I ended up picking a relatively small amount of the leaves, because I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out. It didn't take long, since I have an abundance of these weeds in and around my garden.
After washing the leaves I put them in my cast iron skillet
on lowish heat, along with some margarine and nutmeg. I covered the pan with a lid, the way I normally do when I cook
chard, kale or spinach this way. After just a few minutes, the
leaves were tender and looked ready to eat. They cooked much
more quickly than kale, chard or spinach, maybe because the leaves do not have a very thick stem.
And then, time for the taste test. It was extremely good! Milder than kale, but with more flavor than spinach. Probably closest to chard or collard greens, or even beet tops. Once they were cooked up it was easy to forget that they were weeds in my garden just a few minutes ago. What a difference it makes when I look at these plants now and see a food source, rather than a pesky weed!
It turns out I have more than one edible weed in my yard. Fireweed leaves can be eaten raw when they are small and tender, and the buds can be used in stir fries. You can make jelly out of the flower petals, much like rose petal jelly I expect. Even the roots are edible. It seems like almost every part of this flowering weed can be consumed at some point in its growing cycle. Once the plants get big and the stem covering has toughened up, it's no longer edible but can be used instead to make twine. I always loved the look of the purple fireweed plants as Summer turns to Fall, but I never knew they were so useful! It's too late in the season for me to try eating the leaves and stems, but I might just try stripping off the fibrous part when Fall arrives, and see what I can fashion out of that....
Of course we have plenty of dandelion leaves in our yard, and those are edible too. I have tossed a few dandelion leaves into my salads on occasion, but mostly I pick dandelion greens for our two guinea pigs, Scooter and Sophie, who really love the more bitter taste.
Even more exciting was the discovery this Spring that plantain leaves are edible, and that they purportedly have some anti-cancer properties. I have nibbled on this leaf as well, but so far have been feeding it to Scooter for the most part, because he has a cancerous lump on his front leg. I am not sure if it is helping, but he loves to eat the plantain leaves, in any event. And it can't hurt. Chewing the leaf into a pulp makes a good plaster to apply to mosquito or bee/wasp stings too. In addition, the long seed stalks can be used like millet, to feed the birds.
Very tasty is the tiny chickweed plant. It is particularly good in salad, and has fresh and crunchy taste and texture. The small white flowers make it very pretty too, and this year I haven't even bothered separating it out from the lettuce I'm growing -- I just pick it all together and make salad. Of course the guinea pigs love the chickweed too, even though its taste is more mild than either the dandelion or the plantain.
Last year I discovered yarrow and bergemot growing in our yard. While I haven't eaten these plants outright, I have made delicious tea from them. A few leaves of each, along with some honey, and I have a wonderful, free, herbal tea! I didn't pick enough to last me over the Winter last year, but I plan to remedy that this year, for sure.
Once I started looking, it was quite astounding to see what there was to eat in my yard! What useful weeds do you have growing where you live?