Get Your Greens, Eat Your Weeds

We moved house not that long ago, so we’re yet to plant a garden. And I just can’t bring myself to pay good money for leafy greens, as I know how damn easy they are to grow.

I also know how nutritious they are. And while we eat very well, I felt like we were missing something in our diet.

So…. we decided to eat our weeds.

It’s just a word really, isn’t it. Weed. A plant that’s out of place. A plant that someone doesn’t want there. When in fact, weeds can be incredibly nutritious.

And they just grow. You don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to plant seeds, water them in, feed them or manage them in any way. They just appear where you least expect (or probably want) them.

A quick check of our very handy little weed book and we realized that we had plenty of edible weeds growing around our house.

Sow thistle? Brilliant in a salad. High in iron and calcium.

Purslane? Great as a tzatziki style yoghurt dip. Packed with potassium, Vitamins A, C and E, and antioxidants.

This day we felt in a spinach pie kind of mood, and our handy book described stinging nettle as a fine spinach substitute. And stinging nettle was definitely something we had plenty of in the paddock near the house. So I packed the kids off outside with gloves on to gather a bunch  for our lunch.

When you blanch stinging nettle in boiling water for a minute it not only loses its sting, but it retains its vibrant green colour. So this is just what we did. The smell was divine, earthy.

Once cooked, I pulled off the leaves from the thick stems, and ripped them up a bit before adding to the beaten eggs for my pie. They actually retained their vibrant green even after being cooked in the oven, and looked fantastic.

As for the taste? Well, a finer ‘spinach’ pie I haven’t made. My fussy little eaters (who won’t touch spinach) even loved it. And what an added bonus to have all the goodness of the bountiful protein, powerful antioxidants, and a high amount of calcium.

My kids now love identifying, picking and eating the weeds when outside playing. They regularly come to me with bunches of wild fennel, munching away happily. They love to find the blackberry nightshade and taste the sweet dark berries (and no, it’s not the same as deadly nightshade!).

And we have decided to let the mallow be, rather than try to get rid of it all, as it’s quite handy in a risotto.

While there’s no way I would ever give up the pleasure of eating fresh greens straight from the vege patch, like lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and chard, eating our weeds has opened a whole new world of nutritious plants we can harvest year round, with no work, no ‘gardening’ and plenty of taste and goodness.

Of course proper identification is essential, as there are some look alike weeds that you might not want to ingest. So pick up an edible weeds book, or look up a website, and get foraging. Weeds have a long medicinal tradition, can be very nutrient-dense, and you don’t have to burn fuel to get to the grocery shop to buy them.

(Except I don’t know that I can call them weeds anymore. They might have to have a new name, like Wild Edibles or something…).

Emily Stokes

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