Seeing weeds grow in your garden may freak you out a little, but before you pluck them out, you may want to consider whether or not you should. There are a variety of weeds that are edible and actually really good for you. After finding out about how nutritious dandelions are, I asked myself “Can I eat Chickweed?” Below, you will find out everything you need to know about this edible weed.
Please note: Please be careful before you take the “plunge” into foraging wild edible weeds. They may look like a certain edible weed, but may not be the actual one. I highly suggest you buy one of the following books or one that you feel comfortable with to forage edible weeds safely.
Can I Eat Chickweed?
Chickweed is native to Europe and was introduced into America and other continents by immigrants. This is because chickweed is, in fact, edible! Actually, immigrants brought it to the Americas because it was a valued herb.
Although chickweed flowers and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, it is not advisable to eat them in large quantities. This is because leaves and flowers contain saponins which can make your stomach upset if consumed in large amounts.
Not only is this weed edible to humans, but it is commonly eaten by chickens, hence its name. Pigs have eaten it as well.
What Does it Look Like?
This edible weed is a broadleaf weed that has small white flowers and elongated petals. It has large, egg shaped leaves with pointy tips. This weed goes by other names such as chickenwort, craches, winter weed, and maruns.
If you look closely at the chickweed you will see tiny star-like flowers. They only have 5 pedals, but they appear to have 10 because each petal is shaped like a rabbit’s ears.
The entire plant sprawls out on flat ground, or can climb up other plants. It grows about 15 inches tall.
The leaves grow in opposite pairs and change position at each node. It creates a cross-shaped pattern if you look straight down the stem.
Looking at the stem, a single line of hair runs straight down its length. The hair changes position where the leaves emerge.
If you are NOT sure if a plant is chickweed, DO NOT eat it.
Health Benefits of Chickweed
In addition to just being edible, chickweed actually has a plethora of health benefits. Immigrants used this plant’s leaves as medicine. It was used for constipation, stomach and bowel problems, blood disorders, asthma, lung diseases, obesity, scurvy, psoriasis, rabies, itching, muscle pain, boils, abscesses, ulcers, and joint pain.
With all those health benefits, you may be shocked to find out there’s more. Chickweed also provides a lot of essential nutrients, which include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-complex
- Beta Carotene
You will find that this pesky weed is a powerhouse of nutrients. Spinach may be the most mineral-rich green in the grocery stores, but chickweed surpasses even spinach with 12 times more calcium, 5 times more magnesium, 83 times more iron, and 6 times more vitamin C.
It’s no wonder chickens and other animals love it.
What Chickweed Should I Pick?
Chickweed is a leafy green that is edible. When picking Chickweed, you want to be careful which ones you pick. Here are some tips:
- Do not use pesticides or herbicides in your yard.
- DO NOT harvest any chickweed that is close to a road. They can pick up pollution from cars.
- NEVER harvest any chickweed from an industrial lot, or any space where past pollution might have been an issue.
- Do NOT harvest chickweed from a yard where chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers have been used.
How to Harvest Chickweed
Chickweed is a common weed that can flourish in many places. It likes wet places where it can take root. These places include carefully managed gardens and random city dirt patches. The weed thrives in moist, rich soil in early spring. As the sun gets warmer it tends to die off, except in moist shady corners.
The best time to harvest chickweed is during cool spring weather. It will grow rapidly from March until April. Additionally, cool autumn nights can give this weed a comeback. You may want to look for it in September or October
To harvest the weed, use a pair of scissors to trim the top couple of inches off the developed plant.
Can I Eat Chickweed? How to Eat Chickweed
You will want to harvest younger chickweed as it has a pleasant mild flavor. It is absolutely delicious as a base green or an addition to salads.
You can eat chickweed raw in smoothies, pesto, or sauces. However, finely chopped chickweed is also delicious with eggs, quiche, pasta sauce, and lasagna.
Chickweed can also be steamed, sauteed, or boiled. Keep in mind that cooking it does reduce its size greatly.
Chickweed Recipes to Try
If you aren’t sure how to make your chickweed, here are some great recipes to try:
- Chickweed Pesto
- Chickweed Salad
- Violet Leaf and Chickweed Hummus
- Chickweed Soup
- Green Asparagus, Yogurt Sauce with Menton Citrus and Chickweed
- Buttered Chickweed
How to Store Chickweed
Chickweed will last in the refrigerator for several days if you wrap it in a damp paper towel or place it in a plastic bag.
Can I Eat Chickweed? Other Weeds You Can Eat
Along with chickweed, there are a variety of other weeds that are actually edible. Check them out, below!
#1 Red Clover
The red clover is not the traditional 4-leaf clover. Instead, it is the pinkish/purplish flower that covers the fields with color. The flowers and leaves can be eaten in salad and other dishes. If you haven’t yet, check out my post “Can I Eat Red Clover” for more details.
If you haven’t checked out my post “Can I Eat Dandelions,” you should. It tells you everything you need to know from health benefits to harvesting and cooking.
Purslane is one of those super annoying weeds that can grow anywhere, including your sidewalks. But, it is actually edible. If you haven’t already, check out my post “Can I Eat Purslane” to find out all you need to know.
Lambs Quarters is one of those other super annoying weeds. But, they are actually edible and really good in salads and other recipes. Check out our post Can I Eat Lambs Quarters find out all the ways you can eat them.
These weeds that you can find in your yard can be eaten entirely. You will find that the younger leaves are the tastiest. To find out more about eating Plantain, check out our post Can I Eat Plantain for information, recipes, and more.
Mallow or malva is also known as cheeseweed because it is shaped like seed pods. It is found in lawns or garden beds throughout the United States. The leaves as well as the seed pods are edible raw or cooked.
#7 Wild Amaranth
Wild amaranth is also known as pigweed. It is another great addition to dishes that require leafy greens. The younger plants are typically softer and tastier than the older leaves. However, older leaves can be cooked like spinach.
#8 Curly Dock
Curly dock is also called yellow dock. The leaves can be eaten raw when they are young, but need to be cooked when they are older. The stems can be peeled and eaten raw or cooked. Additionally, the seeds can be boiled, eaten raw, or roasted into coffee. It’s recommended to only eat these in moderation.
Can I Eat Chickweed? Final Thoughts
Before you get rid of all the weeds in your garden, check to see if any are edible. You never know when you may need to eat them. What other weeds have you found that are edible? It’s all about finding food that we have learned to recognize, right? May God bless this world, Linda
Copyright Images: Chickweed Deposit photos_167247600_s-2019, Red Clover Deposit photos_2457656_s-2019, Dandelions Deposit photos_1332411_s-2019, Purslane Depositphotos_3978374_s-2019, Lambs Quarters Chenopodium album Depositphotos_362096836_s-2019, Plantain Depositphotos_52123125_s-2019, Mallow Depositphotos_186081472_s-2019, Amaranth Depositphotos_325233680_s-2019, Curly Dock Depositphotos_256444932_s-2019,