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Chickweed - A nutritious edible weed

Updated on September 22, 2014
I took this picture of some chickweed growing on a sidewalk in Carson.
I took this picture of some chickweed growing on a sidewalk in Carson. | Source

Chickweed (part of "Edible Weeds in Los Angeles")

Fun facts and recipes, all about the dainty chickweed.

Chickweed is a beautiful, delicate, and tasty herb. It's less visible during the hottest months of the year, but it's a treat when it's around. One of my very favorite salad greens.


Chickweed flowers.  Each one has five petals, but they look like they have ten petals.
Chickweed flowers. Each one has five petals, but they look like they have ten petals. | Source

Getting acquainted with chickweed

Chickweed - Stellaria media

The binomial name for chickweed is Stellaria media. Stellaria is from the Latin stella which means "star", referring to the star-shaped flower. Media means "middle" and distinguishes chickweed for smaller and larger relatives.

Chickweed is Eurasian in origin and was brought to the New World by European settlers. The English name "chickweed" refers to the fact that chickens and other birds like to eat it.

NOTE: There are several other plants that have been nicknamed "chickweed", but the term most commonly refers to our friend Stellaria media.

Shared by Kenraiz Krzysztof Ziarnek
Shared by Kenraiz Krzysztof Ziarnek | Source

Identifying chickweed

Chickweed likes to grow in dense, tangled mats low to the ground. It has pointed oval leaves that grow in pairs along the stem.

A very cute characteristic of chickweed is a line of fine hairs that will be present on only one side of the stem. You'll see the line of hairs going up one side of the stem until it reaches a node (where the leaves branch off), then the line of hairs will switch to the opposite side of the stem.

When broken, the chickweed stem does not exude any sap. If you have something with white sap in the stem, it's not chickweed.

Chickweed has a white flower with five petals, but each petals is so deeply notched that it looks like there are ten petals instead of five.

Chickweed videos - one from Green Deane and one from learningherbs.com

Another photo from my back yard.  You will usually see chickweed growing in dense patches like this one.  Strength in numbers.
Another photo from my back yard. You will usually see chickweed growing in dense patches like this one. Strength in numbers. | Source

Nutritional info on chickweed

Chickweed is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and silicon.

It's really nice to pop one sprig of chickweed into your mouth while you're gathering your wild plants.
It's really nice to pop one sprig of chickweed into your mouth while you're gathering your wild plants. | Source

Eating chickweed

Good for salads and more

The leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds of chickweed are all edible. It has a very inviting flavor, mild and very green. It tastes like spring. Some people compare the flavor to cornsilk. It's a wonderful one to balance out some of the bitter greens you might have in your salad.

Most people agree with me that the very best way to eat chickweed is raw. It's a delicate plant that much more suited for dropping into a salad that putting in a pot of boiling water. But it can be used in soup, and it is sometimes stir-fried.

Here a few recipes:

Recipe video - Raw chickweed dip

Cookbooks with chickweed recipes

Cooking Alaskan
Cooking Alaskan

Features recipes for chickweed salad and steamed chickweed, as well as instructions for chickweed tea and chickweed tonic.

Chickweed is known as a cold-weather plant, so it's not surprising that it would be familiar to Alaskans.

Quote: ". . . lamb's quarters and chickweed, grow unbidden. You might as well eat them and pretend they're part of your plan."

 
Blackberry Cove Herbal: Healing with Common Herbs
Blackberry Cove Herbal: Healing with Common Herbs

Mentions some interesting folk wisdom about chickweed, including looking at chickweed flowers to determine the probability of rain.

Quote: "The more common names an herb can claim, the more useful the plant has been to us, and chickweed is the perfect example. You may hear it called any one of these: satinflower, birdseed, tongue grass, white bird's eye, adder's mouth, winterweed, stitchwort, skirt buttons, chick wittles, starwort, or chickenweed."

 
1904 photo of a group of Ainu people
1904 photo of a group of Ainu people | Source

Chickweed folklore

So far I have only found one mythological reference to chickweed.

The Ainu people are an indigenous tribe located in a part of Japan. According to Ainu mythology, the first humans had bodies made of earth, hair made of chickweed, and spines made of willow sticks. (Source: New World Encyclopedia)

Medicinal uses of chickweed

I think of chickweed as a nutritional food, but it also has popularity as a medicinal herb.

It is often used as a remedy to promote wound healing. It's frequently made into ointments and salves for topical use.

Chickweed is also mildly diuretic and considered cleansing to the urinary tract.

Herbal books that mention chickweed

Healing Wise (Wise Woman Herbal)
Healing Wise (Wise Woman Herbal)

This book by Susun Weed focuses in depth on just seven weeds, and chickweed is one of them. Lots of detailed information about the nutritional components and health benefits of chickweed.

 
Herbs: Partners in Life: Healing, Gardening, and Cooking with Wild Plants
Herbs: Partners in Life: Healing, Gardening, and Cooking with Wild Plants

Dawson's book talks about a relationship between herbs and astrology and says that chickweed is at its best when the Moon rules (whatever that means).

 

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    • profile image

      julieannbrady 2 years ago

      Fascinating information - I never knew so much about chickweed and love your pictures!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 2 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Hi! Your lens is so impressive. I am delighted to see all the different berries and plants. I will be back! Thank you for your dedication. SquidAngel blessings to you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      coacoa

    • imagelist lm profile image

      imagelist lm 4 years ago

      Cool...interesting content...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I live on the eighth floor near English Bay in Vancouver. Today I harvested and enjoyed a chickweed

      portion mixed in with my tuna .... I look forward to many more harvests from my planters.

    • profile image

      writer4 5 years ago

      You really know your herbs!

    • JJNW profile image

      JJNW 5 years ago from USA

      You know your weeds! Another great page. : )

    • Jimmy Gavin profile image

      Jimmy Gavin 5 years ago

      Over here in Scotland Chickweed is seen and treated just as that.....a weed, could be a different strain would not fancy eating the ones over here

      Great Lens

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      What a great, interesting lens. I really learned something today. I just went outside & picked what I think is chickweed, but will check with an expert before I eat any of it. And to think, I've been pulling it up as just a weed all these years.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      very helpful tips and read here, thank you for the write up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      How very cool that chickweed is edible and good for us, it certainly is abundant but I have never done anything but look at it...until now!

    • profile image

      ladykida 5 years ago

      I enjoy learning about edible foliage, thanks!

    • Frischy profile image

      Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      My yard is full of creeping charlie. I wish there were a good use for that! It has such a strong odor, I can't imagine trying to eat it. The chickens seem to like it, and turn it into eggs for me.

    • trees001 profile image

      trees001 5 years ago

      This was really nice, I enjoyed it!

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 5 years ago from Ohio

      oh yes-blessed!

    • Ilonagarden profile image

      Ilona E 5 years ago from Ohio

      I grow lots of chickweed inadvertently. It would take me awhile to muster the courage to eat it, but I like dandelion greens so who know?

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      I am really enjoying all of your pages about edible weeds including this one about chickweed. Added as a featured lens to my edible wild berries lens.

    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      I can't say that I've really heard of it before reading here. It's great how it can be used in cooking.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Another topic after my own heart. I'm just beginning to learn about edible weeds, and this lens is a perfect introduction to chickweed. The videos were especially helpful, the first for identifying the plant and avoiding toxic look-a-likes, the second for the images and the diaper rash salve. You are fast becoming my Squidoo role model lens master. I'm out of time today, but I could probably spend an entire day learning from you.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 5 years ago from Washington KS

      I did not realized that chickweed is edible!! What wonderful info.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Imagine being able to eat weeds! I didn't know about chickweed before.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Chickweed is a new plant to me. thanks for the introduction.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      I love your edible "weeds" lenses. Very educational. blessed.

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      Hey __JOAN__ I'm reading all your edible wild-plant lens

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Chickweed has always been one of my favorite plants, it's always so pretty and delicate. I know my chickens loved it, but I never knew I could eat it myself. Will definitely have to try some when I get back to an area where it grows.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      This one is almost too cute to eat:)

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