8 Common Weeds in Your Backyard You Can Actually Eat
Weeds have a publicity problem. Their real issue, says forager and author Tama Matsuoka Wong, is not that they’re turning up in your garden, it’s that people call them “weeds” in the first place. “It’s like garbage. Garbage is what we decide it is, and that’s why we throw it away,” says Wong. “A lot of what is and isn’t a weed depends on what we value.” When you consider a plant in your backyard a weed because you didn't plant it there, you may decide it should be uprooted and tossed out. But then you'd be missing out on a big opportunity: Many of those untamed plants are not only edible, but delicious and healthy for you, too. Whether you have a large yard, a raised-bed garden, or even a simpler container garden, chances are you’ll have at least a few of these common plants around to choose from.
Weeds You Can Eat
Eating Weeds Safely
Before you start harvesting weeds for dinner, make sure you know what’s going on with your soil. For example, areas with a long industrial history (such as Brooklyn, New York) may contain a lot of heavy metals, and therefore wild plants growing in it may not be safe to eat, says Wong. This is also why you would want to avoid plucking weeds along roadsides, parking lots, or other potentially polluted ground.
If you want to begin noshing on edible weeds growing in your garden, it goes without saying to stop using herbicides and chemical fertilizers around them and then let them do their thing. “It’s not like you have to start doing something; it’s more about stopping doing things,” says Wong.
Another key tip is to not eat anything that you’re not 100% certain of what it is, says Dickinson. Plants that are poisonous can look very similar to those that are edible: For example, fatal hemlock can closely mimic the leaves of wild chervil (similar to parsley). Study leaf patterns and learn what to look for (the blog Hunter Angler Gardener Cook is a good resource) to feel confident in your weed identification abilities. Once you have found an edible weed, give it a quick rinse with cool water right before eating to wash off any dirt on it.