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