Saturday, February 28, 2009

Weeds: The Ultimate Local Food

At the farmers market I once found myself buying dandelion greens. When I got home I compared them to the ones in my yard. Apart from being a little larger and healthier looking, there was no difference. With a little research I discovered that most dandelion greens found in the yard are edible, and that two other common weeds in my yard are also edible: purslane and broadleaf plantain.
Since we don’t use herbicides, we’ve been pretty ruthless pulling these weeds out by hand. (One of the most frequent tasks that I assign my kids as punishment is the “100 Weed Penalty” – and I need to see the roots, please!) This year I thought I might leave a small section of my yard a weed sanctuary – as if they need encouragement! -- and see what I can add to my salads. I suppose there’s no way to contain the seeds, but if I put send them to the corner near a fence the blow factor might not be too bad.

Speaking of local foods, check out this cool Local Foods Wheel – it’s available now for the San Francisco Bay and New York areas. As it rotates, the window highlights local foods that are available at different times of the year.

Here’s a list of some local foods that are available now or will become available in the New York area in the coming weeks.

Maple Syrup
Brussel sprouts
Winter Root Vegetables (in root cellar)
Abundant Variety of Eggs
Bluefish season begins
Bok Choy
Pea Greens
Spring Pasture Butter

I’m very eager to get some peas and spinach into the dirt outside, but we’re just beginning to thaw out. Soon, though. Very soon!

Note: Before eating any weeds, make sure that your weed is identified correctly, that you know what part of the weed is edible and whether it needs to be cooked. Make sure it is free from pet waste, salt or other snow melting compounds and herbicides. Wild Man Steve Brill is a great source of information and he's always giving tours around the New York area. Visit his site at


tina said...

I just love the 100 weed policy-let's see the roots please!

Karen said...

My grandfather used to eat miner's lettuce from the weeds that came up, I think. Plus lamb's quarters, or is that the same thing? He was a Depression-era guy. Hm, maybe we'll have to start looking at our weeds a little differently if the economy doesn't pick up soon... Dandelion roots can be roasted and ground to make coffee in a pinch, but it's pretty bitter. Another one from grandpa, I think! Probably better double check on any of these from me before you try. :)

Kitt said...

Weed sanctuary! I don't think they really need one. You find plenty to suit your needs just by weeding the yard in general.

Purslane's tasty, albeit rather tedious to clean and strip. I haven't tried to do lamb's quarters or dandelions yet. (I think miner's lettuce is yet another thing, Karen).

Joanne said...

Oh I laughed at your 100 weed punishment. At our old house, we had a lot of trees that always were dropping branches, twigs. Punishment for my kids there used to be to go out and pick up sticks! I've never eaten dandelion, is it good? How would you describe it - tender? sweet?

Anonymous said...

We call them "wild greens" and they are best eating in the early spring. Additionally, they are cleansing, which is good after the winter food!

JGH said...

Interesting about the dandelion coffee...I was wondering if chickory weed is the same plant that they use to make chickory coffee - I drank plenty of that when I lived in LA.

Kitt, glad to hear someone else has eaten purslane and lived to tell about it ;-)

Joanna - the stick pickup is another one! Now's the time of year, too, especially after all those wind storms a couple of weeks ago.

thanks, Anon - another benefit of eating wild.

Squirrel said...

broadleaf plantain -now that's some good eating!

also removes splinters (place a leaf on the splinter and secure with a band aid.)

Pat Leuchtman said...

We just had lunch with a Nyak native and had lots of fun looking through a book of old town photos. They are threatening to move back. Great post.

Anonymous said...

Yard weed salad sounds interesting. And wish I had thought of pulling weeds as a punishment. said...

I never thought to compare the dandelions to the farmers market variety. Very clever.

new york city garden said...

I went to the farmer's market once and a guy was selling a whole pile of different "weedy" looking plants. A lady said to me, after I asked him what they were called (he only knew in Spanish), "These plants grow all over the place where I'm from in Jamaica. I had to come all the way to America to buy them!"

new york city garden said...

Chickory, yes the root ground for coffee fillers.

There's lots of "weeds" we can eat. After all, they long ago associated with us and followed us around!