Edible Weeds

Reader Contribution by Kelly White
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We recently purchased a new property (Yay! More on that later!) and are in the process of tidying up the landscaping. By “tidying up,” I mean actually doing the landscaping that has needed to be done for the last, um, probably 40 years! One of the plants I kept finding in all of the overgrown flowerbeds was this purple fuzzy…weed?

After some searching, I found that this was purple dead nettle and while technically a weed, it is an herb in the mint family that can be eaten both raw and cooked. This website has interesting information on how the plant has a unique relationship with ants (of all things):


Should you wish for a more in-depth description of purple dead nettle, you might check out this website:


This got me thinking…was there anything else edible in the yard? That sounds funny, but if I could eat purple dead nettle what else might be growing wild on our new farm that could add nutrition and or flavor to our meals. Here’s a list of some other very common weeds and wild edibles you might find in your yard:

Dandelions: Dandelions can be eaten cooked or raw and even made into a tea that has mild diuretic properties.
Clover: Another weed that can be eaten raw or cooked and made into a tea.
Plantain: Plantain can be applied topically to soothe minor skin irritations, and can also be boiled or sautéed and eaten. This is not the same as the tropical fruit that resembles a banana!
Chickweed: Every part of this weed is edible, even its tiny white flowers. It can be eaten raw or cooked as well as dried for a tea.
Stinging nettle: Some people use nettle tea to ward off seasonal allergies. Be careful foraging this one because the “stinging” name does it justice. It has little prickles on it that can irritate some people’s skin. Best to wear gloves and long sleeves.
Wild violets: Just as lovely as the ones you plant on purpose, wild violets can be used for tea and to add subtle flavor to baked goods and salads.
Mallow: Mallow can be added to salads or soups or in a stir-fry.
Fiddleheads: I’m not sure how anyone can resist the temptation to pick fiddleheads because, let’s face it, they look so cool. They are also edible — preferably cooked.

I am certain there are more items I could add to this list, this is just a start from some quick research. It’s amazing to me how plants can provide so much to us if we just take the time to learn about them. It’s a whole other secret world. I can’t tell you how many weeds and edibles I found just weeding those aforementioned neglected flowerbeds. Incredible!

P.S. If you don’t find purple dead nettle as lovely as I do, don’t fret — you can easily pull it out by hand or wait until the weather warms up, the plants won’t last past the June heat. Just an added tip for you!

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