Intro: Use Weeds As a Free, Tasty and Healthy Salad
Many people nowadays see weeds as useless plants that they need to exterminate. But not all weeds are "bad" and lots of them are even quite tasty.
In this instructable you get to know and learn how to harvest lots of different weeds & wild plants to be used in a salad(and some other dishes). Keep in mind that the more weeds you use the better the flavor of the salad will be, mixing is key here.
Keep in mind that some plants look alike, only eat plants when you are sure that you have the right plant. If you are not sure pick a little (and take pictures) and have someone who knows about plants ID it. If it is edible you can always get it later. There are multiple apps and websites to help you distinguish edible plants so use them. Try to improve you knowledge about edible plants a little at the time.
Step 1: Where Can You Pick Weeds
The place where you are picking is quite important. You will be eating these plants so being a little picky is advised.
Some bad places are:
Railroad beds, these places are often sprayed or used to be sprayed. don't eat greens unless the track has been abandoned for over 15 years.
Old factory terrains, who knows what has leaked here. Stay away from here.
Landfills, should I explain this one?
All other places with know soil/groundwater contamination.
Good places are:
Your own garden. Ok this may be a bad place for some people but for most this is the ideal place, close to home and under your control. you know what happened here so you can be the judge.
your neighbors garden. This may be awkward some people but it depends on the type of neighbor. One way to ask them is to tell :" oh i am happy that the (insert weed here) is sprouting again. When they are confused tell them that you add them to your salad. In the best case you can expand your picking ground, worst case you need to share the weeds by the road with your neighbor.
That brings us to the next place,roads: this may seem weird but the chemicals from car exhaust stay outside the plants. This makes roads better options then creeks near farms or other places with pesticide usage. If you wash your plants thoroughly they are perfectly edible.
Forrest/other nature, plants from a forest can be used if your local laws allow foraging in forests.
Be creative, You will be able to find even more places. Just keep the safety and local laws in mind.
Step 2: Leafy Weeds
Dandelion is a well know weed but it is very healthy. It contains lots of vitamins and minarals like (but not limited to) iron, calcium vitamin B(1,2,6,12,..), C & beta-carotene. It is also know to have a positive effect on the liver.
You can harvest dandelions in 2 ways: Grab it close to the ground and pull it loose then remove the leaves you want to eat and discard the rest of the plant or just pick the leaves you want.
Since the milky fluid contains latex-like compounds, dandelions should not be eaten by people with latex allergies.
Rucola or salad rocket is often listen on menus of fancy restaurants. What people don't know is that its a common weed. With a nutty/spicy taste its my personal favorite. Keep in mind that the spicy flavor gets more intense in older leafs (those are also a little harder like spinach) so if you don't like that use younger leafs.
Harvesting is really easy just pick the leaves you want and leave the rest of the plant for later, you don't need to worry about it spreading because the seed pods will take a while to break open and can be easily removed before that time.
Lamb's Quarters/goosefoot Not only is this plant delicious in salads it can also be used in stews or mashed potatoes I have a delicious lasagna recipe using this but that's a future instructable. Yet again just pick the leaves you want to eat.
Purslane not only does it contain more omega-3 fatty acids then any other leafy plant it also had high levels of vit C. Its crispy leafs and stems are guaranteed to take the flavor of your salad (or soup/stew) to a whole new level. This plant can just be harvested including stems.
Watercress is just like rocket salad a weed that has gained the interest of fancy chefs worldwide. It can be found along almost all creeks and riverbeds in the US and west & Central Europe. Delicious raw in salad or in soup. Just keep in mind that the creek/river is not heavily contaminated. its easiest to remove this plant with roots and clean it at home during preparation.
Kudzu I had to look this one up but people who live in the southern USA will probably know this weed. after being imported from japan 200 years ago it spread like wildfire and its nearly impossible to kill. I have not yet seen it so i don't know if its usable in salads but its great in soups & stews an even desserts. Use this unlimited amount to your advantage since it can also be used as a digestive aid (that might explain why its used in desserts).Harvesting is easy just grab a bunch of leafs and try to leave the branches behind. branches might sprout and cause it to spread even more.
Step 3: Add Some Color With Flowers
Ok, first of all I know that not all of these flowers can be seen as weeds but they are so delicious and not often eaten that I put them here. They can still be seen as "garden food".
Unless otherwise told you only need to add the petals to the salad. This is a general safety precaution since some flowers cores (none of which are listed here) can be poisonous.
Dandelion (again) this is an easy way to add some nice yellow accents in your salad. Just make sure to use the yellow blossoms and not the white ones. I don't believe that anyone would like a lot of puff in their mouth.
Chamomile is well know for its use in tea but you can also eat it raw. This flower is an exception on the "only use the petals" guideline. you can use them as a whole in a salad and their flavor reminds me a little of apples.
Fresh Lavender lavender flowers can make or break the taste of your salad, don't overdo it. If used in the right amount it is an amazing flavor that is somewhat unexpected.
purple violet (sometimes knows as purple pansy) petals are a nice colorful addition to a salad. Just make sure not to use other colors because those posses laxative property's. Never eat the roots as they are toxic.
Calendula/pot marigold research has pointed out that this flower could help against cancer and infections but the reason to eat is it because it is delicious. Not only can they be used in salads they have also been used in stews and soups for centuries. Tea made from the flowers (the whole flower) is also very nice.
Step 4: Roots and Stems.
Japanese knot-weed. The young green-redish shoots can be picked before they become too woody (about 7-8 inch high). Just remove all inedible parts like leaves when you harvest and remove the rind one you get home can be eaten fresh or cooked. The taste is pretty close to rhubarb. This plant is an invasive exotic specie so you are not only helping yourself to a healthy meal but also saving the biodiversity. When harvesting only take the parts you want to eat from where the weed grows, even a little piece of stem can cause a spread.
Bamboo, again the shoots of this plant are delicious when steamed. These shoots will pop up near existing bamboo and spread like wildfire. Don't bother eating the rest of the plant unless you are a panda.
Jerusalem artichoke or earth apple, this plant native to north america is a real pest in europese country's. It is a delicious plant in the sunflower family with roots that look a little like ginger but taste like a little nutty and sweet. These roots are often compared to sweet potatoes but Jerusalem artichokes don't contain starch.
You can eat the roots raw (when peeled and sliced/grated) or boiled.
Step 5: Prepare and Eat
Be sure to wash all plants when you get home. What i use to wash my plants (and also bought vegetables and salad) is cold water and kitchen salt. its important to use cold water to your leaves stay fresh and crispy.
The leaves can be stored in the fridge for a few days wrapping them in a damp cloth may keep them fresh longer.
To make a successful salad you can include lots of different things besides flowers or weeds, the options a limitless. Nuts and seeds are always great Pine nuts are my personal favorite but you can also use hazelnuts, waluts pumpkin seeds. Try to add some protein too: bacon, fish, cheese,.. just try too keep the store bought sauces and dressings to a minimum.There are plenty home made salad dressings available on this site.
If you have suggestions for more edible weeds in your region please let me know and i will gladly add them to this instructable.
Have you used one of these weeds in a recipe on this site? let me know and i will link to your instructable.
Some snacks/dishes with edible weeds:
This instructable teaches you to make crispy dandelion flower snacks/chips give it a try.
Step 6: Disclaimer
I (the author) am not responsible for any injury or other harm in any way, shape or form that you may sustain while following (or rather not following) this instructable.You are responsible for your own health you should use common sense.
Keep in mind that other weeds like poison ivy or nettles can grow near the edible plants so look out or wear adjusted clothing.
Always identify the plant before you eat it to avoid accidents.
People with allergy's should stay away from some plants. Like said before, people with latex allergy's should not eat dandelions. When you have allergy's please look if there are cross allergies with plants known before eating weeds.
Not all plants blossom/can be found can be found at the same time. That is why not all images in this instructable are mine. Some images are creative commons or public domain. Credit was given where needed. Pictures will be replaced with my own when possible.