Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." You might hate the weeds taking over your garden, but many so-called pests are not only edible but quite nutritious, and some even have useful medicinal properties. Next time you need to take revenge on common garden weeds, leave the poison in the shed and turn your weeds into a healthy snack. Just make sure the weeds haven't been sprayed with herbicide, and avoid roadside weeds that can be polluted with gas fumes and asphalt runoff. Check with a doctor about eating medicinal weeds if you are pregnant or using medication.
All grass is edible, but most of the blade is indigestible roughage. You can still get the nutritional benefits of grass by chewing up a few blades and sucking out the juices, then spitting out the vegetation. Like any vegetable plant such as lettuce, kale or leafy herbs, grass tastes best when it's young and tender and hasn't yet gone to seed. Some grass is quite sweet, especially in spring. Grass is rich in iron, and works as a digestive cleanser.
Edible flowers are a tasty addition to salads that make them look fresh and colorful. Johnny jump-ups are a type of wild violet with sweet-tasting flowers, while the flowers on wild mustard and wild radish are more pungent with a taste similar to nasturtium flowers. They can be eaten into the summer months, but they get increasingly spicy as the weather gets hotter. Most flowers are best eaten raw. Mustard flowers and greens are highly nutritious, with lots of vitamins A, C, E and K as well as calcium and potassium. Wild radish flowers and greens are a rich source of Vitamin C and calcium.
Widely eaten in the Near and Middle East, the fine stinging hairs on nettle are destroyed by thorough cooking. Nettle can be used as a substitute for spinach and it has a similar flavor. Cover your hands and arms when harvesting and preparing nettle to avoid getting stung, and boil, steam, or saute the leaves and thinner stems. The leaves can also be dried and made into tea. Nettle is very high in calcium and iron.
This prolific weed has leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked in soups, salads or side dishes. You can even make dandelion buds into wine. The roots and leaves have a bitter taste that might take some getting used to, but dandelion is high in iron and Vitamins C and A. Medicinally, it is used as diuretic and laxative.
Also called hogweed or pigweed, this succulent weed has round, fat flowers and is commonly eaten all over the world. It has a slightly sour flavor similar to cress, and is delicious in soups and salads. Its sourness can be reduced by harvesting it late in the day, and some people don't like chewing the stems. Purslane is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.