Garden Coach Teaches You to Eat Your Weeds!March 02, 2009
That’ll serve’m right…right? Turn annoying garden weeds into a delicious snack you crave. Get paid back in nutritious energy foods for all the hard work you put into pulling those suckers out! Just hope you don’t start craving them just as you eradicate them!
So, maybe you’re skeptical about eating the weeds that volunteer in the garden. You’re not alone. I still haven’t tried eating shotweed, and I’ve got more than one bowlful of salad makings from that sucker out in my garden. I have been spying my dandelion leaves a little more closely. When I they get just a bit bigger, but before they start budding to bloom, I’m planning to harvest them to eat this spring.
Our gardens create a bounty of weeds during the growing season, and I continue to be amazed at how many of them are edible. Let’s be clear, you need to know how to identify the plants before you go eating willy-nilly in the weed patch. But, once you know what you’re pulling, odds are your compost bin will be a little lighter, your wallet a little fatter and your belly a little more full. Looking for a larger list of edible weeds? Check out the Tilth Maritime Garden Guide to start.
This weekend at the farmer’s market, the local foragers (Foraged & Found Edibles), were offering bags filled with fresh stinging nettles. The name sounds scary, and it should. If you get scratched by the nettle barb, you’ll get a nasty stinging rash — that goes away pretty quick. But, if you can harvest this wild plant successfully, you’ll have a fantastic green that tastes a lot like spinach. It’s packed with vitamins A, D and C. And, it’s been the first greens of the season eaten from the wild by Pacific Northwesterners for, well, who knows how long. Even my favorite recipe book, The Herb Farm Cookbook (available here in the books section), has recipes using this weed!
Now, I’m not likely to go foraging for this green myself, but when a big bag filled with this weed is offered by local foragers, from local forests, at prices less than the cost of a bag of local farmer’s market greenhouse-raised kale, I’m going to snatch it up.
Gingerly, taking care not to get “stung”, I dumped about half the bag into a steamer pot and steamed it for a bit. All recipes promise that after cooking briefly the nettles’ sting is gone. Still, steaming left them looking a bit fuzzy for my taste, so I dumped them in the boiling water for a bit longer. We used tongs to squeeze out the excess water as we mounded it onto our plates, and then we splashed the pile of weedy greens with vinegar (something every weed hates). They were delicious, and I’m not dead yet!
In years past, I’ve enjoyed nettle tea (aka swamp water), so we saved the cooking water, which wasn’t salted. However instead of drinking just the nutrient rich cooking liquid, I added it to our morning smoothie, and it was fantastic. Here’s a recipe for making your own weedy smoothie.
Make it and take it out in the garden as fair warning to all weeds — sprout here and you may just become my dinner…or breakfast…or even high tea!
Important Note: As with any new food, take care trying it out for the first time. Food allergies lurk in places we may not expect. Try a weedy diet at your own risk and to your own health!
Nettle Weed Smoothie Recipe
- 3/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 1 cup frozen peaches
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup nettle juice
- 1 T. honey (optional)
Place all ingredients in blender. Blend on high for about 5 minutes or until the fruit is pureed. Pour into tall glasses and enjoy. (serves 2)