Monday, July 09, 2007

Wonderful Weeds

"Let food be your medicine and medicine your food".

Wild plants are resources, and should be encouraged to grow whenever possible. Often, edible wild greens have a much higher nutritional value than cultivated greens. Some wild plants have been with us for more than 10,000 years! Always make sure you are property identifying the wild edibles, as many plants have similar counterparts that may be inedible or even poisonous. Investigate in a good field guide - for our region we use the Peterson's A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants of Eastern and Central North America.

Here are 10 excellent wild edibles to grow or wildcraft. If you visit us, you will find all of these coexisting peacefully among our other cultivated plants on our property!

(list from Organic Gardening, Feb/March 2007)

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Used medicinally as an immune stimulant; historically, it was used to relieve flu aches and as an antiperspirant. Caution: a closely related species is poisonouse.

A tasty salad green that's been used topically to treat skin irritations. Grows well in cool climates.

Common Mallow
Harvest leaves for salad or cook in soup. Herbalists use tea made from the leaves and flowers to sooth sore throats.


Leaves are healthful both cooked and in salads. Leaves and roots are used in herbal tonics to aid liver function and better overall health.

Lamb's Quarters
A tender annual substitute for spinach that does well in the heat. Use in salad or cooked.

The flowering tops are used by herbalists for heart problems and female health concerns.


A rich source of iron and calcium eaten as a cooked vegetable or made into a tea. Look for it in hair products as a scalp stimulant and tonic.


Eat the leaves raw in salad or cooked in soup. Makes a healing poultice that is used to relieve bug-bit symptoms and aid the healing of wounds.


Add a taste of spring to salads, soups, and pesto. Both the leaves and flowers are edible and high in vitamin C. Herbalists apply violet internally for irritated throats and exernally to treat burns.

Wild Fennel
Has an anise-like scent and taste, and its yellow flowers attract beneficial insects that prey on leaf-eating insects.

Here at Little City Farm our other favourites include:

Has been eaten and appreciated in India and Persia for more than 2000 years, and is also a prized vegetable over much of Europe and Asia. The entire plant, stem, leaf and flower bud is good to eat. Use in salads, casseroles, steamed, and even pickled (the fat stems)!

Also known as Great Gobo, the sliced roots of this vegetable are a common ingredients in Japanese cooking. It has a long history of having a great reputation as an aphrodisiac. Burdock is a biennial, and the roots should only be collected from first-year plants in June or early July. Used by herbalists as a liver tonic.

Yellow Dock
Young leaves used in salads, and roots combined with burdock as liver tonic.

Large wooly mullein leaf is used by herbalists for sore throats, coughs and bronchitis. The smally yellow flowers can be infused in oil to make a remedy for ear aches.

Also known as "knit-bone" the comfrey leaf can be made into a poultice and applied to wounds, scrapes, sprains and even broken bones. Gets mixed reviews regarding internal use, as it may contain toxic compounds.

Youngest leaves used to make a salad. Taking a knife or weeding tool, dig underground and cut the root near the top. The white, underground parts of the leaves make an excellent salad that is most tender. The long taproots can be dried and ground into powder for an excellent coffee substitute.

Wild Grape
Wild graps can be made into a jelly, that is even more fragrant and delicious than cultivated grape. The leaves are excellent for making stuffed grape leaves, a recipe originating in the Middle East.

Day Lily
Prized in Chinese cooking, the day lily buds and flowers can be eaten fresh or dried. They can be added to soups, stews, or garnish vegetable dishes or salads.

The only food eaten by monarch butterflies, so we like to keep it well stocked in our yard to attract these beauties.

Wild Raspberry
Leaves taken as a sweet tea are wonderful for menstrual pains, and for toning the female reproductive system. Berries are small, sweet and luscious.

Wild Carrot/Queen Anne's Lace
Seeds of wild carrot are reputed to be a contraceptive. Wild carrot is also a favourite of bees and butterflies.

Read: Stalking the Wild Asparagus, by Euell Gibbons

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