Master Gardener: Edible weeds, part 2
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Editor’s note: This is part 2 of a two-part series about edible weeds.
Is a weed in the eye of the beholder or is a weed just a plant in the wrong place? Should we really be ripping out every unwanted plant in our garden or do we have gems amidst our landscape? Read on to decide its fate.
The many benefits of weeds were discussed in last week’s article. They improve our soil with their long taproots, provide food for insects and birds¸ and most exciting, provide food for us.
Remember: edible weeds should only be consumed if collected from uncontaminated soil suitable for growing food plants, and make sure to do your homework to learn how to safely eat these special plants.
Last week’s article presented the most visible edible weed in Northwest Colorado: the dandelion. The following are several more.
Strawberry blite (Chenopodium capitatum) is also called blite goosefoot or strawberry goosefoot. The bright red berries and arrow-shaped leaves can be eaten.
Along with its cousin, lamb’s quarters, (Chenopodium album), also called pigweed, both are annual North American native plants of the amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), which also includes beets, chard, quinoa and spinach. Lamb’s quarters can be identified by the telltale dusty white coating on new growth and on the undersides of leaves. Both plants’ leaves taste like a mild version of spinach and are exceptionally high in vitamins A and C, as well as in calcium, iron and protein. The leaves make an excellent pesto.
Common chickweed (Stellaria media), has edible, lettuce-like greens and medicinal properties. This short-lived flowering perennial decreases insect damage to other plants, while supplying your soil with potassium and phosphorous.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), the leaves and stems are edible and one of the most nutritious plants you will find in your garden.
Wild lettuce (Lactuca serriola), or prickly lettuce is a tribe within the aster or sunflower family (Asteraceae), the second-largest family of flowering plants. The lettuce tribe is the most common, widespread and useful of wild food plants. Prickly lettuce is best eaten in the spring and fall when the young rosettes are formed. The mature leaves are too bitter to eat.
Tracy Zuschlag, Master Gardener since 2000 loves the science behind gardening. Living in Northwest Colorado brings its challenges and successes with every gardening season being a new gardening experiment.
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