Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Eat your Weeds!

Lamb's quarter, ready for eating, stems and all
Many of my garden weeds have no redeeming characteristics that I'm aware of, particularly the grass and the sedge.  I suppose the vetch is a good nitrogen fixer, but it aggressively smothers all in its path.  I've heard chickweed is edible, but haven't made a study of it yet.  Wood sorrel is nice for the occasional nibble, though not in the quantities that spring up upon every inch of soil here.

But among my weeds are some true gems that I've been actively encouraging - namely the purslane, lamb's quarter and sheep sorrel.

Michael Pollan once called purslane and lamb's quarter "the two most nutritious plants in the world." Purslane is a creeping succulent weed that adds crunch and a hearty flavor to salads.  Sorrel adds a lemony tang as well as vitamins to salads, soups or stir fries.  

Yesterday I had to thin and weed the beets, so at dinner we had lamb's quarter and beet greens sautéed with a little garlic and sorrel.  

Blades of sheep sorrel
Curly dock with pokeweed behind
Personally, I think lambs quarter outclasses any other green.  As a child the only greens I would eat where lamb's quarter and its cousin, a wild amaranth we called red root.  They are both mild, but hearty.  Throw in some mustard leaves for heat.

I also have curly dock and pokeweed, though not in the garden.  Both are too mature now, the dock too bitter and the poke downright poisonous.  But I make note of where they are because in march, their early leaves are the first salad of the year.  I still haven't tried the poke, but the dock was a mild, tender leaf more delicate than lettuce.  Mixed with some early dandelion leaves (which I find bitter) it's delicious.  I can only imagine how delicious it must have been to people who'd had no access to fresh greens through months of winter.