WHAT IS A WEED?
The word “weed” can carry a negative connotation and the definition of weed is “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.”
But a weed is just a plant growing in the 'wrong' place.
Before humans farmed and cultivated the land there was no such concept of weeds. All plants were growing where it suited them best to grow.
Many of today’s weeds are plants that were widely harvested, cultivated and used by our ancestors.
In learning to identify weeds we can not only access a free source of food but we learn to appreciate the diversity and hardiness of these much-maligned plants.
When harvesting weeds, it’s important to be 100% certain of the identity. There are some plants that look similar but are not edible, even poisonous.
Pick the young and tender leaves.
Harvest in a clean environment. Along roadsides plants are exposed to pollutants from traffic and may be sprayed with herbicides by the council
Picks greens before the plant flowers, the leaves can be tougher and more bitter after the plant flowers.
TWO COMMON WEEDS
Dandelion- Taraxacum officinale
Rosette with sharply pointed, deeply serrated leaves, milky sap and flower stem only has one flower.
The whole plant can be eaten, roots, leaves and flowers. It is very nutritious and a highly-valued healing herb.
The leaves contain more calcium and iron than spinach and more beta-carotene than carrots.
To harvest leaves for eating choose small leaves before the plant flowers.
Flowers can be used in herbal teas and for making dandelion wine.
The roots can be eaten as any other root vegetable or dried and used as a coffee substitute.
Chickweed- Stellaria media
Look for a row of tiny hairs along stem that alternates sides between leaf nodes and star-shaped white flowers.
Chickweed can be eaten raw or cooked. It is one of the more palatable weeds, tasting a bit like English spinach and is high in iron, protein, vitamin A and C.
Eat leaves, stems and flowers.
Medicinally a soothing herb.