You may recognize Common Stitchwort (Stellaria media) by another of its names: Common Chickweed. When I was just learning about wild edibles many years ago, chickweed was a plant that everyone seemed to rave about. It took me some time to find my first patch growing wild, and have since had the pleasure of eating this plant many times.
Most of the patches of Common Stitchwort at the farm I frequent are small, but in the other places I've found it growing in terrific abundance. In the past, I've used it in place of sprouts on sandwiches, but these days I usually incorporate the plant into salads or simply snack on it plain. I gather the growing tips of this plant -- stems, leaves, flowers and all. I can't pass a patch without enjoying at least a nibble.
Check out my related Edible Farm Weeds posts covering Common Purslane, White Goosefoot, and Red-rooted Amaranth.
If you haven't met this plant while weeding a garden or helping out at a local farm, you'll want to take some time to get to know this weed. Red-rooted Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus) is a delicious member of the same plant family as White Goosefoot and the cultivated spinach.
It has red pigment on its root and often grows in large groups. It is an annual that doesn't show up in quantity until the soil warms sufficiently. I started to gather Red-rooted Amaranth in mid-June this year.
I look for fast growing plants that have yet to produce flowers. In a good row at a local organic farm, I can gather a pound of this plant in just a few minutes – enough to last me several days.
Before consuming any wild food, I take care to positively identify the species by consulting trusted wild food resources – a crucial step that should not be dismissed. While some garden weeds are edible, others are most certainly not, and even edible plants have particularities (i.e., specific parts to be collected at specific times and prepared in specific ways) that need to be learned. If independent research doesn't give you total confidence, I recommend spending time with an experienced forager. Some things are best learned in the field.
Check out my related Edible Farm Weeds posts: Common Purslane and White Goosefoot.
Earlier this week, I found this creature visiting the flowers of a roadside Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plant. Name this butterfly.
The answer will be added to the Quiz Answers page next week.
White Goosefoot (Chenopodium album) -- known by many as Lamb's Quarters -- volunteers readily in garden beds and farm fields. While its aggressive growth may frustrate some farmers trying to foster domestic crops, I love harvesting these wild weeds that require no careful tending.
White Goosefoot has a distinctive, harmless white powder covering the growing tips, and the leaves remind some of a goose's foot, which together probably explain its common name.
After locating some healthy plants, I'll snap off the tender tops and side shoots. Once the flowers appear, leaves can still be picked from along the stems, but if younger plants are available, I find the growing tips to be more efficient to gather in quantity. If necessary, I'll wash my harvest and spin it dry, before bagging it up for the refrigerator. I find the greens stay in excellent shape for nearly a week, though I usually eat them within three days and simply gather more.
The leaves are fine to eat raw, but I like to cook them as a wild spinach. So long as the proper parts are gathered, White Goosefoot is just plain delicious.
Check out my related Edible Farm Weeds post: Common Purslane.
For several weeks now, I've been gathering edible weeds at White Barn Farm – an organic farm and CSA located on 1A in Wrentham, MA. While the farmers wait for rows of peppers and tomatoes to ripen, the same rows are already yielding pounds of wild vegetables. One of my staple greens right now is Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea), a warm weather plant that really takes off by early July. In some cases, a single plant can fill a salad bowl.
Common Purslane has crisp stems and fleshy leaves that are widest near the tips. The plants often have several branches originating from a common point, and unless neighboring species help to prop it up, it sprawls out horizontally on the ground. If the plants are fresh and green, I'll simply snap off branches, rinse them, and chop them up for salads. Occasionally, funky leaves or portions of stems need to be discarded, but the vast majority of plants I'm finding right now are in prime condition.