Be a Good Kid and Eat Your Weeds


There are a surprising number of weeds that are edible. Two of the most common everywhere are Lamb’s Quarters, and Purslane.

Once you learn to identify these weeds, you’ll realize you’ve pulled them out of your gardening beds for years. I remember pulling both from the gardens as a child. If only I’d known they were good food, I’d have told my mother to let them grow and harvest them with the lettuce!

Interestingly, both of these weeds may also be known as Pigweed. They also have other common names in various regions of the world.

They are both drought tolerant, and will grow in poor soil, and heat does not make them flinch. Purslane is a succulent, and stores water in the leaves and stems (the image above is of Purslane in a pot – it grows flat to the ground and spiders outward from the center when grown on the ground, and the stems are typically more red than what is shown above). Lamb’s Quarters uses a different tactic – sending down a long and tough taproot (this makes it a valuable plant for helping to keep good deep soil condition).

Both plants are highly nutritious for both people and animals. Purslane could be classed as a superfood, for the amount of Omega 3 alone.

I scored some Purslane in a pot today. Funny thing about Purslane. If you have a garden, it will pop up pretty much anywhere there is bare ground. When you are not looking for it, it is everywhere!

But if you live where you do not have access to much bare ground, it can be hard to find. Some garden stores are now carrying it as a drought resistant ground cover, or as an edible herb, and a few online sources are carrying seed.

You won’t find anyone doing that with Lamb’s Quarters. But it seems to grow everywhere too.

Both can be grown from seed – you can save it from plants one year to seed in the next year if you feel the need. Both are such useful plants, it just may be worth it to do so.

They are both annuals, so they require reseeding each year.

Purslane will also easily root from cuttings. It roots faster than just about anything else, and doesn’t even need to be buried in soil to root! As long as it stays on top of damp soil, it will root just laying there. It will root in a few days in water. If you break off a branch to root (or eat), it will branch and come back stronger than ever.

Now, what do you do with them?

Lamb’s Quarters is edible raw or cooked – in general, the younger tender leaves can be used in salads, while the older tougher leaves make a good boiled green, just like spinach (only they need to be boiled longer – 30 minutes is recommended). This is a high calcium green.

The seeds from Lamb’s Quarters are also edible, and may be used like Quinoa (in fact, they are from the same plant family). The plant produces an impressive seed plume, similar to amaranth, but far coarser. Each plant will produce enough seed to be well worth the effort.

As an animal feed, it is also excellent. The greens can be fed to pretty much any farm animal. The seeds also make a great grain replacement for poultry. The plants can be harvested and dried, and bundled for use in the winter, either before they send up seed stalks, or after but before the seeds mature. Free animal food. It doesn’t get easier than that!

Now, what about that Purslane?

The entire leaf and stalk is edible, and so are the flowers and seeds. It is crisp in a salad, but may also be cooked, and is sometimes used in stir fry where it is just barely cooked. It has a tangy flavor, but chances are if you add it to a mixed salad you won’t even notice a difference in flavor, though you might run across a crispy piece now and again. There are actually recipes from a wide range of cultures which call for Purslane.

It is also a useful animal feed, though it is so small that it may be difficult to gather enough to make a significant difference if you have a large number of animals. Ducks and chickens absolutely love Purslane, and treat it as candy! Deer and goats also like this crunchy treat. It is good for rabbits, but they don’t seem to be as crazy about it as the ducks are.

Summer is coming, so watch for these two useful weeds, and make them work for you instead of spending all your time fighting them!

There are many other edible weeds as well. I spotlighted these two because they are so common, and so easy to recognize.

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