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Edible weeds

It's been raining like crazy around DC lately and I've been noticing quite a diverse range of WEEDS growing all over my lawn and garden, driving me crazy. With that said, I have recently found out that purslane is quite edible and actually pretty delicious. I just went out and pick off a stem from one and popped it in my mouth. Peppery and slightly sweet, with a slight okra-goo finish. Yum

I'm wishing to take advantage of what could have been a bad back-breaking experience uprooting every one of these weeds and expand my culinary repertoire. Does anyone know of any other edible weeds and what recipes can be applied with them? I also would recommend providing pictures along with identification so an uninformed individual (mostly myself) won't get poisoned by the wrong weed

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  1. Dandelion greens are cooked like any other form of green. Common mallow (which infests my yard) is edible, but I don't know how it's cooked. Oxalis is a form of sorrel and is edible. Note that a site I saw about eating your weeds said you should be careful about eating plants that have been exposed to pesticides, herbicides and animal waste. Here's a site on "foraging" with a list of edible plants and pictures for identification: http://foragingpictures.com/#E

    1. Although I've never tried it, I see people picking dandelion greens all the time. Batali just mentioned picking your own the other day on Molto. Maybe check this out:


      1. When I lived in Alexandria VA, I was surprised to see epazote growing through sidewalk cracks! Until that time, I had been buying it at specialty stores for use in Mexican cooking.

        When I pick dandelion greens, I try for the youngest shoots as the older growth is both tougher and more pungent. This goes for mustard as well.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Sherri

          Oh wow, I have those growing all over my yard. Any suggestions for how to eat them?

          1. re: takadi

            "Oh wow, I have those growing all over my yard. Any suggestions for how to eat them?"

            Do you have epazote and dandelion and mustard or what?

            1. re: Sherri

              I think epazote, but upon further inspection, I'm not too sure...

              1. re: takadi

                I would make certain before eating anything. Epazote has a very pungent smell. Is there a Mexican or Central American market nearby? Perhaps they could identify it for you.

            2. re: takadi

              dandelion greens? just wash and use like you would arugula (unless they're tough - then like collard - works for poke too, just takes longer)

          2. Purslane (verdolagas in Spanish) is a common ingredient in Mexican stews.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Leucadian

              A Mexican friend also dresses lightly boiled purslane with lemon juice, salt, and diced jalapenos. I eat chard that way and it's excellent.

              1. re: Leucadian

                A local Mexican (Sonoran) restaurant where I live sometimes has enchiladas verdolagas (with a green sauce). Very tasty. It's nice to know that it's also healthy.

                1. re: Leucadian

                  Purslane is also good as a pickle. Use any refrigerator pickle recipe (like dilly beans) and keep it handly to serve in or with a sandwich.
                  BTW you can buy seeds for same and they can be either the flat growing kind you find wild, or the upright type.
                  While you are foraging you might also consider cattails. The brown part you normally see in flower arrangements is good when it is picked green a bit larger than a pencil and is cooked like corn on the cob, served with butter.

                  1. re: Leucadian

                    Verdolagas is summer purslane, portulaca oleracea. Also called pigweed, little hogweed, and pusley. Wikipedia has a good article with culinary uses.

                    Miner's lettuce is winter purslane, claytonia perfoliata. Also called spring beauty and Indian lettuce.

                  2. Purslane is super super good for you. First heard about it from Dr. Oz on Oprah, so I bought some seeds to grow my own.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: carey24

                      They just randomly popped up in my garden, all over the place. I heard that if you tear off a piece of the stem, it'll use it's reserves to spread its seeds all over the place. Some actually reroot themselves.

                      I was surprised to hear that purslane has the highest amount of omega 3 of any leafy green out there.

                      1. re: takadi

                        I got all excited about posting about miner's lettuce, and then looked it and realized it was winter purslane. Funny story: first time I saw it I was wandering on a friend's property: an edible week. The very next week, I saw it on Postrio's menu listed as miner's lettuce, not purslane.

                        1. re: maria lorraine

                          Miner's Lettuce has a more exotic ring and sounds expensive; purslane sounds like a common weed. A restaurant can charge more for a rare-sounding food than for a very common, grows everywhere (including sidewalk cracks) one.

                          Ermine tails have long been a clothing status symbol and have graced the cloaks of royalty. Weasel does have the same cachet, although it is the same animal, diferent season. "Summer Ermine" is its name in the world of fur. Miner's lettuce VS purslane; hmmmmm, no big stretch.

                    2. I grew up in Southern Maryland and we ate pokeweed/poke salit/salet/salad and lambs quarters which we also ate when we lived in Alabama previously. The pokeweed grew along our fence lines and the lambs quarters would invade our vegetable garden. We generally did not eat pokeweed after the berries showed up on them...but if times were hard and there was nothing else to be had, then we boiled the pokeweed in 2-3 changes of water and then cooked them just like collards, mustards, and kale - with a piece of side meat.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: SoulFoodie

                        As a kid we used to pick & eat what we called sourgrass, which I later learned is actually sheep sorrel. It's very easy to spot, with rounded blade-shaped leaves and two little ears at the bottom. It's the image on the right in the attached photo.

                        Quite common in New England.

                        1. re: BobB

                          Interesting. What I used to pick and eat as "sourgrass" as a kid in California is sorrel, but a different variety: yellow wood sorrel, aka oxalis. One site pointed out that while it's okay to eat in small quantities, too much oxalic acid (the stuff that makes it sour) can be toxic.

                        2. re: SoulFoodie

                          I ate lambs quarters growing up in Texas. It grew all over my grandmother's yard.

                          1. re: GenieinTX

                            This is sometimes referred to as "wild spinach",
                            and I have yanked many of it out of the ground often calling it a ' vile weed ' but was wondering did you like eating it in Texas, and do you have a recipe for lambs quarters? Here on the east coast, some greenmarket vendors have tried to sell it, but have had few if any takers.

                            1. re: Cheese Boy

                              If you pick lamb's quarters young, just cook them any way you would cook spinach. We ate it all the time at my grandmother's house when I was a child. You can also use the tiny new leaves in salad. It's really good.

                          2. re: SoulFoodie

                            I love poke sallet. I have it every year for my birthday (in May). We parboil the leaves twice then fry it in oil. Some people scramble eggs in with it at that point but we always have hard boiled eggs to eat with it. We also trim up the stems coat them with a little flour and fry them too.

                            1. re: SoulFoodie

                              I've seen people in Tulsa foraging for pokeweed. Please note that it is POISONOUS unless it is prepared correctly!!


                            2. I would explore the local groups that probably give a walking tour class just for this purpose. Trying to match greens from pic on the net can be iffy. Hands on demonstration is so much better. I need to do the same here in Southern California.

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: torty

                                torty, does fennel grow wild in SoCal like it does up North?

                                1. re: hill food

                                  Oh yes. The problem is that the wild stuff is dependent on the water supply so in rainy years it is lovely, this year it is scarce. I will be posting in more appropriate places about collecting and using the pollen. Right now it is still being opportunistic- wherever there is some water it comes up and thrives for a bit. Sometimes I can't even see it, and then the dogs run down a steep incline and the licorice scent wafts up and captures our attention.

                                  1. re: torty

                                    interesting - I used to see it all over SF's Bayshore area growing out of pavement cracks. I tried to grow it this year from a seedling (East Coast now, plenty of sun and water) it's been just lackluster.

                                    interesting article in the SFBG or Weekly - can't remember which, S. Rosenbaum did a cool piece on foraging. made a nice sounding meal out of fennel, snails and blackberries (among other ingredients she found in public parks and areas).

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Just be careful -- wild hemlock can be mistaken for fennel. In northern California a few years back, a group of people got poisoned by making that mistake. From what I've been told, it's pretty easy to distinguish them as long as you know what to look for.

                                      See: http://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/...

                                      1. re: jlafler

                                        j - good point, not to mention all the amateur mycologists needing emergency liver transplants over the years.

                                        personally, I like my hemlock tossed with rhubarb leaves and dressed in a belladonna vinagrette.

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          And a little sprinkle of minced apricot kernels?

                                          1. re: hill food

                                            Hemlock is a neurotoxin and can be deadly in fairly small amounts. One easy way to distinguish them is that hemlock has purplish blotches on the stems, often referred to as the blood of Socrates (an easy mnemonic). The markings are visible even when the plant has died off and there aren't any leaves or flowers to provide clues. This is important because the plants are still toxic -- I heard about a little boy who was poisoned by a whistle he'd made from a dried hemlock stem.

                                            BTW, deadly nightshade also grows wild in California.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              wasn't there a restaurant in SF (Hayes Valley) that specialized in the edible relatives of nightshade? basil etc.

                                              1. re: hill food

                                                Is basil a nightshade? Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are all nightshades, but I don't believe the leaves are edible for any nightshades. My sister (jlafler) had a friend who was allergic to nightshades -- she used to joke that ratatouille was "Katherine poison." According to wikipedia, tobacco is also a nightshade: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanaceae

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I coulda sworn they were related...maybe I'm confused.

                                                  and I always have wondered if j and Ruth were as well (pardon the inconsistency in capitalization, but it's based on how you post)

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    Well, "related" is, you should pardon the expression, a relative term. Basil and nightshade are both flowering plants, so they're more closely related than either one is to, say, a pine tree. But within the class (or order or whatever it is) of flowering plants, they're in different families.

                                                    You can call me whatever you like -- I deserve it for picking a dumb screen name. My name is Janet, but there were already several Janets around, so I just used my first initial.

                                                    1. re: jlafler

                                                      i thought it was really neat when i figured out that you ladies-- Ruth Lafler and jlafler-- were related/sisters. it was on whatever thread it was-- where Sam F. said something like "you laflers have me laughing" or something. . . anyway i hadn't connected you until Sam did it for me, but then i was, (insert valley girl accent) "like, omg-- *duh*!" anyway, pretty cool. and i don't think your screen name is dumb, come on, it's not like its "parTgirl4evR" or something. :)

                                                      on topic: if we expand the edibles list to common plants that *are* edible, but are not often eaten, the list can get very long. lots of cacti are edible, for example, & rose petals & rose hips are edible although they are generally considered ornamentals, there are many other edible blooms as well.

                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    Actually, some cultures do eat pepper leaves, though personally I'd rather have the leaves on the plant to produce more peppers, since there are plenty of other leafy greens to eat. Amaranth, anyone? (Tangentially related tidbit -- sweet potato leaves are edible too.)

                                                    1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                      I think the pepper leaves people eat are from black pepper not capsicum pepper. Certainly a key ingredient of the betel nut chewing popular in much of southeast asia and India is the leaf of Piper betel, a close relative of black pepper. Though I beive there are solanums whose leaves are eaten as a cooked vegetable. As for the sweet potato It's not jsut that there are other moring golories whose leaves can be eaten. If youve ever seen the vegetable ong choi (usually called "water spinach") in an asain market, that's a kind of moring glory too.

                                                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                                                        ECHO lists a variety of Capsicum chinense called Ensalada which specifically notes that the leaves are edible:

                                                        'Ensalada': Drought resistant hot pepper. Leaves can be eaten cooked.


                                                  3. re: hill food

                                                    When it comes down to it, just about any poisonous plant has edible relatives. The nightshade family includes potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants. Basil is in the mint family.

                                        2. re: hill food

                                          Camp Pendleton (San Diego coastal) is covered with fennel along the roadways. http://www.answers.com/topic/fennel

                                      2. young nettles are edible when cooked. the most common culinary use is in kind of a "spring tonic" soup with early greens, & perhaps ramps. they are extremely nutritious.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          I find it so ironic that we pay for foods that have zero nutrition and trash and spray deadly chemicals on vegetables that are nutritional gold

                                          1. re: takadi

                                            Grow your own if possible, even in small containers filled with rich organic potting soil. Plant patio tomatos, chives, thyme, parsley, and basil at least. Let the weeds grow in between. Purslane is good raw in salads. The other greens are good cooked. Take walks, keep an eye out for weeds and wild berries to forage. Don't pick anything on a heavily trafficked road.

                                        2. my parent's front yard is practically a dandelion farm, which is fortunate because the ladies at their church have taken a liking to dandelion roots...so every couple of weeks, there are 3 or 4 korean ladies weeding their lawn...

                                          my mom says the roots are much tastier and less bitter than the leaves and are supposed to be very nutritious. she dips them in a spicy korean sauce (chogochujang) and eats them with rice.

                                          3 Replies
                                              1. re: Aromatherapy

                                                she eats the roots raw and stews the leaves in soy sauce and garlic...

                                            1. i just found out that japanese knotweed is edible. it takes over my backyard and probably everyone else's backyards in the neighborhood. it's recommended to eat the shoots that come up in the spring time. unfortunately, when i found this out i had already pulled them to prepare for a 4th of july party. i'll experiment with them next year.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: rebs

                                                Japanese Knotweed is pretty rife in the UK too. I hate the stuff - but love the idea that it might be edible!

                                                Anyone have any ideas how to prepare this?

                                                Raw or Cooked?

                                                Here's a link to UK edible weeds: http://www.countrylovers.co.uk/wildfo...

                                              2. Not exactly a lawn weed, but daikon is pretty common in So. Cal. Interestingly, although the root of the wild plant is too fibrous to be useful, the seed pods are very tasty if you pick them young enough.

                                                1. I'm pretty sure I have a boatload of purslane in the same pot my basil is in. Do I want to pick the whole plant out, so it doesn't set seeds? Then just use the leaves in a salad? I could def. blanch and toss with dressing, or whatever. I love Kale that way.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: leek

                                                    Wash it well. Pick off the leaves and toss them in a salad. You don't have to blanch them.
                                                    Nettles are good cooked as spinach. Picking them is a problem; use gloves. Goosefoot, which drives me crazy here in N Bay CA, is edible.
                                                    Doesn't anyone have a copy of Stalking the Wild Asparagus? (E. Gibbons)We were all reading that in the '60s. And I actually did find a wild asparagus in the Boston area and another in the Hudson Valley, NY. None since. But found daikon in Boston area. Suggest you all check used book stores for Gibbons book.

                                                    1. re: leek

                                                      Picking off parts of the stem allows the plant to spread like wildfire.

                                                      I picked some and sauteed it with tomatoes garlic onion and corn akin to tomatoes and okra since purslane is kinda gooey like okra. It was delicious!

                                                    2. i have a big pokeweed in my backyard. when i read wiki, it indicates safety concerns, but at the same time notes its grewat use in southern food culture, and native american medicine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pokeweed

                                                      what's the truth about pokeweed?

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        I've never eaten it but have had neighbors who do. They only eat the tender shoots in the spring because the older the plant gets the more toxic it becomes. Apparently you have to blanch or boil it several times before eating it. I just avoid it.

                                                      2. Here's a book you all might like - Welsch, Roger L. Weed 'em and Reap :A Weed Eater Reader.

                                                        1. Providing inspiration, as well as enjoyment/comfort, this link informs and cautions ...