Weeds are often viewed as pests to be met with weed whackers and herbicides, but certified herbalist Lindsey Praksti of Compass Rose Herbals has other suggestions. While weeds may be a pest to a garden or yard, some have nutritious qualities and are worthy of joining your salad or stir fry.
Praksti suggests finding a friend who knows plants and having them show you what weeds around your neighborhood are suitable for snacking. If you don’t have an herbalist friend on hand, Praksti encourages using local public libraries to find guides to edible plants and plant identification.
“There’s a lot of great books for identification of plants to tell you what ones have a look alike or what ones you want to stay away from,” said Praksti.
Once you’re well-versed in what you’re looking for, here are some plants to keep in mind.
Plants Worthy of the Dinner Table:
Dandelion leaves are good for adding to salads, and dandelion flowers are ready to eat. The flavor is a little bitter, but the plant is high in potassium. Roast the roots to make coffee or serve the dandelion leaves cooked with bacon grease.
Violets and their leaves are high in vitamin C and can be incorporated into salads and can be used to make syrups, jellies and teas.
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioicia)
Wear gloves while gathering, as the formic acid in stinging nettle can irritate the skin. The stingers on these nettles fall out if you dry out the plant and can be softened by steaming too. The plant is very common to find in our area, and it’s worth gathering as it has a higher nutrient content than spinach.
While these apples are poisonous for most of the year, they are good for eating once the fruit turns yellow. Praksti recommends turning them into jelly, but cautions it requires a lot of mayapples because their seeds are always poisonous and must be removed.
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