Even in the modern world, it’s possible to find and forage wild greens that are not just edible, but tasty and highly useful as well.
“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”
A. A. Milne
Making use of weeds
We often hear people complaining about their problems with 'weeds'. But really, a weed is just a plant that is particularly well adapted to the growing conditions where you live. You might not have planted them and they may sometimes spread like wildfire, but that does not mean that weeds are not useful. By working with nature rather than fighting it, we can create abundant and productive growing areas and thriving sustainable communities. Making use of weeds is just one part of the picture and is a great step forward on the way to a better lifestyle.
We need an attitude adjustment when it comes to how we think about weeds. Weeds can be an incredibly valuable resource. Unlike grass lawns, weedy patches are biodiverse, useful and even provide a source of easily obtained and abundant food.
Easily recognized weeds
For the preparation of useful and tasty vitamin salads, you can use both the leaves of young stinging nettles and leaves of wild garlic, quinoa and dandelion, sorrel, as well as young leaves of burdock, cattail and other plants.
One of the most easily recognizable weeds is the dandelion. All too often, people spend a fortune and pollute the environment in a misguided attempt to remove these useful plants from their lawns. Dandelions are bitter, though young leaves can still be a great addition to mixed salads or for use in stir-fries. The flowers can also be eaten –dandelion fritters are one option. In addition, dandelion roots can also be eaten in root vegetable recipes or roasted as a coffee substitute.
Nasturtium is highly nutritious and delicious. The leaves and flowers can both be used in mixed salads for a slightly peppery and spicy taste and the seeds can be pickled and used as a substitute for capers in various different recipes.
Prickly lettuce is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It can be used in salads, though it does have a slightly bitter taste and so is best used in a mixed leaf salad. The younger the plant, the less bitter it will be and the better it will be for use in salads. Towards flowering, the plant begins to produce a mild narcotic which has a slight soporific effect. Young stems can also be used as an alternative to asparagus.
Broadleaf Plantain, not to be confused with the tropical fruit, can also be used as a delicious alternative to better known edible greens such as spinach or brassicas. It is native to most of Europe and to northern and central Asia. It was introduced to North America, likely by European settlers. Similarly, to dock leaves, plantain can be used to relieve skin irritation and is often used as a poultice on small wounds or bites.
Teas and desserts
Valuable wild grasses can also be used for the preparation of various teas, very fragrant, with medicinal properties. Components of such excellent drinks can be a root of a sedge cane, barberry, as well as tansy- a plant of the daisy family with yellow flat-topped button-like flowers. And, of course, edible forest berries become a wonderful ingredient of a health-giving tea. In addition, you can prepare delicious desserts from wild berries: for example, jam, comfiture or compote. There is no doubt that everyone will agree to try a delicious dessert made of wild strawberries or cloudberries, cranberries or wild raspberries.
Some basic advice
When using wild herbs as medicines or when adding them to a variety of dishes, one should adhere to certain rules of their processing. It is always necessary to take into account the fact that valuable vitamins are destroyed during prolonged cooking. For this reason, during the preparation of dishes, well-washed and purified herbs should be added only at the very end of the cooking process. The weed’s useful qualities are preserved best when cooked in a steamer. Also, if you want to include vitamin dishes with forest herbs in your diet, you need to remember that dishes should be eaten immediately after their preparation. It is not recommended to cook and store wild herbs in iron or copper vessels, as these metals have a harmful effect on the useful components of plants. Useful greenery, rich in vitamins and microelements, is a great way to improve your body by feeding it with substances that are very necessary after a long winter period.
Many of the edible weeds above offer alternative sources of greens for salads, stir-fries and a variety of cooked recipes. Often, you can use the weed greens in much the same way that you would use traditional spinach. This has given rise to the use of the word 'spinach' as a verb in foraging circles. To spinach - is to wilt down any similar greens for use in your kitchen. Wilting down edible greens of all sorts is the first step in a wide range of different recipes. Start with something simple, but so tasty!
Combine some garlic, a pinch of salt, and sugar. Add lemon juice. Stir well. Sprinkle with olive oil. Place dandelion greens in a bowl. Sprinkle dressing over and toss well. Bon appetite!