Edible plants & Edible weeds, Did you know? Surviving in the wild

January 24, 2017

Five Edible Weeds You can Find in Your Own Backyard

Unbelievably, the unsightly weeds that invade your beautifully lush, green lawn are, in fact, valuable food-for you! Those edible weeds are full of vitamins, protein and antioxidants and can keep you and your loved ones alive in an emergency situation. Some of those edible weeds may have more nutrition than the vegetables you find in your local grocery store. Therefore, the next time you see a clover or dandelion in your lawn do not curse it, pick it. As long as you pick these early, you will get an amazingly sweet and nutritious item to add to the next meal of the day.

A very important tip, always wash your edible plants prior to consuming them or using them in your recipes. Stay away from areas that may have been contaminated by pesticides or chemicals.

Before eating any of the plants listed here (or anywhere else for that matter) make sure you ID them with pictures, that is, unless you are already edible plant savvy.

There are apps available for the identification of edible plants; you may want to consider downloading the ‘Wild Edibles’ app on your smart phone. This app was created by botanist, Steve Brill. He is known for providing Edible Plant Tours at Central Park in New York City. This app could come in handy during an emergency situation or while you are just out on a family hike.

The Dandelion

This yellow flower on the dandelion offers you a very mild bittersweet flavor, while the greens have a sweet taste, as long as they are harvested early. If you harvest them too late, they will be slightly bitter.

Interestingly, the reason we have dandelions in the United States is because European settlers used them in their salads. Some specialty food markets will actually sell the greens of the dandelion. A dandelion gives you more beta-carotene than a carrott

Bamboo

Bamboo is a kind of grass. It has been made into various products including floorboards and pajamas. Bamboo is generally grown in the warm climates of the United States, as far north as New England.

If anyone around you has ever been gardening and planted bamboo, chances are, it is in your yard somewhere. Once bamboo begins to spread, it can be very hard to control. That makes this edible weed great in an emergency situation.

The shoots from the bamboo are full of fiber. It tastes like corn. Shoots need to be harvested when they are less than one foot tall and under two weeks old.

These shoots must be cooked prior to eating them. To prepare them for cooking:

  1. Peel off the outer leaves
  2. Remove any of the flesh that is tough
  3. Cut them ‘across the grain’ into 1/8” slices
  4. Boil, uncovered for about 20 minutes (cooking time varies, if they taste bitter, they need to cook longer)

Once you have cooked them, you can add them to salads, a stir-fry or just snack on them with a little soy sauce.

 Purslane

This plant is lovely. It has rounded, tender leaves, a reddish stem and best of all, it can be found everywhere. It is likely you will be able to find purslane somewhere in your yard. This edible weed is notoriously difficult to terminate and is most likely better suited for your dinner plate anyway! This edible plant is related to spinach and has a similar taste.

Purslane has many antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin C and vitamin A. It also offers you healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

After washing, you can eat the leaves and stems immediately. Try them on a sandwich or in a salad. You can even use them in recipes that call for spinach. It can also be used to add flavor to your homemade soup.

 Red Clover

Another common edible weed in the Unites States is the red clover. It has been used for centuries as a ‘folk’ remedy for cancer. It has phytoestrogen genistein in it, which, although shrouded in controversy, has been found to offer some protection against prostate and colon cancers.

Because there is some evidence that the phytoestrogens have the opposite effect on breast cancer, you may want to only have the red clover occasionally. The flower of the red clover is a wonderful addition to a bowl of rice. Just sprinkle them over the top.

Due to the aforementioned controversy, this edible weed would probably be better used as an occasional treat when you are surviving in the wild.

These flowers are high in protein. The white clover can also be eaten; however, it is not nearly as flavorful or nutritious as its red counterpart is.

Kudzu

Kudzu, known as the ‘weed that ate the South,’ can itself, be eaten! This weed is highly evasive. It was introduced to the United States by Japan at the end of the 1800s. Today, it covers more than seven million acres in the Southern part of the United States. It is also almost impossible to kill. This means that if you reside in the South, you have a continuous supply to experiment with in the kitchen. Kudzu has been made into jelly and jam. The flowers (appearing in August and September) are many times, pickled.

The first time you decide to try to cook Kudzo, steam or boil the roots until they are tender. You can add miso or soy sauce, which is many times done in Asian cooking.

This edible plant is used by the Chinese to treat colds, allergies, fevers and as an aid in the digestion process. You can create a tea to treat whatever is ailing you. All you have to do is chop up a cup of the Kudzo leaves and then boil them for 30 minutes.

Plant Food Preparation Techniques

Some edible plants and plant parts can be eaten raw. However, others must be cooked to be edible or palatable. Many plants are edible and will provide you with the necessary nutrients you need to survive, however they may be barely palatable because they do not taste very good. For this reason, learning how to identify, prepare and then eat wild plants is essential.

Methods Used to Improve an Edible Plant’s Taste

Soaking

Cooking

Baking, Boiling or Roasting

You should boil leaves, buds and stems until they are tender. You may want to change the water at least once to remove any bitterness. Roots and tubers should be baked, boiled or roasted.

Leaching

To leach the edible plant, you crush it. You would place it inside a strainer and pour boiling water over it or immerse it in running water.

Safety

Plants that are growing in water that is contaminated or in water that contains Giardia lamblia or other parasites, are also contaminated. You need to either disinfect or boil them to ensure they are safe for you to eat.

Plants that are growing near occupied buildings, along the roadside or near homes could have been sprayed with chemicals. So, be sure to wash them well. In the countries that are highly developed and using automobiles frequently, avoid using roadside plants for food. These plants may be contaminated from the automobile exhaust emissions.

Some plants will develop dangerous fungal toxins. To reduce the chance of accidently poisoning yourself, never eat any plant or fruit that is beginning to spoil or shows signs of fungus or mildew.

Edible Plants

There are more than 120,000 edible species of plants, which is definitely helpful if you are surviving in the wild. A few of these plants can be found almost everywhere. If you know what to look for, you always have a healthy snack nearby!

Just think, if you are not a gardener, gardening is not necessary, because your yard (or neighborhood) has never tasted so good!

Bon Appétit!