On June 26, Chris Sims gave an insightful presentation at the JCC on common weeds that are edible and/or useful as medicines. The crowd of eighteen or so included a handful of children who eagerly took part in the plant ID quiz that kicked off the meeting. Plants were passed around so participants could get a visceral experience of each.
Chris remembers as a young girl picking wild blueberries for pancakes and said she’s been hooked ever since! She brought some helpful books including her favorite from the 1980s, Edible Wild Plants of North America, A Field Guide. She started with some common sense precautions such as avoiding roadsides or areas where domestic animals roam and making sure the weeds haven’t been treated with pesticides.
Chris focused on ten edibles that “grow and thrive in Jericho’s lawns and gardens”.
Here are just a few highlights from her talk:
Clover, both white and red are distinguished by triangle patterns (chevrons) on the leaves that actually help guide insects to the flower. The flowers are mildly sweet and the leaves should be eaten in moderation (and cooked) since they contain phytoestrogens.
Curly dock, originally from Eurasia, is very prolific in Vermont. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and oxalic acid gives it a lemony flavor. Once the seeds mature in late summer, they can be stripped from the stalk and ground into flour for breads, pancakes, etc.
Dandelion: all parts of the familiar ‘lions tooth’ are edible with the flowers being the most nutritious; the pollen is considered a ‘superfood’. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, though get bitter once the flowers buds start to form. Roots harvested in the spring, also before budding, can be roasted, ground and combined with other ingredients for a tasty beveridge.
Johnny jump-ups: also known as wild pansies, these pretty purple flowers are edible in small quantities as they contain saponins which are toxic in large quantities. These flowers make a decorative garnish in a salad and are used as dye as well.
Lambs quarters: A favorite of Chris’s, she says they’re a great substitute for spinach, especially with the vicissitudes of growing the latter! She said the leaves are best when cooked and brought along a yummy quiche made from lamb’s quarters and eggs for people to sample. When the plant is mature, she said you can collect the seeds to boil them and use in soups or for baking.
Pigweed, in the amaranth family is another great substitute for spinach and Chris said the young leaves are tasty fresh, cooked or dried.
Plantain as an edible is best when the leaves are young. They can be crushed or chewed to make a poultice for sunburn, skin ailments and insect bites.
Purslane, identified by its rubbery thick leaves is highly nutritious and can be added to salads for both its flavor and crunchiness.
Wild violet is identified by its heart shaped leaves. Blossoms can be used to make jelly or to beautify a salad.
Yellow wood sorrel is a favorite among children as it’s easy and fun to identify. Flowers and leaves are edible in small quantities as the plant is high in oxalic acid. Often used to make a lemony iced tea.
Click to set custom HTML