Edible Weeds / Nutritious Source of Self-care
Weeds. Whenever we hear the word, we either want to just pluck them all out, or giggle. Weeds, in fact, and I am not talking about the funny kind, are a great, nutritious and vitamin full gift from nature that we’ve somehow forgotten about. When we think of foraging - and we, as humans, have been foragers since the dawn of time, we tend to think about berries and fruits and mushrooms, but we never seem to think about the plants that grow around us - in meadows, on our front lawns or simply where they shouldn’t - in our gardens. See, that is exactly where the problem lies with weeds - we plant our precious seeds in spring, water them, tend to them and grow something of our own, plucking everything that grows in between with no remorse during the process. And so we think - WEEDS ARE EVIL. Well, let me try to change your mind about that.
I’m sure most of us have heard about the medicinal properties of weeds - we’ve seen them in teas, mixtures compresses - all sorts of things our grandmas believe to treat ailments from pains to mental disorders. But oh, let me wow you now - weeds are edible too. Not just put-in-your-mouth-and-swallow-as-quickly-as-possible-not-to-taste-it kind of edible, but delicious and beautiful in dishes such as salads, soups, stews or just on their own. If the taste doesn’t sell it for you and you’d still much rather get a bag of spinach from the supermarket, I understand, but hey, they’re full of good stuff too: vitamins, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and even Omega 3! Mind blown? I know, I was too.
Maybe now you’re thinking, okay, I might give edible weeds a try, but where do I find them, and even more importantly, what do I do with them? Well, let me clear the mystery and share examples of a few weeds you’ve most definitely seen, probably touched and maybe even tasted. Let’s take, for example, the stinging nettle - feisty son-of-a-bitch, leaving our ankles itchy and burning after walking along a riverside, but it’s also a great replacement for spinach - add it to salads or soups (just never eat it raw, as it will sting the hell out of your mouth), brew tea from it, or, you know...beer. I heard it tends to be fantastic.
Some of the more common edible weeds include dandelion (I don’t want to keep encouraging alcohol, but they do make fine wine from it), sorrel, or wood sorrel which, fun fact, in Lithuanian is called Hare Cabbage, or plantain (not to be confused with the tropical fruit, here I am talking about the leaves we put on cuts to stop the bleeding) or milk thistle - yes, the plant that grows those spiky balls that stick so well to the shirts of your siblings when thrown at them. And this is just a handful of these beautiful plants that grow all around us and, sadly, are really unwanted.
So, next time you’re out and about in nature where only an occasional car drives by, look down at your feet and maybe you will recognize at least one of these precious plants that nobody seems to care for. Pick a leaf of it and taste it - maybe it will make a beautiful salad for lunch, or thicken a soup, or maybe its leaves can be ground into a powder and used as flour - imagine the tangy taste of sorrel noodles in a salty broth - that is just making my mouth water! Experiment and taste things - let that be the beginning of a new adventure in food - wild nature slowly making its way into our plates.
recipe / tempura dandelion
1 large egg, cold
3 tbsp of rice flour
4 tbsp of cold water
Pinch of salt
2 cups of freshly picked dandelion flowers
In a pan, heat some vegetable oil for deep frying - the oil should be at least a few centimeters deep.
To make the tempura batter, whisk the egg in a shallow bowl, add your rice flour, water and a pinch of salt and mix until combined. Dip dandelion flowers into the batter one at a time, flower side first, then spoon the batter over the green part. Let it drip and drop in hot oil. Fry for a few seconds, then flip and fry for another few until nice and golden.
Eat them on their own as a snack, with a dollop of yogurt or top your salads or buddha bowls with them. I’ve also heard they make a great accompaniment to stinging nettle beer.