A couple of years ago, I read a New York Times article which suggested that most of our domesticated greens were originally bitter, and that in breeding the bitterness out of them, we had also got rid of much of the goodness (see Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food ).
I was already aware that certain weeds were said to be high in nutrients, so the above article was enough to send me looking for more information. I eventually found The Weed Forager’s Handbook: a guide to edible and medicinal weeds in Australia by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland.
Apparently you can collect it by shaking it into a paper bag, and then do all sorts of gourmet things with it, like mixing it with goat cheese. I just wander along, grabbing bits in my fingers and sighing with pleasure. Try it – it’s like a burst of aniseed sunshine in the mouth.
My second favourite is more prosaic, but also more readily available – Sow Thistles
|A Sow Thistle|
My third favourite is Stinging Nettles, though of course I need gardening gloves to pick them and chop them. But they steam really nicely and are also good in stir fries. Apparently one should eat the young leaves rather than the old ones, which can irritate the kidneys.
Over the last few months I have also tried Chickweed (boring), Purslane (even more boring), Dandelion and Wild Brassicas, as well as Warrigal Greens and Nasturtium leaves, which are on the borderline between weeds and garden plants.
|a Warrigal Greens plant|
|Fat Hen also known as Wild Spinach|
There is also a Wild Edibles Database at www.db.weedyconnection.com
Finally, there are a couple of obvious precautions:
- Don’t pick weeds from the roadside as they have probably been sprayed,
- Make sure that you have got the right plant, and are not about to tuck into a nice bit of hemlock!
|Hemlock is poisonous|