My friend on Facebook lamented one Saturday that she had hours of weeding ahead of her and feared for her poor back. “Eat your weeds,” I wrote back, “don’t kill them!” I got a “lol” in return. But I was serious.
Here’s the thing: a weed is merely a plant that grows where it is not wanted.
You may be envisioning your yard as an endless, sparkling green lawn. And, dandelions not to mention the rest of their pesky weed friends, might look an awful lot like dreaded blemishes requiring hours of hard work and toxic chemicals to eradicate.
But what if you saw your yard differently? What if you saw those pesky weeds as food? What if you rejoiced with happiness at the existence of such hardy and abundant plants that required absolutely zero maintenance? It might seem pretty close to a miracle.
Okay, okay. Perhaps miracle is pushing it. But stick with me. I wasn’t always such an enthusiastic lover of weeds.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to join a Wilderness Survival seminar lead by wild food expert Vickie Shufer at our local state park. A group of us followed Vickie on a hike through the woods and sampled and nibbled as instructed while she pointed at trees, wildflowers and yes, weeds.
It was there I learned that many of the plants found growing naturally in the ground (as opposed those cultivated in a garden or farm) are rich in vitamins and other nutrients lacking in traditional food. And, many of them can be found right under your feet right where you live.
“You can use onion grass in your kitchen in a pinch. It doesn’t have the same punch as regular onions but it can hold its own.” I had several patches of wild onion growing right outside my front door. Suddenly I felt quite fortunate I hadn’t gotten around to weeding there yet.
Dandelions? You can eat those too. The roots are best in winter either brewed for a beverage or chopped up for soup and the dandelion greens are more tender and mild come spring. But when the flowers are in bloom you can harvest them for Dandelion Fritters. (I’ve shared our family recipe below, which is based on what Vickie Shufer had us gather and prepare as part of our meal).
Once I realized that there were wild edible plants growing right in my own back yard I was hooked. What else was growing in my yard that I could eat?
I teamed up with a friend and Master Gardener, Sylvia Hudson, and the two of us toured a local farm, Biota, where Steve Hickman and his family make it a point to live harmoniously with nature. Steve is a big believer in sustainability which includes eating what naturally grows around their homestead.
He was unstoppable in sharing his experience and knowledge with us. Eventually, I gave up taking notes and gave in to just experiencing the sights, smells, textures, and tastes of the plants he showed us.
There are a whole host of other edibles commonly available in Summer:
- Evening Primrose
- Lamb’s Quarters
- Plantain, also good for bee stings
- Sheep Sorrel
- Wild strawberries, often referred to as Alpine strawberries
Now when I walk out my door and look around I see plentiful nourishment everywhere.
Just last night I was making frittatas and didn’t have the green onions called for in the recipe. Where I might have raced to the pantry hoping to find a lone yellow onion or resorting to my dried minced onion while begrudging my absentmindedness, I instead went outside and pulled up some of my wild onion grass. Simple. Easy. Right there.
Hard to treat those free and abundant sources of food as a disgraceful nuisance now that I’ve sampled so much goodness from my yard. Try it for yourself.
Who knows? You may just find that you like what you see.
- Dandelion flowers (petals pinched off at stem, optional)
- Cornbread mix
- 2 small eggs
- Chopped shallots or wild onions
- Plain yogurt
- ½ Cup grated cheese
- Boiling water
- Maple syrup
First, you will want to pinch off the green base from the petals (not a necessity—it’s all edible—just a texture preference).
Next mix together some of the cornbread mix, eggs (I use about two small ones, depending on how many flowers we have gathered), chopped shallots (or use your wild onions growing in your grass), yogurt, cheese and dandelion petals.
Add enough boiling water to make a thick pancake-like batter (add more cornbread mix to thicken or more water to thin as necessary).
Enjoy with a bit of maple syrup if you wish…or eat plain.
Delish! Best of all you’ll look at your yellow dotted lawn with new eyes.
A gentle reminder, please only eat dandelions or any other wild edibles from an area that you know has not been chemically treated and is away from the roadway. Plants, much like children, absorb everything around them.
Many plants are toxic so always be sure you can identify it correctly before you eat anything. For more information on wild edibles please consider these resources:
The Everything Guide to Foraging by Vickie Shufer
The Wild, Wild Cookbook by Jean Craighead George
The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer