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Why Not Eat some Weeds - Edible Hedgerow Plants with Interesting Names.

Updated on July 30, 2012
Butterfly on a Wildflower
Butterfly on a Wildflower

Sorry? - Did you say Eat some Weeds?

Yes! That's exactly what I said - Eat Weeds. I can hear the screams of disgust as I write - "Have you taken leave of your senses? - Why would anyone who is not incarcerated in a mental heath unit want to eat weeds?

Well now hold on a minute because I want to try to convince you that to eat weeds is not as mad as it first appears. You see the problem is that when we hear the word "Weeds", we tend to have a mental knee-jerk reaction. Weeds tend to have negative connotations for most of us. Weeds = Bad. Weeds, however have been given a bad press. Lets look at them from a different point of view.

What is a Weed?

Well, It's not the Devil in vegetable form, there is nothing inherently evil about a weed (even Nettles!). It is simply a plant growing in the wrong place, or a plant for which we think we have no use. The problem is that weeds tend to be extremely common. They grow vigorously and in profusion. There's often millions of them growing all over the place.

It is a strange quirk of human nature that when something is plentiful and easily available, we tent to think that it is worthless, but nothing dear reader, could be further from the truth. The vast majority of the plants that we call weeds are edible (even medicinal). It's good to eat weeds. There are many edible hedgerow plants. They have unique and subtle flavours. They tend to be low calorie (ideal for slimming).They are full of health-giving properties. They are plentiful and they are Free!

If they are so good - How come we don't know about them?

There was a time, long ago, when we would have known about edible hedgerow plants and they were more than happy to eat weeds. They would have been part of every housewife's kitchen arsenal. But those were the days of course, when growing your own food was the norm.

In more modern times, the production of food became a commercial enterprise, and the big money was in produce that was difficult to find or to grow. These were the products that saw the benefits of massive advertising and PR campaigns the rest fell by the wayside, after all, how can you make money from edible hedgerow plants - something that grows by itself, is abundant - and Free?

You would like to eat weeds but don't know where to start?

OK. Why not start off with one of the most common weeds, familiar to everyone, the scourge of Lawn growers everywhere - The Dandelion.

Eat Weeds - The Dandelion
Eat Weeds - The Dandelion

Eat Weeds: The Dandelion

The Dandelion (Fancy name = Taraxacum Officianale) Is probably one of the best known edible hedgerow plants, an ideal Salad ingredient. It's rich in minerals and refreshingly bracing to eat. It has a very long tradition of not only culinary, but also medical use and cultivated varieties have been developed in France and The United States. The leaves may be gathered at almost any time of the year Just strip the youngest tenderest leaves and wash well to remove most of the white sap (There is nothing noxious about the sap, but it is a mild diuretic - This is probably the origin of the childhood lore that "Dandelions make you wet the bed)

Some of the worlds best gastronomes eat weeds - "Pissenlit au Lard" for example, is a dish found in some French restaurants. This consists of a bed of Dandelion leaves, covered with small bits of crispy fried bacon, and dressed with vinegar, bacon fat and seasoning.

As an addition to the colour and texture, why not throw in a few flower heads as well - All parts of the plant are edible. The flower heads also make an excellent and delicate wine, and the roots, crushed and roasted make an unusually acceptable coffee substitute.

Eat Weeds - Jack by the Hedge or Garlic Mustard
Eat Weeds - Jack by the Hedge or Garlic Mustard

Eat Weeds: Jack-by-the-Hedge

Jack-by-the-Hedge (Fancy name = Alliaria Petiolata) another reasonably famous edible hedgerow plant, is also known as Hedge Garlic, Garlic Mustard and Beggar Man's Oatmeal.

If you want to eat weeds, then this is a good one to start with. Extremely plentiful and widespread on hedge-banks and wood edges (in fact it is so plentiful in parts of the USA that it is regarded as an invasive species). It's brilliant white flowers appear from April to June.

If you are the sort of person who likes their garlic - but only in moderation - then this is the plant for you. Although unrelated to Garlic, when the leaves are crushed or chopped, the gentle but unmistakable smell of Garlic is released.

Try it in stews, or finely chopped in salads. It is specially good as a sauce for Lamb. Chop the leaves with some Hawthorn buds and a little Mint. Mix it well together with some Vinegar and Sugar and serve it with Lamb as an alternative to Mint Sauce - Delicious!

Weeds are your Friends.

These are just two examplesfrom the vast larder of edible hedgerow plants, but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of other "Weeds" out there just waiting for you to discover them and on this journey of discovery Google is your friend. When you come across a weed you know nothing about - Check it out with Mr. Google - You will be amazed.

So next time you find the garden cluttered with Cleavers, don't get angry. Weeds are your friends. Why not have them over for dinner sometime?

Food for Free

The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
The Forager's Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
A practical guide to all aspects of edible wild plants: finding and identifying them, their seasons of harvest, and their methods of collection and preparation. Each plant is discussed in great detail and accompanied by excellent color photographs.

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