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Edible Weeds, Part 2

This is the second part in our series on edible weeds. Many so-called weeds are highly nutritious.

Common Pigweed

What Parts are Edible? Young Leaves, seeds.

How do I Prepare Them? Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, sautéed, etc. Pigweed has a mild flavour and is often mixed with stronger flavoured leaves. Fresh or dried pigweed leaves can be used to make tea. The seed is very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious. The flavour is greatly improved by roasting the seed before grinding it. Pigweed seed can be ground into a powder and used as a cereal substitute, it can also be sprouted and added to salads. The seed is very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious.

Nutritional Value? Contains oxalates (like spinach & strawberries) so if you have kidney stones you might want to avoid this one. Related to Amaranth ( a common grain). A cup of boiled pigweed contains only about 28 calories, but the cupful is so high in Vitamins A and C that it would furnish a person with 73% of the daily allowance of vitamin A and 90% of the RDA of vitamin C. The plant is also very high in Manganese, Calcium, and is high in Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc and Copper. Additionally, it contains 1.3 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids, but only a tenth of a gram of fat. If the pigweed is eaten raw, the vitamins and minerals would be in higher amounts.

When do they bloom? Late summer.

How do they Spread? By seed. 100,000–600,000 seeds per plant.

The best way to get rid of them? Tough to pull because they break off at ground level but this one is an annual so cut them off before blooming because they may still produce seeds when dead on the ground. Mulching discourages seed germination but turning soil encourages it. Slow-release sources of nutrients, such as well-ripened compost, are less likely to stimulate pigweed growth by releasing large amounts of nitrate or soluble phosphorus into the soil than faster-release sources like manure or blood meal.

Interesting Fact? Redroot pigweed needs warm soil for seeds to germinate, so it often pops up after seeding commercial crops. Seeds remain viable for up to 40 years when buried in the soil and are commonly spread with aged manure (they don’t die in digestion). Like cactus, Pigweeds have the C4 photosynthetic pathway, which gives them an ability to grow and develop rapidly in high temperatures and light conditions.

Common Groundsel

Not really. But used for medicine

What Parts are Edible? Leaves and stems.

How do I Prepare Them? Used in poultice for gout.

Nutritional Value? Rabbits love it but be careful as this one could be poisonous.

When do they bloom? They are spring annuals but they reseed up to 3 times per year.

How do they Spread? By seed. About 2,000 seeds are produced per plant or 2.2 Million seeds in a pound!

The best way to get rid of them? Simple to pull.

Interesting Fact. Senecio vulgaris seed have been used as canary seed. They have also been found in the droppings of sparrows, and seedlings have been raised from the excreta of various birds. Seed has
also been found in cow manure even though this plant is thought to be poisonous to cattle.


What Parts are Edible? Leaves, stem and flowers and possibly seeds if you let them go that long.

How Do I Prepare Them? Best eaten raw in a salad or on their own

Nutritional Value? In just 100 grams you will get 232% of your daily nutritional value of Vitamin A and 133% of Vitamin C. Also high in Calcium, iron (more iron that in spinach!), B6 and Magnesium. It is a great source of dietary fibre and trace elements.

When do They Bloom? They are a quick growing annual so can bloom by June but different plants will bloom at different times and it is possible to find it in bloom all summer. Leaves are better tasting and bigger before they bloom.

How do they Spread? By seed

The Best Way to get rid of Them? Pull them. They are easy to dig out using a weeding tool whether they are big or small.

Interesting fact. Spinach-like in taste and texture. They look dusty from a distance, this feature will help you to identify them. There are natural saponins in the leaves which can make you feel slightly nauseous if you eat too many, so limit yourself! When I (Donna) grew the closely related Quinoa from seed, the young leaves looked exactly like lamb’s quarters so I was sure I had the wrong seed. In fact they are both in the same family and I later learned that many people eat the Quinoa leaves when the plants are young instead of waiting for them to go to seed.

Pineapple Weed

What Parts are Edible? The leaves and flowers.

How Do I Prepare Them? Add the yellow bloom to a pot of hot water and enjoy as a summer tea. The leaf (before blooming) can be added to a salad if you don’t mind the taste.

Nutritional Value? This plant has medicinal value to help with gastrointestinal upset, infected sores, fevers and postpartum anemia.

When do They Bloom? Early spring/summer

How do they Spread? By seed. They thrive in dry corners and cracks in the pavement.

The Best Way to get rid of Them? Pull them up by hand.. If your soil is full of organic matter and not too compact there is little chance of pineapple weed growing, as it thrives in depleted, hard-packed conditions, such as driveways.

Interesting fact? The bloom tastes/smells a lot like pineapple and are available in every cement crack in town, as they thrive in compacted soil!

Stinging Nettle

What Parts are Edible? Leaves and flowers

How Do I Prepare Them? Make into a tea, or steam and cook it similar to spinach, or added to soups/stews as a healthy addition.

Nutritional Value? Extremely high in dietary Fibre (28%), Vitamin A (40%) and Calcium (48% of the recommended daily values). Also high in Magnesium and Iron.

When do They Bloom? Late summer

How do they Spread? By seed and by root because they are perennial and come back in same patch every year.

The Best Way to get rid of Them? Hand pull as they come out easily (no tool required but wear gloves)

Interesting fact? If your bare skin brushes up against it you will feel a prickly/stinging feeling, so wear your garden gloves to harvest it! Amazingly, despite this fact, stinging nettle is most well known as a natural allergy relief remedy. Nettle is also used as an anti-inflammatory, good for bone health, respiratory issues and heart health among many other studied benefits.

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Edible Weeds, Part One:

Weeds can be the bane of gardeners, especially if you don’t know how to control them.

Many weeds are edible. In faction one of the most scorned weeds, the dandelion, was imported to North America by European settlers as a food source.  You can eat all parts of it.

Some of the most common edible weeds include:

Canadian Thistle

Edible? Yes, steaming and blending into a pesto is recommended

What Parts are Edible? Leaves, roots

How to Prepare them? They are best steamed and blended up to make a pesto or creamed soup.

Nutritional Value? Good for the liver and bladder, decreases levels of cholesterol, improves digestion, many minerals (potassium, phosphorus, manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, etc)12.8% protein.

When do they Bloom? The purple flower blooms mid to late summer.

How do they Spread? By seed and root

The best way to get rid of them? Goats! Goats love this thistle and will eat them happily. The city of Calgary had a goat herd providing exactly this service last summer, they will be back again for 2 more years to ensure the demise of the thistle and other weeds.


(Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita) and Scentless chamomile (Matricaria Maritima)

What Parts are Edible? Flowers

How Do I Prepare Them? Make into a tea Nutritional Value? There are so many studied health benefits for chamomile tea (however we can’t attribute all the benefits to the scentless type seen as a weed.) The herbal (Matricaria recutita)  is great for skin (acne, scrapes, rashes, cleaning), it can prevent dandruff and enrich your hair colour, soothe cramps and muscle spasms, boost your immunity and help to maintain glucose levels in the body. Best of all it helps promote sleep after a big day in the garden!

When do They Bloom? Mid to late summer if grown as an annual from seed. Earlier for the perennial weed forms of related plants.

How do they Spread? By seed. Some varieties are perennial while others are annuals.

The Best Way to get rid of Them? Hand dig or pull. The root releases easily when pulled by the stem.

Interesting fact? Scentless Chamomile produces 300,000 seeds per year per plant and is  considered noxious in Calgary. A noxious weed means that it overtakes natural habitats therefore killing off native species. Noxious weeds are illegal to have in your garden and you can be fined by the city if someone complains!

Problem: The flowers of scentless camomile are almost identical to single-blooming Shasta daisies and Oxeye daisies so please do not encourage these commonly seen (broader leaved) daisies, as they are noxious and therefore illegal. The medicinally used chamomile have ferny leaves (very finely cut) and are annuals. Richters seed catalogue (given in first week) has a reliable source of the tea chamomile so buy that if you want to try it and compare it to anything you are seeing in your garden.


What Parts are Edible? Leaves, stems (but they are hairy).

How do I prepare them? Best eaten raw in a salad.

Nutritional Value? Rich in iron, potassium, vitamins A, D, B, C

When do they bloom? Their small white flowers bloom throughout the summer

How do they spread? Root and seed. In fact any time you break a chickweed plant each part of it can resort. Pull out entire plant root and all and never turn the soil. The seeds need light to germinate so when you turn soil you turn up new seeds they will sprout (even after 50+ years.)

The Best Way to get Rid of Them? Carefully hand dig them before they bloom in spring. Make sure to spread mulch on soil surface instead of turning soil.


What Parts are Edible? Roots, stems and flowers

How Do I Prepare Them? Eat them raw; added to a salad, soup or omelet. The blossoms make any dish look more beautiful.

Nutritional Value? Just 100 grams of chives provides you with 98% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C, 177% of Vitamin K, 145% of Vitamin A and high in Folates, iron, magnesium, Manganese and phosphorus.

When do They Bloom? From early spring to late summer.

How do they Spread? By seed.

The Best Way to get rid of Them? “Dead-head” them to avoid them spreading. This mean cutting off their flowers as soon as they are done blooming. Dig them with a shovel. Their shallow roots really anchor into the ground, so you may need to really exert some muscle!

Interesting facts? Chives help ease digestive discomfort, boosts the immune system, help to detoxify the body and are extremely useful as a pollinator plant, as they bloom all season long!


What Parts are Edible? Leaves and flowers.

How Do I Prepare Them? Leaves are tastier if boiled (not considered a “choice” food, but rather a “survival” food). The blooms are tasty though, and the bees love them too! Blooms can be pan fried until crisp, or made into a tea.

Nutritional Value? High in protein (as they are part of the pea family), beta carotene, Vitamins C and B.

When do They Bloom? Mid-late Summer.

How do they Spread? By roots and stems that grow at ground level.

The Best Way to get rid of Them? Very difficult to dig with any success. I’d hire a goat/bunny to take care of it or try “lasagna gardening” as a way to get rid or large patches. It grows mainly where soils are deficient in nitrogen because there is an ecological niche. Enrich soils to limit their growth.

Interesting fact? Some people are allergic to it. Clover grows over the entire world and helps to fix nitrogen in the soil, as it has Nitrogen fixing nodules on its roots In fact it is often found in grass seed “mixes” and in pasture land for this purpose. Clover will essentially continually fertilize a lawn when it grows along side grass.


Parts are Edible? Roots, leaves and blossoms.

How do I Prepare Them? Roots can be harvested, dried, ground into a powder and used as a coffee substitute. Flowers can be used in wine making and leaves can be added to a salad or stir fry. Young plants are tastier, with older plants being more bitter. Donna has fried leaves in butter and added them to a salad and observed one thing: anything fried in butter is good! Cooked this way they would also make a nice decorative topping for vegetable soup.

Nutritional Value? Used to purify the blood, settle digestion. 100 grams gives you 535% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K, 112% of the daily minimum requirement of vitamin A, they are high in fibre, Vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium and manganese.

When do they bloom? Early spring- important for feeding honey and native bees in spring.

How do they Spread? By seed. The flowers will go to seed even after you have picked the flower, so dispose of the flower in the garbage immediately.

The best way to get rid of them? Hand dig deep using a knife, a digging weeder or a water weeder for the longest roots.

Interesting Fact? These were first brought over by European settlers as an early spring food source since they are almost always the first plant to grow and bloom come spring. Some sources say they are now endangered from over-collecting in their native habitat of Switzerland!

Part Two to come.

Chelsie Anderson, Garden Expert
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Grow Food Calgary Participant Blog

One of Grow Food Calgary’s new gardeners is blogging about her garden experiences.

“It’s been a busy first two weeks in our garden since our first Grow Food Calgary class on April 22. Since the class ended, I’ve created a small indoor garden area in front of two large west-facing windows in my kitchen where I’m nurturing two kale seedlings destined for transplant outdoors, experimenting with pea shoot and wheatgrass microgreens, and growing basil, cilantro and dill.

“My kids have 2 sunflower seedlings growing in the window sill which are destined for transplant outdoors, too”. Read here.

As Julie and her husband, Gideon move through the program they will share their victories and defeats.

We invite all participants to record their experiences with us, through a blog, pictures of your garden or a video of you demonstrating something you’ve learned about growing your own food.

Our May session covers water, weeds, and warm crops.

For tickets

The First 2 Weeks of Newbie Gardening

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Turning Garbage into Garden Gold


Chelsie Anderson, Garden Expert

Chelsie Anderson

Compost piles require four things; a source of Nitrogen, a source of Carbon, water and air.

Nitrogen (aka “greens”)

Nitrogen is found in anything that is green and/or wet. Think kitchen scraps, fresh cut weeds, fresh cut grass clippings and even human urine. Nitrogen is akin to stepping on the gas, as it speeds up the rate at which your compost pile decomposes.

Carbon (aka “browns)

Carbon is found in dry compostable items. Cardboard, newspaper, dry leaves, dry grass clipping and straw. This is important to keep your compost pile from becoming too wet and turning anaerobic.

When a pile turns anaerobic it smells bad, but so long as you have enough Carbon, then your pile will smell earthy and like the floor of a forest. Add more carbon than you think is necessary and always have bagged leaves available next to your pile so that you are able to add a handful after every addition of Nitrogen.


For a compost pile to decompose there must be a certain amount of moisture involved. Remember, food scraps are loaded with moisture so if you have a lot of food scraps you may not need to add any additional water.

Ideally, the contents of your pile should feel like a wrung out cloth; damp, but not soggy. You want to encourage the aerobic (oxygen dependant) microbes in your pile if you plan to use the end result on your food garden.


Air is essential for keeping your pile at the right temperature as well as at the right moisture level. You can achieve an air-filled pile by having holes in the sides, top and bottom of your bin, by adding sticks to your pile to provide spaces, or bulky items such as wood chips or cardboard chunks. Sticks, in all honesty, will drive you crazy when you try to turn your pile, but it is a thought for those who aren’t interested in turning the pile.

The best way to add air is to turn your pile, and to do so as frequently as possible. Monthly at minimum. Having a second or third compost pile will help with this as you can novel out the contents from one bin and as you are adding it to the next bin over you are actively turning the pile and can adjust the Carbon/Nitrogen ratios as you go.

My Speedibin Composter
Top Tips from a Compost Lifer:

Put your pile somewhere close to your house so that you don’t have to make any grand efforts at getting to it in the back alley, or at the far end of your veggie patch. If it is accessible, you will use it and maintain it more often. You will also be more motivated not to let it go anaerobic (stinky) if it is closer to your living space.

Chop everything to help speed up the process. The more surface area that is available, the more access the microbes will have to your scraps and the faster the pile will heat up and biodegrade. Consider buying a machete to keep next to your pile along with a tree stump to use as a chopping board. This can be very therapeutic, or a great job for a child with lots of energy!

Add some garden soil, and more than you think is necessary. Your native garden soil will have all kinds of beneficial microbes that will help to speed up your pile. If your soil is more or less dead, therefore not adding any new microbes, add it anyway. In Calgary we have high clay content and this clay helps to hold onto valuable minerals making your finished product more mineralized.

The more different items you can add to your pile the better. Try all kinds of different ingredients, and don’t be scared to try new things; egg cartons, sand from your child’s sand box, egg shells, coffee grounds, or your neighbour’s lawn clippings

Have fun with it and feel the thrill as you turn your garbage turns into garden gold!

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Creative Ways to Grow Potatoes

Potatoes are the most heavily sprayed crop in the produce aisle. Luckily they are easy to grow and especially like the growing conditions in Calgary.

Donna Balzer, author of No Guff Vegetable Gardening and co-founder of Grow Food Calgary has a great video on her web site on creative ways to grow potatoes.

Donna Balzer’s blog 

“This is all about creative ways to grow potatoes. No space? No problem! Use wire fence planters you can make yourself to expand your growing area right now. Who says your urban farm can’t grow up?  Try this method today to increase your harvest in a small area.”


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