Top 3 Flowering and Edible Weeds
Most of us view weeds as mere pests in the garden to be eradicated from our gardens. But some weeds have the redeeming virtue of being edible. In this article, Master Gardener Kristina Valle describes how three common weeds can be consumed and appreciated.
Kristina Valle, Master Gardener
“A weed is but an unloved flower,” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
This year we welcomed a spring full of heavy rains that lasted days and quickly melted our towering snow mounds. This rain also gave many perennials and bulbs a much needed jump start to produce new growth on stems that may have been on the rabbits’ menu for most of the winter. While I did lose a few plants this winter, there were many that benefitted from a severe haircut and the early, and extra rain aided in providing the plants with the necessary support to recover and grow back quickly.
Unfortunately, rain will help anything that is able to grow, including weeds. While most weeds are unwelcomed and take away some of the gardener’s enjoyment, eradicating them from our yard and gardens is a necessary part of the job, as we all know. But did you know that there are many weeds that can have a positive place in your life or rather, on your plate? This article will discuss the top 3 flowering and edible weeds that may already exist in your garden and that may alter your perception of their presence in your landscape.
#1 – The Dandelion
It’s early spring and POP! Bright yellow flowers appear and carpet many open spaces along roads and are sprinkled throughout our yard and gardens. As Minnesotan’s we appreciate the first sign of color after a cold and dull winter, but these flowering weeds are met with disdain as we know that our summer work has just begun. Instead of looking at these weeds negatively, we should really be thinking of all of their uses instead.
All three parts of a dandelion are edible.
The flower head can be incorporated into cookies, quiche, muffins and many other baked goods, adding a honey like flavor to any recipe.
Another alternative is frying the petals as a fritter like you would for squash blossoms.
The leaves are simply greens and are versatile enough to be used in a sauté with pasta or even eggs.
Looking for a coffee or tea alternative? Consider dandelion roots! Dandelion Root Tea is commonly available in most grocery stores, but you’ll need to put in a little more effort if you want to make some Dandelion Root Coffee. First, you’ll need to dry the roots in a food dehydrator, and then roast them in the oven until they are thoroughly dry. Afterwards, place the roots in water and bring to a boil, strain it, drink and enjoy!
#2 – The Common Blue Violet
While the dandelion is often one of the easiest weeds to identify, greater care must be taken for other edible weeds. The violet has heart shaped leaves and 5 petals. Unlike the dandelion, only the petals and leaves of the violet are edible so it is important to be sure you have a violet before you harvest.
If you’ve been to a restaurant that garnishes dishes, or even cocktails with flowers, you may have eaten a violet. The visual appeal livens up whatever you’re serving and invites a touch of the season into whatever occasion you’re celebrating. If you’re feeling a little extra, consider freezing the petals in individual ice cubes to add a surprise to any cold drink during your next get together.
#3 – The Clover
Whenever I think of clover, I’m reminded of a scene in the Disney Movie “Bambi” where Thumper is feasting on and stuffing his cheeks full of delicious clover. Sure, bunnies love it, but we can enjoy it too!
Similar to a dandelion, you can prepare the flower head as a fritter. The clover can also be added to pasta, salads and teas and can be easily identified by its pink-purple flower. It is best to boil the plant before eating it, which can be accomplished when cooking a pasta or making a tea, as the plant (excluding the flower) can be a little hard on the digestive system.
Finally, have you considered creating a Bee Lawn? Need a cover crop? Your clover will be a benefit not only to your pollinators but to you as well!
It is my hope that this article has at a minimum, piqued your curiosity about the volunteers that grace our gardens each year. If you are interested in foraging outside of your garden space for these weeds, onto public lands, do not harvest unless you can be sure that no pesticides have been used on the weeds. Always exercise caution when foraging and remember to limit your haul to only 10% so that the local wildlife is not negatively impacted by the removal of some beneficial plants.
Photo credits: University of Minnesota Extension (all)