Invasive Weeds, It’s What’s For Dinner
Dandelions, Garlic mustard greens, Burdock roots. When I think of these I think of my dad tirelessly mowing the lawn and cleaning up these inconvenient weeds, tainting what could be a perfectly manicured bed of fresh grass. But what if I told you these weeds we’re all trying to rid our backyards of were actually food?
Many species of wild greens are not only delicious but have medicinal healing properties. Once you learn to identify and harvest them yourself you’ll have a free salad in your backyard.
Dandelions in their entirety are edible. The flower, the stem, and the greens. The greens especially are praised through the herbal medicine community as a cleansing spring tonic. After washing the leaves, boil in small amount of water and drink the remaining water as a tea. You can saute the remaining leaves as you would any other leafy green and top with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. The sunny-yellow flower of the dandelion can be kept whole, dipped in a pancake batter and fried like a fritter. Harvesting and cooking with dandelions is a great way to get kids involved too.
The root of the burdock is commonly found at co-ops as “gobo,” it’s Japanese name. Similar to the dandelion, it’s acts as a blood-cleansing spring tonic. It has a similar taste to the artichoke and can actually be used as a substitute for it in any kind of artichoke dip! The roots vary in size and you’ll probably need a shovel or a strong trowel to dig these babies up. They can also be chopped up and added to a stir fry or thrown on a pizza. Burdock has big leafy greens, that, although aren’t edible, can be used for other things. They’re often called “nature’s toilet paper.” But the bigger leaves can also be used as a makeshift plate of glove!
Speaking of gloves, you might want to get some before harvesting this plant. Stinging Nettles have tiny thorn all over their stem that secrete small amounts of formic acid, the same acid from bee stings! Nettles work as a natural anti-histimine and the leaves can be steeped in hot water for a tea to drink when allergies pop up.
As with all herbs, and foods for that matter, it’s best to try a small amount and see how your body reacts before overdoing it. If you’re harvesting anything outside of your own property, please be sure to respect any rules or regulations that request no foraging. Now venture outside and see what you can find!