able to gain a little insight as to all of the amazing, volunteer plants that surround you! Instead of totally compartmentalizing “weeds” into a category of uselessness, try researching their place and potential for good. If they are growing in unwanted areas, see if there are some areas you could allow them to take up residence. Understanding the plants and wildlife around us can only provide benefits for our education and health! If you are interested in more information, you can consult various websites here or here, or contact a professional. Enjoy your backyard foraging missions. 🙂