What looks like a weed might be worth eating

It looks like summer is finally going to settle in after such a long winter. On a recent canoe trip a little further north of here I was amazed by the quick transition of the seasons.

When we set off on our route the woods and swamps were brown. Eight days later as we wrapped up our trip, the flowers were blooming and trees were fully green. When I finally returned home it was apparent the lawns have been greening up pretty good as well. Lawn mowing season is upon us.

Now that I’m setting in to the change, I’m working on keeping the lawn and garden tended. As I’m doing this I am reminded of the plethora of edible greens that are currently growing right under our noses.

Unfortunately many people, myself included, refer to these as weeds when they’re in the garden. I’m sure you have heard of or even do eat dandelion greens. That’s pretty common knowledge and easy enough to identify.

If you haven’t tried it, dandelion greens can be a wonderful addition to salads as long as you get the leaves while they’re young and not too bitter.

The flowers are completely edible and have been used to flavor homemade wines for years. Even the root of the plant can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Besides the common dandelion there are many others that are probably lesser known but still just as useful.

Common Plantain, not a banana but Plantago major, grows virtually everywhere. If you don’t know what it is, you’ll recognize it the second you see a picture of it. The leaves of this plant can also be added to salads or used as a cooked vegetable.

Another good green and a member or the Ameranth family is Lamb’s Quarters. This can be treated just like spinach in how your prepare it and the flavor is sort of like spinach. My personal favorite is Purselane, a common inhabitant of my garden. The leaves of this lush plant are great eaten fresh as a salad.

There are many other edible wild plants that are very common and easy to find just in your yard alone. The list gets even bigger outside of the yard.

I could probably fill an article entirely on the different ways in which cattail can be eaten. Besides these plants being edible, many have traditionally been used as herbal medicines to help with various ailments that may be worth knowing if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you do decide to try something new, please remember a few guidelines. Never harvest in an area you suspect of being polluted as those pollutants may be present on the plant.

Do your research on proper identification and legality of what you’re harvesting. Some edible plants may be or are protected species.

Always start with small portions of something new in case you have some adverse reactions or allergies to the plant. And finally, remember that some of these plants take time to get established so try not to harvest all of the plants in an area, take a few and move on to a different area, unless you’re trying to rid your garden of the “weed,” then pick away!