Eat Your Weedies

CORRECTION 5/28/2015: Ironically, I misidentified the species of plantain I collected and ate. On 5/27/2015 I stated that I ate Plantago major. A sharp-eyed friend of mine who is a serious forager noticed the distinctive red hue of the stems. I had actually harvested Plantago rugelii. Both species are edible.

So the garden is in, but it will be a month at least (assuming the beans come up in a timely manner) before I have anything other than herbs to harvest. However, today I can harvest the most humble food source available to the DIYeter- weeds.

The typical yard tender views these non-grasses as pests to be removed, or even poisoned. Many common weeds are edible, though. Which ones? Home and Garden Television offers this list. Gardening Know How names these. There is some cross over between the lists; most of these weeds are common all over the USA. If you want to know what edible weeds grow near you then I recommend consulting a local experienced forager. Not only will you make a new friend, you may also make better choices regarding which plants you harvest. Yes, I have said it before. Yes, I will say it again. Correct identification of the plants you harvest is critical. There are plants that can make you very, very sick or even very, very dead.

Thankfully, my yard is full of an edible weed that I can identify for sure: plantain (Plantago rugelii) This leafy lovely is found all over the 50 states and most of Canada. The USDA has a helpful page about it. Since I know my yard has not been sprayed with or contaminated by toxic chemicals I feel perfectly comfortable sampling them for the first time.

Here’s what happened when I harvested some plantain for a salad…

Here is some of that Plantago major in its natural habitat, next to my garden hose.

Here is some of that Plantago rugelii in its natural habitat, next to my garden hose.

Next, a good rinse to get the dirt off, and a good soak to float the bugs out. A salad spinner is good for that.

Next, a good rinse to get the dirt off, and a good soak to float the bugs out. A salad spinner is good for that.

I bit into one small leaf. It was slightly bitter and tasted kind of like a freshly cut lawn, but in a good way. The longitudinal veins of the leaf made for some tough chewing. I decided on some cross-wise slices to make chewing easier.

I bit into one small leaf. It was slightly bitter and tasted kind of like a freshly cut lawn, but in a good way. The longitudinal veins of the leaf made for some tough chewing. I decided on some cross-wise slices to make chewing easier.

Amongst the romaine hearts, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and chick peas the plantain is less grassy. The bitter taste blends with the tart tomatoes very pleasantly. Overall, I like it.

Amongst the romaine hearts, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes and chick peas the plantain is less grassy. The bitter taste blends with the tart tomatoes very pleasantly. Overall, I like it.

Mr. Food It Yourself grudgingly tried a few leaves on his salad. His comment: “By themselves they suck, but mixed in with everything else they’re not too bad”.

I can vouch for the tastiness of plantain leaves as a salad green.  Now I want to try it in other preparations, like sauteed with garlic, or maybe with bacon. Good thing they grow so well behind my garage. It certainly doesn’t get less expensive than “free from the back yard”, and plantain has the advantage of NOT looking like any dangerous plants native to my area. Curious about eating your weedies? Give it a try! Even if you don’t like the weeds you eat, it’s not like you’ll be out any serious money. On the other hand, you may find another delicious addition to your DIYet!

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