Here’s my salad from the other day’s weed walk – watercress, mallow, plantain, self heal, sheep’s sorrel, dandelion, fathen, mixed with a bit of lettuce. It’s dressed with olive oil, salt, herb vinegar and topped with boiled eggs and violets from the garden.
Reasons to eat weed salads:
Weeds are usually very rich in minerals and vitamins – I’m not completely hung up on measuring nutrient values (there are other useful ways of judging the value of food), but wild plants do have very large amounts of goodies in them, usually higher than cultivated vegetables.
It diversifies our diet – our not too distant ancestors ate a much wider range of foods than we did, giving themselves access to a wider range of nutrients.
Different weeds offer different benefits – bitter herbs aid digestion by increasing bile and liver function; bland herbs are rich in minerals; spicy or tart herbs make food more palatable and interesting, and stimulate saliva thus aiding digestion.
Wildness is ingestible – people who eat wild plants say that they get something from them not in domesticated vegetables. Whether this is a different set of nutrients, or something more intangible and soulful, eating wild foods nourishes us in ways that garden food doesn’t quite touch.
Eating weeds connects us with the land – it makes us more aware of what is happening to the land around us and how it needs to be taken care of.
Tips on making a good salad.
* taste the weeds as you harvest. This gives you a good sense of what you like and how much to gather (lots of blander herbs, small amounts of bitters).
* start simply. If you are new to eating weeds, start by adding small amounts to your existing salads. Focus on weeds you really like.
* treat weeds as you would any other foodstuff. Clean them if necessary, take time to select the best parts, discard tough stalks and other inedible bits.
* some plants are an acquired taste, especially if you aren’t used to them. Again, start with the ones you are attracted to.
* dress the salad ahead of time with something salty, something fatty, and something acidic. I like sea salt, olive oil and herbal vinegar. Salt, fat and acid all increase palatability and satiation as well as making nutrients more available (by breaking down the cell walls of the greens). The longer you leave the salad to sit dressed, the more nourishment you will get from it.
* don’t be afraid to add flowers (which need a post of their own!!) for aesthetics, taste and nourishment.