Spring is one of my favourite times of the year, when the weeds start growing. Yes, weeds – common wild edibles are one of my favourite things about spring!

Even before anything is growing in the garden, it is possible to fill my plate with delicious and nutritious greens. Food is growing everywhere.

These fifteen wild edible plants – all nutritious, delicious, traditional foods — are commonly found in most areas of North America (and some in South America), Europe and Australia. Don’t be too quick to kill all the weeds.

Eat them instead.

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Featured Video

15 Common Wild Edibles That Grow Almost Everywhere

Dandelion

dandelion
Dandelion

This is one of the first edible weeds that bloom in the spring, which is why they are such a part of the traditional spring diet wherever they grow. After a winter without fresh greens, the tangy taste of tiny spinach leaves is absolutely delicious.

There is so much to love about this edible weed!

Dandelion greens taste much like spinach (and they’re cooked like spinach), the flowers are sweet and dandelion root (harvested in the fall) can be roasted and ground to make a hot drink or mixed with other root vegetables and roasted as a side dish. Every single part of the dandelion is not only delicious, it’s healthy, too.

The entire plant is edible.

My favourite are the tender young leaves in early spring, which are delicious to pick and eat raw, but dandelion has a long reputation as a cooked green later in the season. The dandelion flower is not only edible raw, but it can be breaded and deep-fried or used to make wine. It even makes a delicate but delicious jelly!

Even left in the ground, dandelions do something wonderful – their long, thick taproots reach deep down, loosening the soil. When they die and those taproots rot, the holes become “worm elevators”, letting our little underground workers reach deeper than they otherwise could. Yes, dandelions actually improve your soil!

There are probably entire cookbooks out there extolling the virtues of the amazing dandelion. When you see these edible weeds in your yard, don’t be so quick to yank!

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (These open in a new window on a different site.)

Herbal Coffee Substitute

How to Make Dandelion Tea

Dandelion Infused Shampoo Bar

Dandelion Infused Lip Balm

Dandelion Infused Oil

Wild Dandelion Quiche

Curly or yellow dock

By Henry Brisse [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
 

Although most greens can be compared to spinach, dock tastes like spinach and lemon. These edible weeds grow throughout Europe, North and South America, and Australia.

It can be recognized by its bright red stalk that can reach up to three feet high.

Peel the stems before eating raw or cooked. Harvest the mature seeds and boil them, or roast them to make a hot drink. Because of their high oxalic acid content, change the water several times when cooking and do not rely too heavily on it as a green.

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (These open in a new window on a different site.)

Weed of the Week – Curly Dock

Mallow

mallow
 

This is related to okra and has the same slimey properties.

Like dandelion, the whole plant is edible, but the leaves are what are most often cooked and eaten. In fact, all varieties of mallow are edible and useful. The root can be blended with honey and vanilla and strained to make a “milk”. Cook mallow leaves like most other greens.

Mallow is commonly used in herbal tea to soothe sore throats.

These edible weeds grow all over the world, on every continent, and has no poisonous look-alikes.

Thistle

Canada thistle
Canada Thistle

Most of us do not think of thistle as edible or even consider that it might have health benefits. Last year an enormous thistle decided to take over an unused garden bed. This is an impressive and scary looking plant. If you are willing to brave the thorns, though, thistle can be eaten.

Juice the greens and strain out the thorns. The flowers are edible. The roots of this can be roasted like dandelion. Or make the side dish listed below with thistles that are seasoned with sweet chili.

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

Sweet Chili Thistles

Plantain

plantain
 

White Man’s Foot (not the tropical plantain that looks like a banana) appeared wherever European settlers did. Native North Americans named it because it literally appeared *everywhere* – and it still does. As far as I can tell, this incredible plant grows everywhere on earth that people live.

This rugged plant will grow if given the most meager and unforgiving opportunity. However, plantain that is growing between the cracks of pavement and trampled underfoot, or exposed to exhaust fumes and pollution, is not recommended foot for any but the most desperate.

Plantain leaves, chewed up and placed on an insect sting, will reduce pain and swelling. Cover the chewed up leaves with another leaf and then a bandage. The amazing thing about plantain leaves is that they do not stick to wounds, which makes them ideal for burns or open sores.

Like everything on this list, plantain is edible. Eat the young leaves raw or cooked. The seeds, which slide off the stem (it’s fun!) can be cooked like a grain or ground into flour. Plantain is related to psyllium, a common fiber supplement and natural laxative.

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

Plaintain Leaf Healing Balm

How to Harvest and Dry Plantain

Using Plantain to Treat Bee Stings

Amaranth

By Ton Rulkens from Mozambique (Amaranthus) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
 

Known to farmers as “that blankety-blank pigweed”, wild amaranth is actually a very important, and under appreciated, food plant. Historically, the Mayan and Incan diets revolved around this grain.

While a bit laborious to winnow, the protein-rich seeds can be use to make “flax” seed crackers and ground to make amaranth bread.

Amaranth seeds can even be popped for a snack.

The leaves are edible, although you may need to watch for some spines, and used like all other cooked green. Boil the leaves and discard the cooking water to remove the oxalic acid and nitrates.

Burdock

burdock
 

If you have ever picked up “hitchhikers” while walking in the woods or tall grasses, you know burdock. This can grow to be quite a large plant with leaves that look a lot like rhubarb. The flowers are purple and look like thistles.

In Japan, this is a very popular food. Boil the leaves in two changes of water before eating to remove the bitterness.

The root can be peeled, boiled and eaten like any other tuber, and so can the stalks.

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

How to Cook Burdock Root

Burdock – A Learning Experience

Purslane

purslane
Purslane (Creative Commons: Jeff S Kleinman)
 
This low-lying plant is easy to overlook, but it is packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids. We all know how good those are!
 
This is a succulent plant with a peppery taste. Eat the leaves and stems raw or cooked.
 
Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)
 

Wild mustard

wild mustard
Wild Mustard and flowers
The flowers of wild mustard have four petals in the shape of a cross and often have little pods of different shapes.
This wild plant is related to radishes, mustard, broccoli and cabbage, and the leafy greens taste, predictably, like mustard.

Cattail/bullrush

cattail

This is found around the edges of freshwater wetlands. The North American natives relied on cattail for many things. Most of it is edible.

If you are willing to brave the wetlands and pull up the rhizomes, they can be boiled or eaten raw. The lower part of the stem, where it is mostly white, is edible, and can be boiled or eaten raw.

The leaves can be boiled and eaten like most other greens. If broken off in the early summer, the female flower spike (yes the “cat” tail) can actually be eaten as though it were a piece of corn!

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

Foraging for Cattail

Clover

clover
 
 
Although I can’t remember who taught me to suck on the sweet little clover blossoms, I had a great deal of fun showing my children that the pretty red and white flowers are a delicious wild food for more than bees. The flowers can be eaten raw or dried for tea in the winter and the leaves are edible as a boiled green.

Chicory

chicory
Lavender chicory
 
The pretty blue, lavender and white flowers of chicory are recognizable, and they grow all over Europe, North America and Australia. The young leaves are edible raw or boiled. The root can be roasted and ground for a hot drink (or add the ground root to coffee grounds), or boiled and eaten as a tuber. The flowers are edible just as they are – toss them in a salad of fresh summer greens.
 
Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)
 

Knotweed

knotweed
 

Although called wild buckwheat, this is not a wheat. Another name for this is Black bindweed. It grows close to the ground and most people never notice it. Knotweed grows where nothing else will. The chances are very likely that you have seen this plant!

Like many wild vegetables, the entire plant is edible. Make a tasty low carb snack by marinading the leaves in a spicy sauce and dehydrating them.

Lambsquarters

lambsquarters
Lambsquarters
 

This is one of my favourite wild vegetables.

Once you learn to recognize it, you will see lambsquarters everywhere. This is a pioneer plant that seeds anywhere the ground is disturbed, which means that I can often make a salad after “weeding” my garden.

It is related to quinoa and the seeds can be harvested and used in the same way if you have the patience. Choose plants that are no more than a foot high for the tenderest, tastiest leaves. This is rarely a problem because new lambsquarters plants sprout and grow from spring until fall. The underside of the leaves has a light powder on them, so definitely wash before eating.

Here are some great ideas to use them from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

How to Dry and Use Lambsquarters

Foraging for Lambsquarters – Amazing, Nutritious Survival Food

Another great perspective on Foraging for Lambsquarters

Lambsquarters Chip Dip

Canning Lambsquarters

Chickweed

By Leslie Seaton from Seattle, WA, USA (Chickweed) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
 

This tiny, delicate plant likes moisture and cool, and it grows in temperate and arctic zones. The name, as with many wild plants, reflects a trait – chickens love it. Small white flowers appear from May until July. Dry the leaves and add oil to make a healing salve for minor cuts, burns and rashes, as well as for eczema and dry, irritated skin. More delicate than spinach, the leaves, stems and flowers can all be eaten raw or cooked.

Here are some great ideas to use edible weeds from my friends! (This open in a new window on a different site.)

Foraging for Chickweed

And there you have it – 15 quite delicious, incredibly versatile edible weeds that grow almost everywhere. Even if you don’t have all of them in your area, you are sure to have many.

And hey, I’m not the only one who wants you to know about edible weeds.  Janet at Timber Creek Farmer has a list of six wild edibles she likes to harvest in the spring along with directions to make a Dandelion Salve.

And here are some bonus edible weeds that didn’t make it into my top fifteen!

How to Make Nettle Leaf Tea

Violet Jam

Seventeen (easy to implement) ways to use wild greens

Just Plain Living
15 wild plants that grow almost everywhere, are ready to harvest in the spring before the garden is ready, and are delicious and nutritious!

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