Edible weeds — giving the term “weed eater” a new twist

February 24, 2012

Food, Gardening, Recipes

Know what you are picking and eating, by identifying them carefully.

by Doreen Pollack — 

Many of the weeds in your garden beds or yards — the ones you pull out, whack down with the Weed Eater® or even spray with herbicides — can complement your salads, be made into teas or soups and used in the same ways you would use greens in your favorite recipes. According to Professor James A. Duke, there are more than 100 edible weeds in the U.S. alone (1992).

Where you pick your weeds is important, however. First, find out if herbicides were sprayed in the yard or garden, or if any dogs or cats have been relieving themselves in the area. Secondly, make sure the weed is truly edible and nontoxic. Know what you are picking and eating, by identifying them carefully. Many good books are written on this topic.

Here are some other reasons why using weeds in your weekly meals is good for you and good for the planet.

  • You will stop using herbicides (a chemical poison) in your yard/garden.
  • You will save money that might otherwise be spent on greens from the market.
  • You will develop a closer relationship with nature.
  • You will get in touch with gardening, seasonal changes and learn about botany.
  • You will be healthier. Many edible weeds are rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C.

Tips to eating edible weeds include:

  • Pick them when they are young. Most of the edible weeds used in salads get tougher as they get older, such as: chicory, cress, dandelion, evening primrose, garlic mustard, lamb’s quarter, pigweed, purslane, watercress and wild garlic.
  • Cook them like a common green. Some weeds do not taste good until they are cooked. For instance, burdock, chicory, dandelion and garlic mustard are much improved by cooking to remove some of the bitterness. (Bitter greens are commonly known as liver cleansers.)

Did you know that the dandelion, ubiquitous within North America, is not native to this continent, but was introduced from Europe? Settlers brought it across the Atlantic because it is an edible weed, with medicinal properties to boot. It is high in iron, and the leaves and roots have been used to cleanse the liver. You can steam the young dandelion leaves, make them into teas or even dandelion wine. Consider a dandelion salad with anchovy dressing and dandelion fritters (use the flowers), or use the sturdy stems for dipping into hummus. The uses are many, and the benefits long-lasting.

You will never look at your dandelion-filled yard the same way. No longer is it a weed to be dealt with in frustration, but rather a delicious source of food and nutrition to be admired. So when those dandelions go to seed, blow them all over the yard or garden and make a wish for better health for everyone.

As with everything, the body’s reception of a plant is specific to each individual. What may be good for one person may not be good for another. Make sure you are not allergic to dandelions before consuming. Enjoy these recipes.

Dandelion Salad with Anchovy Dressing


  • 2 bunches dandelion greens
  • 6 anchovy filets
  • 5 stalks green garlic, chopped (clean as you would a leek)
  • 1/4-cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Wash and dry dandelion greens. Cut into 2-inch slivers. Mash anchovy filets with garlic; blend in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss leaves with dressing; then divide among 4 plates. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with thick slices of chewy bread. Serves 4.

Salad of Dandelion and Fresh Goat Cheese


  • 1 bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and dried
  • About 1/4-pound fresh white goat cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion or chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or other light vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (can use walnut oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons toasted and coarsely chopped walnuts


Cut off and discard stem bases. Cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces. Pile on a serving dish; intersperse with cheese. Sprinkle with onion, to taste. In small nonaluminum pan combine vinegar, oil and sugar; bring to a boil, stirring. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Sprinkle with nuts and serve immediately.

Dandelion Green Fettuccini


  • 2 cups dandelion greens
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


Whirl dandelion greens and eggs in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add salt and start adding flour while beating with a spoon. Keep adding until dough is stiff. Turn out onto floured surface and knead until smooth (approximately 5 minutes). Roll out with rolling pin to 1/8- to 1/4-inch thickness or thinner. Allow to stand and dry 1 hour; then cut into strips. Drop noodles into boiling water and cook 1 to 2 minutes.



Doreen Pollack is the Garden Goddess and owner of Down 2 Earth Gardens, providing garden consultations and coaching. 623-217-6038 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 2, April/May 2011.

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