Monday, May 5, 2014

Weeds – if you can’t beat them, eat them! Local foraging for dandelion greens and garlic mustard.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the nutritional value of eating weeds such as garlic mustard, dandelions and other weeds that are abundant.  They are supposedly ultra-healthy and packed with lots of nutrients.  Having no shortage of dandelions on my property, I decided to give it a go.

When weeding becomes foraging, there is a complete change in perspective.  No longer are weeds nuisances; instead they become prizes to be collected.  I find this mindset refreshing!

Homegrown Common Dandelion
(Taraxacum officinale)
that I subsequently harvested.

Washing dandelion greens in a salad spinner

We ate the dandelion greens in a salad and also in sandwiches.  The verdict:  not as bitter as we were expecting.   They made a nice addition to the salad, but we liked having them mixed with milder greens.  In a sandwich, they were fine on their own as the sole greens.  

Weed greens are usually more bitter/strong flavored than your average salad green.  Many greens such as lettuce are mild in the early spring and become more bitter as weather warms up and the plants bolt.  I suspect this may also be the case with dandelion leave - that the spring leaves will be milder than those harvested in summer.  If anyone can attest to this, please let me know.  

Eating locally grown foods is available to many people who might have thought otherwise.  If you have some weeds growing near you, they very well may be edible. A great resource for finding out more about foraging for and preparing edible weeds such as dandelion leaves is Wildman Steve Brill's website.

Another abundant weed to try is Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis).  Garlic Mustard, originally from Europe, can be invasive here in the northeast US.   It is a biennial- meaning it lives for two years.  The first year it grows as a basal rosette.  After overwintering, it sends up a tall shoot and flowers  the second year.  Often year-one plants and year-two plants will be found next to each other.

A whole bunch of Garlic Mustard
 Garlic Mustard rosette

One popular way to eat garlic mustard is as pesto.  Google "garlic mustard pesto" and you'll pull up pages of recipes.   Most involve substituting garlic mustard greens for  basil leaves in a basic basil pesto recipe.  Some recipes also use walnuts in place of the traditional pine nuts,  and some omit the garlic or use some garlic mustard taproot in place of garlic.  Here is one example to try:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

4 cups garlic mustard greens

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Have you ever foraged for weeds?  Let me know if you have a favorite way to eat them.

(This post was shared on Tuesdays with a Twist and Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Party Hop.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Lisa,
    I love to include dandelion in my diet and what better way to do so than to forage for it locally. We live in an urban environment however we have several large parks so local foraging experts hold talks and foraging walks to help us identify edible wild foods in our area. You are so fortunate to have edible weeds in your area. Thank you for sharing this post along with your healthy and delicious garlic mustard pesto recipe with us at the Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop! We appreciate it!


Join the discussion...