When we buy and plant packages of common flowers, vegetables or herbs, we care about them to germinate and grow and we pride ourselves on our gardening skills, but when it comes to weeds, we don't want them to be in our garden and crops because basically We consider them "intruders" who are useless. Apparently we were wrong.
Some of these weeds are actually edible and nutritious, so they are just as useful as the mint, rosemary and basil that you have planted in your garden. And the best? They are free. Here are some of the most common garden herbs that can be used for food and medicine:
Dandelions get a bad rap among those who like to keep their grass as smooth as a golf course, but every part of this grass is edible. They are tasty both raw and cooked, from the roots to the flowers. Dandelion leaves can be harvested at any time in the growing season.
The small leaves have a less bitter taste than the larger leaves, however these larger leaves can be eaten especially as an addition to a green salad. But if the raw leaves don't appeal to you, they can also be steamed or you can add them to a stir-fry or even a soup, as the bitter taste may decrease. The flowers are sweet, crunchy, can be eaten raw, breaded, fried, and even used to make dandelion wine. Dandelion root can be dried and roasted to be used as a substitute for coffee or added to any recipe that calls for tubers.
Purslane can often be found in damp gardens and shady areas, where it is found close to the ground and almost always goes unnoticed. This is a humble garden herb, yet it contains important nutrients. It is said to provide more omega-3s and fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable and can be a great addition to a salad or stir fry or used to thicken soups or stews. Purslane is succulent, has a crunchy texture, and the leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked to add a spicy flavor to any dish.
Beyond the occasional hunt for four-leaf clover, this common herb goes unnoticed on lawns, but it is a very important food for bees and bumblebees. Clover flowers and leaves can be used to add variety to meals. A small amount of raw clover leaves can be chopped into salads or sauteed and added to dishes for a green accent; and the flowers, whether red or white, can be eaten raw or cooked, even dried for tea.
4. Quarter of lamb
The immature shoots and leaves of the lamb quarter (also known as crow's feet, white quinoa) can be eaten raw in any vegetable dish, they can also be sautéed or steamed to use in any dish with spinach. The seeds of lamb's quarters resemble quinoa, these can also be harvested and used in meals, although it takes a lot of patience to gather enough.
This common lawn herb is not only a great medicinal plant that can be used to relieve burns, stings, rashes, and wounds, but it is also a great edible herb. Young plantain leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or sautéed and while older leaves can be a bit tough, these can also be cooked. Plantain seeds, which are produced at a distinctive point in the flower, can be cooked as a grain or ground into flour, these are related to psyllium seeds, which are sold as a natural fiber and laxative supplement.
Also known as Capiquí. This modest garden herb can be harvested and used for food and medicine. Chickweed leaves, stems and flowers can be eaten raw and cooked, and have a delicate spinach flavor. Chickweed can also be used as a poultice for minor cuts, burns, or rashes and can be added to tea as a mild diuretic.
Mallow also known as cheeseweed, due to the shape of its seed pods, can be found in many gardens or orchards in the United States. The leaves and seed pods (also called the 'fruit') are both edible, either raw or cooked, and like many green herbs, they tend to be more tender and flavorful when they are smaller and less ripe. The more mature leaves can be used like any other herb: they can be steamed, boiled, or sautéed.
8. Wild amaranth, quintonil or quelite
Amaranth leaves, also known as pigweed, are another great addition to any dish that has green leafy vegetables and while young leaves are softer and more flavorful, older leaves can also be cooked like spinach. Wild amaranth seeds can be gathered and cooked just as they are sold in the store, either as a cooked whole grain or as ground flour, it takes a little time to gather enough to add to a meal, however they can be a good free source of protein.
9. Beef tongue
The leaves of the yellow dock can be eaten raw when they are "young", or they can be cooked when they are older and added to salads or soup. The stems of this plant can be peeled and eaten either raw or cooked and the ripe seeds can be eaten boiled, raw or roasted to make a substitute for coffee. The leaves are quite sour, due to their high content of oxalic acid, for this reason it is recommended to only eat them in moderation, it is also recommended to change the water several times while cooking.
[Disclaimer: This is not intended as a guide. Before you start eating these herbs from your garden, make sure you have correctly identified them and that you know how to prepare them. Pay particular attention to identifying them by their scientific names as popular names are often confusing from country to country or region to region. Also if you decide to eat any of these plants, eat only those that you know are free of chemicals - if they are in an industrial crop they have probably been sprayed with something - and unwanted substances - such as cat or dog urine.]