You are what you eat header image 2

Weeds are the stuff food is made from

April 19th, 2008 · 5 Comments · Environment, Food selection

(Note for feed subscribers: This corrects title of Nabhan and Kindscher’s paper.)

I need to know more about weeds. All stars are pointing that direction.

First, there were Ed‘s and Jennifer‘s blog posts about their foraging for food. Then, I looked into what Gary Nabhan is all about in advance of his upcoming talk Tuesday at KU, “Geography of Food Endangerment,” and came across “Renewing the Native Food Traditions of Bison Nation: A Manifesto by Gary Nabhan and Kelly Kindscher [PDF] on behalf of the Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT) Consortium, 2006.” The manifesto talks, among other things, about plants native to the prairie that once were mainstays of the native people’s diets.

And, last, I entered my yard today, drawn by the sun that finally decided to shine on these parts. And there, there among my nascent relatively domesticated perennials (I’ve begun to wonder whether the purple coneflower has gone wild), are the weeds. I wondered, should I be eating them?

Actually, I wondered whether I would enjoy eating them, assuming they’re edible. How would I know? My plant-identification skills are decidedly limited. I suppose I could try my sturdy dandelions, which have 1/2-inch taproots that I attempt annually to dig up.

Dandelion leaves

Would I like clover?


What about violets? I’ve never tried their flowers, but I suppose I could.

violet leaves

What I’d like to know about, though, are all these mystery weeds (can you tell I don’t use herbicides?):

mystery weed

“creeping charlie”? clump of unknown weed

Are they edible? Good for something besides making my neighbors shake their heads? I’d love to have an edible Old West Lawrence tour and find out.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Scott

    I’ve had dandelion greens and they are quite good as long as you use the smaller ones. I get mine at the health food store, not for the lack of dandelions in my yard, but because the dogs roam around and do the things dogs do in yards. Yuck.

  • Janet Majure

    That’s what I hear, Scott. I seem to be able to keep my small dandelions at bay, and I also have that dog thing going on. Meanwhile, what I really wish is that someone would tell me I can eat—and perhaps eradicate—the doggone trumpet vine and Virginia creeper.

  • Jennifer (Baklava Queen)

    Looks like the second of your mystery “weeds” might be ground ivy, which is apparently edible but I’ve not really been tempted to try it. I’ve been thumbing through my copy of “Wildman” Steve Brill’s book on edible wild plants (don’t know exact title but you can find it easily) as I wander around the farm… now I have May apples and bramble berries and violets and shepherd’s purse to look forward to, too!

    Apparently on dandelions, the roots are better dug up in fall… more flavor… and can be roasted and ground for a coffee substitute. Now that I’ll have to try!

  • Joanne

    Your first unknown weed looks like Mache or lambs’ quarter to me, and that is definitely edible. Makes for some good eating in the winter mesclun mixes. I’d only know for sure if I took a taste. (no worries, the overwhelming majority of weeds are NOT toxic.)

    I made candied violets with my husband one spring when we were first dating. They were delicious…and picking the violets kept him busy for hours!

    Dandelion greens are especially good when made into a salad with a “hot dressing.” Fry up some bits of sausage with a little olive oil. When they are nice and warm and crispy, shut off the heat, add a bit of cider vinegar to the mixture, and dump on your (slightly bitter) spring greens with (optional) green onions. Some people add mustard or maple syrup/honey to this equation. Especially good with a big hunk of corn bread to sop up the juices….

  • Janet Majure

    Oh, Jennifer & Joanne! You are such good motivators! I may just eat some so as to report back here. Love to live dangerously, although, having seen Into the Wild, I’m a tad nervous. Whatever the first unknown weed is, I swear I’ve never seen it before, but I have about a dozen little plants all in a small area. Hmmm.