Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)

Lamb's Quarters

Flickr: Wendell Smith

Scientific Name: Chenopodium album

Common Names: Goosefoot (because the leaves resemble the shape of a goose’s foot)

You’ll find this common annual edible weed growing all over North America and Europe in unmanicured areas that receive a lot of sunlight. It’s also common to see Lambs Quarters growing along roadsides, in backyards, in overgrown fields, and in disturbed soils. It grows from spring to first winter frost. A mature Lamb’s Quarters plant can reach as high as 5 feet tall.

The leaves of Lamb’s Quarters, especially new growth, are covered with a fine white, powdery coating. The stems are single or may have a few rigid, angled branches and are sometimes striated purplish-red. The tiny, green, stalk-less flowers of Lamb’s Quarters generally bloom from May through November. The tiny flowers do not have petals, and similar the leaves, are also covered in a white powdery coating. Up to 75,000 seeds can be produced by one Lamb’s Quarters plant.

Edible PartsLamb's Quarters Flower & Seeds

Leaves, flowers, seeds, and shoots are edible.

The leaves and stems may be collected from spring to late fall and can be eaten raw or cooked. If eaten raw, small quantities are suggested at a time because they contain some oxalic acid. Cooking will remove this acid. Add them in a salad, soup, or saute them in olive oil with a bit of salt. The leaves can be dried and crushed to make a delicious flour. The leaves have a flavor resembling that of spinach and are high in beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and potassium. They are also an excellent source of vitamins A, B2 and C, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6.

The tiny, black, Lamb’s quarter seeds may be collected in late autumn and can be eaten raw or cooked. You can mix the seeds in with other grains such as quinoa or rice. Add it to oatmeal in the morning or sprinkle a few seeds to pancakes and muffins. Lamb’s quarter seeds can also be added to soups or tomato sauces.

lambs-quarter-smallMedicinal Use:

Native Americans ate the leaves to treat stomachaches and prevent scurvy. A cold tea can be made from the leaves to help treat diarrhea. A leaf poultice used for burns and swellings.

Toxicity: 

None. However, lamb’s quarters does absorbs nitrates rather readily, so it is good to avoid eating it if it is located in contaminated soil. Lamb’s Quarter can be high in oxalic acid and therefore should be avoided by those who suffer from or are at risk for kidney stones, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and those whose stomach is easily irritated.

Also, beware of any lookalikes that emit a bad or resinous odor. Edible Lamb’s quarters does not emit a bad smell when you crush the leaves between your fingers.

Other Notes:

Lamb’s Quarters makes an excellent garden companion as many insect pests prefer to eat the leaves of lamb’s quarters instead of common vegetables.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.

 

Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)

Broadleaf PlantainScientific Name: Pantago major
Common Names: Common plantain, pale plantain, purple-stemmed plantain, Rugel’s plantain, silk plant

Broadleaf plantain is one of the 19 different species of plantains found in the United States and the rest of the world. All of which are edible. It is the second most common weed in American yards, just behind the amazing dandelion. You will find it growing in cultivated fields, pastures, along roadsides, and in lawns and gardens.

It is a perennial plant that grows from spring to autumn and has distinguishable oval, ribbed, short-stemmed leaves that tend to stay very low to the ground. When you break the stem you will see string-like veins similar to those in celery. The leaves may grow up to about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Long, thick green-flowered shoots grow out of the center of the plant followed by a small seedpod with about 5 or 6 small black / brown seeds.

Edible Parts

All parts of the broadleaf plantain are edible. The leaves, shoots, flowers, root, and seeds. Baby Broadleaf Plantain

The oval-shaped leaves can be eaten cooked or raw and are tastiest when they are small and tender, usually in the early spring. The bigger leaves are good but are a bit more fibrous and bitter. Blanching the leaves in boiling water with make the leaves more tender. The leaves can be used in a salad raw or cooked similar to dandelion leaves or spinach. You could also saute the leaves in garlic and butter or add them to a soup.

The seeds can be eaten raw or soaked and cooked like rice. You may also ground the seeds and use the meal as a wheat flour substitute or additive.

The shoots of the broadleaf plantain, has been called “poor-man’s fiddlehead” and can be eaten raw, preferably when green and tender, having a nutty-like, asparagus flavor. You can fry these in olive oil for a few seconds to enhance the the taste.

Plantain is high in vitamin A and calcium. It also has a small amount of vitamin C.

Medicinal Use:

Broadleaf plantain has long been used medicinally as poultices, ointments, and teas.

Because of its high tannin content, broadleaf plantain can be used, in poultice form, as an astringent to draw skin tissue together and stop bleeding. It can be used to treat bee stings, cuts, burns,  sores, and to reduce inflammation.

Use the leaves to create an infused tea to treat conditions such as asthma, broken bones, bronchitis, congestion (sinus or nasal) , colds, infections, and stomach ulcers.

Use the root to create a tea that can be used to help treat bladder infections, coughing, and fevers.

Toxicity:
None, however plantains should be introduced to your diet slowly as high doses can cause a fall in blood pressure as well as diarrhea. Some people may experience allergic contact dermatitis.

Other Notes:
There is a type of green cooking banana that is also commonly called plantain. It is not a true plantain and should not be confused with the plant mentioned above.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.

 

Common Mallow (Malva neglecta)

Common Mallow LeavesScientific Name: Malva neglecta
Common Names: Common Mallow, Buttonweed, Cheeseplant, Cheeseweed, Dwarf Mallow, Roundleaf Mallow

You’ve probably seen this weed before. Common mallow is a summer or winter annual that has been known to sprout a second year from a biennial root crown. It grows well in disturbed soil and you’ll likely find it growing along fences, barn walls, curbs, other obstructions, and in your garden or yard. Cotton, okra, hibiscus, and durian are all relatives of common mallow. 

Edible PartsCommon Mallow Cheese

All parts of the mallow plant are edible. Flowers, leaves, fruit, seeds, stems, and roots.

The leaves can be harvested like spinach and are edible raw or cooked. They can also be added in added to salads, as they make an excellent lettuce substitute.They have a mild pleasant flavor, and are highly nutritious. You could try mallow leaves sauteed in butter with onions and garlic to use it on pizza or use it as a pasta sauce. Common mallow leaves are rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. They also contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and selenium. The leaves have a thickening effect, so when cooked in soups, they tend to thicken it.

A tea can be made from the dried leaves. The seeds have a nutty flavor and are edible raw or cooked.

Common Mallow FlowerSmall fruits form in late summer that resemble tiny wheels of cheese. These are edible raw or cooked. They aren’t packed with flavor but have a similar flavor to okra.

The flowers are edible, but don’t have much of a flavor but could be added to a salad to add a little flair.

Medicinal Use

The healing properties of common mallow are derived from the mucilage and flavanoid gycosides found in the plants leaves and flowers. Common mallow also contains anti-oxidants, including polyphenols and anthocyanins, which explains its beneficial effect on gastroenteritis.

Roman scholar Pliny, 2,000 years ago, recommended drinking a sip of mallow juice daily to prevent illnesses.

It is used to help combat colds accompanied by a sore throat, a dry, hacking cough and bronchitis because of it’s ability to induce the removal of mucous secretions from the lungs. Its anti-irritant properties make it helpful as well for treating hoarseness and tonsillitis.

All parts of the plant are astringent, laxative, and help counteract inflammation, as well as soften and soothe the skin when applied locally.

Other than as a food, common mallow can be used to create yellow, green, or cream color dyes, and the root can be used as a toothbrush.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.

 

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion

Flickr: cygnus921

Dandelion is a common weed that is usually considered by non-weed enthusiasts to be a quite a nuisance. It grows wild everywhere, and this little weed with it’s cute little yellow flowers packs a powerful punch medicinally.

A Little History

Dandelions have been around for about 30 million years. Humans have been eating them as food and using them as medicine for as long as there has been recorded history. They arrived in North America when the Mayflower arrived in 1620. European immigrants used dandelions as part of their regular diet, and brought them over to began to cultivate them in North America. Now they grow profusely.

 

Edible Parts

All parts of the dandelion are edible.

The leaves are more nutritious than any other green you can buy. They are higher in beta-carotene than carrots. And higher in iron and calcium than spinach.

Dandelion greens can be used in salads or steamed. However, if this isn’t desirable to you, you can also juice them. It’s also possible to purchase dandelion green liquid extracts online or in dandelion-greensstores that can be added to water or juice.

The dandelion flower adds color, texture, and a bittersweet flavor to salads. You can saute them or steam them with other vegetables. You could make dandelion wine with the flowers and some people even make dandelion flower pickles, using vinegar and spices.

Dandelion root can be eaten all year with it’s best flavor from fall to early spring. Use it in soups as a cooked vegetable. The roots can also be used to make dandelion coffee.

Medicinal Uses

When gathered in early spring, the leaves and roots can be used as a spring tonic and to stimulate digestion and vitality after a long winter.

Dandelion greens also have been used as a diuretic, an agent that promotes the loss of water from the body through urination. Their diuretic effect can make dandelion greens helpful in lowering blood pressure and relieving premenstrual fluid retention.

Dandelion RootDandelion roots contain inulin and levulin, starchlike substances that may help balance blood sugar, as well as a bitter substance (taraxacin) that stimulates digestion. The very presence of a bitter taste in the mouth promotes the flow of bile from the liver and gallbladder, as well as hydrochloric acid from the stomach.

The leaves are full of vitamins including B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K. Also containing minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and zinc.

The nutrients in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and stroke. Dandelion contains anti-inflammatory properties which may provide benefit to those with asthma and other inflammatory diseases.

Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.

Chicory (cichoium intybus)

Chicory (cichoium intybus)

Chicory Flower

Flickr: adavey

Early in the season, chicory grows as a rosette of  irregularly-toothed basil leaves. These leaves look similar to dandelion leaves and can grow up to six inches in length, growing low to the ground. Then, leafless stems emerge with blue flowers, resembling daisies.

The chicory flower resembles a daisy and is about one and a half inches wide.  Chicory blooms from June to October. This plant grows only one or two flowers at a time, with each flower only lasting one day. These flowers attract many insects with their nectar and pollen including bees, butterflies, and flies.

The chicory plant  grows all over North America. It can grow as high as four feet tall and can be found growing in fields, roadsides, and your backyard. You might find it growing alongside other weeds and grasses, including dandelions, Smooth Crabgrass, English Plantain, Switchgrass, and thistles.

Edible Parts:

All parts of the chicory plant are edible.

Eat the leaves when they are young in a salad. The leaves are somewhat bitter, similar to the leaves of its cousin, Dandelion, but this can be reduced by cooking them. The root can be cooked as a vegetable or as a coffee substitute. To use the root as a coffee substitute, roast the Chicory Leavesroots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them. Roots can also be eaten raw or boiled, or they can be dried, ground, and used as seasoning. The flower is edible but is very bitter.

Medicinal Use:

Historically, chicory root has been used for jaundice, spleen problems, and constipation and a tea made from foliage supposedly promoted bile production and released gallstones.

The leaves are a great source of vitamin A, B complex, C, E, and K and also potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and magnesium. Chicory root contains vitamin C and Inulin which is believed aids in maintaining strong bones and teeth by improving the absorption of calcium and magnesium.

Chicory RootHerbalists use chicory tea (made from the roots, flowers, and leaves) as a way to detoxify or purify the blood, as a tonic, and internal organ decongestant.

Toxicity:

Chicory has no known toxicity. However, for some humans, it can cause contact dermatitis.

 

 

 
Remember: Check with a qualified naturopathic doctor or other health professional before eating any wild plant.