Did you know that many of the plants that we consider “weeds” are actually edible plants? Many of the plants that you see everyday in your yard are edible and quite tasty too! These plants provide nutrients, and in a pinch, can serve as viable menu items. If you decide to eat these items, however, make sure that the plants were not chemically fertilized or sprayed with harsh pesticides. These chemicals can poison the plants, making them unsafe to eat.
The next time you need something to round out a meal, try serving some of the following odd plants:
Nettles: Prickly, but Nutritious!
Nettles: Nettles pop up in early spring. These large, prickly plants have a variety of uses, including herbal properties. For general cooking, nettle leaves can be used in a salad much like spinach leaves or lettuce. Pick the leaves while they are still soft and rinse them thoroughly. Use the leaves in a salad, or mix with other vegetables and foods as a flavoring agent.
Chickweed For Healing or Salad – Who Knew?
Chickweed: Chickweed is a small, weed-like plant (hence the name) that pops up in the winter or early spring. This little plant has tiny leaves and small white flowers, and is more useful than you’d think for its diminutive size. You can use the leaves in a salad, or juice the plant to use as a “cooling” agent on burns, scrapes, or inflammations – like aloe!
Acorn Flour – Do you Have an Oak Tree?
Acorns: If you have ever broken open an acorn, then you know how bitter and waxy the inside can be. It doesn’t seem like an acorn could be an edible nut, but that is not the case – I’ve eaten them myself! When prepared properly, acorns can actually be quite delicious. To make acorns edible, you must remove the tannins (bitter compounds that make the acorn taste yucky) from the nuts. Thoroughly wash, and then boil your acorns in 3-4 batches of water to get rid of the tannins, or else roast the nuts in the oven or a coffee roaster. Grind acorns into flour to replace traditional wheat flour, or eat them plain or in place of any other nut.
Dandelions: Pretty and Useful!
Dandelions: Dandelions pop up everywhere in the spring – I love ’em, and have never understood why so many people try to eradicate them from lawns! In addition to the decorative quality of the bright yellow cheery blooms dotting the landscape, dandelions are also one of the most delicious and easy-to-use wild plant. You can add dandelion leaves to a salad, roast the roots as a coffee replacement, and sauté the buds to make a delicious side vegetable for any meal. You can even use the flowers to make wine.
Cattails: Fibrous but Tasty
Cattails: You can actually eat nearly every part of the cattail plant.
Try boiling the green cattail buds for an unusual side vegetable – just add butter and make sure that the buds are young enough that they don’t fall apart when you rub them! You can also clean and dry the rootstocks, and then grind them into flour.
Even better, if you break open young cattail shoots, and pull out the tender inside to cook and eat, you’ll end up with an edible dish that resembles asparagus. Yum!
Flowers: Not Just for the Centerpiece On the Table!
Flowers: Some flowers and their greenery are edible as well. Daisies have a slightly spicy taste, and both the flowers and leaves add a nice variety to salads. Chop up the whole daisy plant and cook it with olive oil and vegetable broth for a tasty soup. Violet leaves add a sweet flavor to salads, and violet flowers have enough sweetness to add additional flavoring to sweet drinks. Rose petals are also edible – roses are actually a distant relation to the apple family, and you can use rose ‘hips’ to make jam, pies and tarts, and tea. Use rose petals to add sweetness to any salad or other fresh dish.
Have you ever eaten any of these unusual plants? What is your favorite way to serve unusual plants in your home?