Healthy Edible Weeds: Which Weeds Are Safe and Healthy to Eat?

Nature provides us with many healthy food choices, but some of the healthiest are just plain old weeds. Find out which ones you can enjoy.

Purselane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane, a member of the Portulacaceae family has grown wild in my garden for years. It grows on a straight smooth looking reddish brown stem and has fleshy leaves that grow at the joins and ends of the stems. I always referred to it as “The Rubber Tree Weed” and left it alone to grow because it was pretty and didn’t strangle my vegetable plants or make the garden look “weedy.”

Plantain (Plantago major)

Plantain is another weed that I have had an abundance of for all of the years that I have owned my home. Unlike the Purslane, I did not find it pretty or of any good use for that matter. That is until my mother-in law came over as I was doing my best to pull a four foot long Plantain root from the ground in my side yard.

She asked what I was doing and when I told her that I was trying to eliminate it , she looked at me as though I had lost my mind. After she hastily grabbed the weed popper from my hands, she began reciting a long list of the good ways that I could use this weed.

The dried leaves of the Plantain make a nice tea, and the young leaves can be used in a salad instead of spinach leaves  (slightly bitter but still tasty). It is also used for many medicinal purposes.

Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album)

High in potassium, protein, vitamin A, calcium, and phosphorus, the young leaves of Lambs Quarters are a nice addition to any salad or can be cooked as a replacement for spinach.

Cattails (Typha)

When I was young, Cattails were a treasure to find when my brothers and I went hiking. We brought them home and mom would put them in large jars for display. There they would sit until they began to fall apart into cottony fibers.

Cattails are more than just decorative though; they have many edible parts. Cattails have underground, lateral stems that are quite tasty when harvested at the right time. When the  spike is developing in early summer, it can be broken off and eaten like corn on the cob. In mid-summer, when the flowers have matured, the pollen can be collected and used as a flour supplement to thicken soups stews etc…

Dandelion ( Taraxacum )

Probably the weed  most hated by all gardeners, the lowly Dandelion is also a great source of vitamins and minerals. Not only do they provide a good source of Calcium, but they are rich in vitamins K, C and A. The leaves of the Dandelion can be used in salads, braised, boiled or steamed as you would spinach or chard.

Dandelion flowers also make a nice syrup. When my children were young my mother-in-law used to have my children pick every Dandelion that they could find so that she could make “Dandy Syrup” for them. She recently passed without giving me the complete recipe, but I found one that sounds pretty close to what she told me here.