Learning To Love Weeds
A few years ago a farmer at my local market introduced me to the idea that purslane– a weed that I once thought of as a nuisance– was actually packed with incredible health benefits. At this point I was already aware of the value of eating weeds because a friend of mine had given me The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair– a book that has since encouraged me to take weeds seriously, which is something that I would encourage all gardeners to explore for themselves this spring.
After my farmers market encounter I started using the massive amounts of purslane that grows like crazy in my garden by adding it to my morning juice, to salads, and eating it raw. One of our editors who is a natural health guru recently told me that purslane is also a rich source of melatonin, which makes it the perfect wild edible for insomniacs and travelers who are constantly crossing time zones.
More recently, at a pop-up dinner prepared by Sqirl Restaurant in L.A., I was served a salad topped with what I fondly refer to as sweetgrass. The chef, Jessica Koslow, overheard me telling my daughter that it was a weed that grew in the field next to where I grew up in California, and that we used to chew on the sour-tasting stems. Koslow then told me that in fact she had brought the oxalis with her from her own backyard in Silverlake, and that– much to my surprise– this plant was also packed with native health benefits (it’s high in oxalic acid and Vitamin C).
Armed with The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, I decided it was time to send myself down the rabbit hole and continue to investigate this new trend of eating weeds for myself. After reading through Blair’s book, I realized my garden was full of edibles. For instance, lambsquarters– which I have been pulling out for years– is a great source for Vitamin A and C, as well as a number of essential minerals. The dusty powder on the leaves (which I thought was mildew) is actually mineral salts; the leaves can be added to your morning juice for extra calcium.
I now know how lucky I am to have chickweed, clover, dandelions, knotweed, mugwort, thistle, dock, and purslane– plants I used to try and keep out of my garden. Nature is full of an amazing abundance of vitamins and minerals. GC recently published a story about the beauty and simplicity of a classic spring salad, but I think weed salads will be the new frontier. If more of us ate “weeds” from our gardens we would all have glowing skin, more energy, and fewer visits to the doctors office. The best part of all is that the abundance of vitamins and minerals in weeds are free; as usual, nature is always just a little bit ahead.