After college I lived in Richmond, Virginia in a section of town called Oregon Hill. My roommate Rebby and I planted a garden in the back of our row house. City backyard vegetable gardens weren’t particularly fashionable at the time, but that didn’t matter to us.
Once, when weeding, Rebby pulled a weed, examined it, tasted it and declared that she thought it was sorrel. She pulled and tasted many so called weeds. In doing so, she had our garden rows looking very tidy and forever changed my perspective on weeds.
There are all kinds of weeds you can eat: dandelion, chicory, wild violets, purslane, plantain, stinging nettle, burdock root and, believe it or not, kudzu. I have not tried kudzu, but apparently you can eat the leaves like spinach and use the root, which is called Japanese arrowroot as a thickening agent. In true southern form, you can also batter and fry the leaves.
Kudzu is very invasive so it is often sprayed with herbicide. You’ll want to stay away from sprayed kudzu. Also be sure to stay away from that other ubiquitous highway weed, poison ivy.
In fact, when foraging for weeds, I mean, edible plants, there are many things to keep in mind. For one, not everyone loves weeds and loathes chemicals as much as I do so be careful where you gather. Pick in a clean, herbicide and pet-free field. Second, not all weeds are edible plants. If you aren’t certain, skip them or check a guidebook.
An easy to identify weed is the much loved and much hated dandelion. Health wise, the list of the beneficial properties of dandelions is as long as my arm. Dandelion greens are rich in calcium, iron, vitamins A and C, and beta-carotene. They have antioxidants properties, aid with liver disorders, diabetes, urinary disorders, acne, jaundice, cancer and anemia. They are a diuretic and a good detoxifier. So eat up!
It is now trendy to sport dandelions in your lawn. It shows the world that you are eschewing polluting the environment with chemicals. My husband and I recently took a drive to up in the mountains. They, thankfully, got that memo. It is full-blown dandelion season there. Lawn and fields alike are covered with the beautiful yellow flowers.
We pulled into a hiking trial parking lot, grabbed a bag and headed up the trail. We quickly filled our bag with a combo of dandelion leaves and flowers. We also bagged a few bugs, so I would recommend giving them a good rinse before you bring your haul inside.