Spring, summer and fall, there is a huge salad bowl right outside your door. Did you know that there are 3 very healthy weeds in your yard? But first, my friends, my cautionary tale:
- ALWAYS ask permission before picking plants on other’s property,
- ALWAYS positively identify everything you want to eat, and
- NEVER eat anything treated with chemicals (no, washing doesn’t help – chemicals can come through the root system into the cells — blech.)
Let’s uncover these yummies and find out how to cook them!
PURSLANE (Portulaca oleracea)
I’m sure you’ve seen this one in just about every crack in every sidewalk. It’s that prolific! It grows on the edges of your lawn. You can find it on paths in woodlots. You should be able to recognize it by its almost succulent-looking leaves that stand up a bit off the sidewalk. There is a similar sidewalk invader, but the leaves are flat, and the whole plant stays along the ground. (Don’t eat that one.)
Every 3g plant has 20 calories, 45 mg of naturally occurring salt, 494mg potassium, and get this – it’s really high in vitamin C, giving you 26% of your daily recommended dosage, and 26% of vitamin A. And if you thought that was good, how about 4% protein, 6% calcium, 11% iron, 17% magnesium, and 5% vitamin B6. (Source: Wikipedia) So, feel free to pick and eat!
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)
Not to be confused with the banana-looking thing from the Islands, this plant grows in abundance in our region, and is very healthy to eat. Easily recognized by the broad ground leaves and one seedy stem standing up in the middle. I’ve got great news for you. The seeds are edible and quite tasty! I love walking along, finding the plant, stripping off the seeds, and popping them into my mouth. I just hold the stem upside down, grasp the tip with one hand while pinching and running my fingers down the seed stem (against the grain). They are easy to strip that way. They have a delicious, nutty flavour. The fresh young shoots can be cooked like fiddleheads.
According to Mom Prepares.com, “It contains seven flavonoids, beta-carotene, crude fibre, dietary fibre, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. . . vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C and K. Plantain also contains calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.”
In our ancestor’s time, chromium, manganese, selenium and zinc were easily obtained from our gardens. Since most gardens are depleted of goodness, and rely on fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, we need to get back to naturally growing foods.
The seeds can be dried and ground into flour, for those of you who can’t eat gluten. Or they can be added to a salad, oatmeal, or to soups. The leaves are also edible, but here’s some really good news. They LIKE being mowed! If you let them get bigger, they aren’t tasty, and can be too fibrous. When the fresh new leaves come out, they are tender and yummy. The seeds are also younger and can be steamed and eaten with butter.
One more great feature of this amazing plant is that it is medicinal. If you get a mosquito bite, or anything else that itches, merely take a plantain leaf, chew it up or crush it with your fingernails, and apply it to the skin.
LAMB’S QUARTERS (Chenopodium album)
This is a great addition to any salad. Again, it’s easy to recognize so you don’t have to worry much about similar plants. Just pick the fresh, young leaves and add them to your standard salad, or add them to a sandwich for a new taste. I like them in grilled cheese, BLTs, and omelettes. The seeds are also yummy, and the roots can be used as a mild soap. Just as with our little friends mentioned above, these delicate little plants are packing a wallop of goodies.
According to two sources (Wikipedia and Skip The Bread), the nutritional values of lamb’s quarters for 100 g (3.5 oz) are as follows:
Calories: 43 Potassium 452 g
Vitamin A 232% (yes, that’s right!) Vitamin B6 8%
Vitamin C 8% Calcium 31%
Iron 7% Magnesium 15%
Sodium 43 mg (remember, this is salt that comes naturally from the soil)
Eat the young leaves, save up the seeds in the fall to make flour or grow sprouts for your smoothies. It’s so satisfying to see them start to grow in only 2-3 days!
March on through the season with healthy nutrients and elements that are essential for your well-being, and have fun introducing these yummies to your family and friends.
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