Weed Salad

I have been reading Violet's incredibly detailed and information-rich herbal blog. Her most recent post is about the virtues of the common garden weed. I had never heard of chickweed, but on looking it up, discovered it has grown in just about every garden I have lived in. Lo and behold, there is a patch, flowering madly, just outside my front door.

This week I have been adding chickweed and dandelion greens, and violet and nasturtium leaves to my salads. I feel virtuous, de-toxed and bursting with green goodness.

If you are growing broad beans right now, which I will be this time next year, the new leaves are also a very good and tasty addition to salads, or just for chewing on thoughtfully as you stand in the sunshine, planning your Spring garden. Also delicious are the new leaves on pea vines. I love to discover new ways to eat the food I grow, and to discover that I can eat weeds as well is just a wonderful gift. Free food! Of course, weeds have a venerable tradition in both food and medicine. I remember reading a French travel book where the author turned up to the town market expecting stalls full of delicious vegetables, only to find piles of wilting green leaves - it was the weekly weed market. Spring is prime time for harvesting weeds. Because they have not been extensively bred they are often quite bitter, and they bolt to seed quickly, so picking their tender new Spring leaves and flowers gives the most delicate flavour, and will keep them producing new leaves for longer. But also, because they haven't been bred for sweetness like much modern fruit and veg, they are much better for us - that slight bitterness will detox our over-burdened livers like nobody's business.

I will need to weed the plot right outside my front door soon. It is being choked with some kind of virulent and inedible large-leafed decorative garden plant which I plan to destroy without mercy. However I will keep that patch of rather tasty chickweed..

Maybe I can start a weed garden..

I already have a weed garden, of course, but maybe if I locate all the weeds together in one place it will look intentional:)


Unknown said…
I have read a few posts now about using weeds and you have made it sound the most 'appetising'. I think I need to look into this a bit more as I am sure the weeds will be abundantly upon me now that spring has sprung! Thanks
Jo said…
Clarissa, my thoughts are - if you can't beat them, join them. Pretend the weeds were what you were planning to grow all along!
SLClaire said…
Hi Jo,

You might enjoy the book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair. I bought it last winter and even though I found some aspects of it irritating, not least the author's relentless and to my mind misplaced optimism, I found enough of value in it to feel comfortable recommending it to you and others. I made purslane pickles more or less according to the recipe in the book and liked them very much. And the local knotweed leaves turned out to taste better than I expected.

Jo said…
Claire, thanks so much for that recommendation. I have a weed identification book, which lets me know which are edible, which I borrowed from a friend. Every time I take the dog for a walk we go weed hunting. Purslane pickles sound extraordinary! I have heard of purslane - old novels maybe? But have no idea what it even looks like. Google will help me there. The possibilities of found food are so intriguing. I am treating the weeds more as an occasional garnish rather than an actual food source. But it is good to know it is there.
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Chickweed is meant to be a super food - whatever that means and it grows readily from seed and any root left in the ground. It took over one of my raised garden beds recently, but I fed most of it to the - chickens... Thus the name, although to be totally honest, I did have to look it up in the Encyclopedia of Herbs. You can amaze people by telling them that the medieval Latin translation of the name means: Hen's bite.

I reckon the other plant may be some form of violet or perhaps even aluminium plant (look for the white in the leaves).


Jo said…
Chris, lacking chickens, I have to eat the chicken food myself. It is quite tasty, mild and a pleasant addition to the salads I throw together for lunch, which contain practically everything I can find from the garden and fridge.

The other plant is, indeed, a violet. I have been eating the new green leaves in my salads. It is growing madly in the garden here in a very weedy fashion, so I included it in my weed salad:)
Anonymous said…
You're going from strength to strength in your live locally and eat home grown. Soon you'll have no use for cash!!!

If you find a recipe or use for Tradescantia fluminensis (wandering jew) let me know. It is the healthiest plant in my garden.
Jo said…
Lucinda, ha, I have pulled out my fair share of wandering jew in my time. It is brilliant for colonising areas of dry shade though. So let's celebrate its usefulness in growing where nothing else will:)

OK, so I just looked it up, and apparently it is edible:


Who would have guessed? I guess everything that is not actually poisonous is edible. But have a look at its edibility rating - 1 out of 5. Still, have a nibble and let me know:)
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

I am with Chris that chickweed is a superfood. It is the first green thing that I can eat here in very early spring and, boy, do I go after it! It seems to have a bunch of medicinal qualities, too. I make a salve for wounds and sore spots out of it; great stuff. It is starting to show up again as we head into fall. I am so happy!

Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Chickweed is very tasty isn't it. Just for your interest, the reason I cleared that bed was because it had taken over and the steel round used for the raised bed has to be lifted as it has sunk over a few years.

Thanks for that about the violet as I had no idea that it was edible. There is so much to learn.


Jo said…
Pam, we manage to overwinter lots of greens in our mild climate, but seeing new leaves everywhere is a real joy! I would love to know how you make your chickweed salve, if you have a minute:)

Chris, I am liking the chickweed - mild and pleasant, unlike some very bitter spring greens! I am enjoying the new violet leaves, although I imagine the older leaves would be rather tough. The violet flowers are pretty in a salad as well. Plus, purple food - what's not to love?

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