You have probably heard by now of the “grow food not lawns” movement that is becoming quite popular among urban homesteaders. But, what if the food was already growing IN YOUR LAWN…ALL BY ITSELF?
More and more people are becoming very interested in wild edible plants. Just as well, many are becoming more familiar with wild medicinal plants. Wild edible and medicinal plants are so important to understand and get to know. The great outdoors can tell you a lot about what you should be eating in a certain season, and it is clear that it knows what it is doing!
It knows that in the fall, there are less hours of sunshine. So, up pop the wild mushrooms packed full of vitamin D! On the hot summer days, those wild juicy berries help keep our sugar and water levels up, because who wants to eat a big meaty meal on a hot summer day? Hunting and root vegetables are generally reserved for the colder seasons. And the spring sloughs off all that heavy winter eating with fresh greens for all!
Common Weeds and How to Use Them
A note before we get to the good stuff: This information is for educational purposes only. It is so important to properly identify wild edible plants with someone who has some experience. Cross referencing plant identification books and websites can be helpful to find the safest plants. There can be poisonous look a-likes or left out information!
It is equally important to make sure that your plants are not sprayed with round up or other weed killers. This could cause serious poisoning. It is ideal to choose plants growing away from busy roadways because plants can absorb toxins. (This being said, a lot of farms are located along busy highways!) A protected back-yard is perfect for your urban foraging!
Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
One of my favorite wild edible plants because they are so pretty. My Dad mows around a little patch of Oxeye Daisies on his lawn to create a living bouquet for my Mom. It’s pretty cute.
These beautiful flowers make wonderful decorations for salads and fancy yogurt parfaits and are completely edible. When the flower dries up, you can brush off the seedy middle for a little crunchy snack.
The leaves can be used very sparingly in salads as they can have give you a slight numbing sensation when you eat them. I was surprised at the sweet flavor the first time i tried the leaves.
The unopened flower buds can be pickled just like capers!
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major)
The leaves of Plantago Major are edible and high in vitamins C, A and K! Older leaves are quite stringy so young leaves are best. The seeds are rich in mucilage which can be a natural laxative.
Plantain can be a very powerful medicine. It has a drawing-out affect. Used as a poultice, it can help with bug bites, snake bites, poison ivy, blisters, burns and cuts. I have heard it has even pulled out blood poisoning! This is one to teach your kids.
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)
Crush up the little fruits on top and take a sniff. The scent is delicious! The little fruits are great in salads and tea and have many of the same qualities of chamomile. You will find these guys along the edge of your lawn or on your gravel driveway.
Some people may have skin sensitivities to this plant if you are allergic to the Aster family. Use sparingly as there are warnings of vomiting in large doses.
I could talk for hours about my friend the Dandelion, but I will try to keep it short with some point form uses:
*Eat the leaves for a nutritious addition to your salads, smoothies, burgers etc. Just a cup full contains 112% of your daily requirements for vitamin A!!
*Dandelion tea is a fantastic diuretic. Getting rid of the old and replacing with fresh minerals and vitamins.
*Snack on the flowers, use them as edible decorations, or batter and fry them up for an amazingly delicious appetizer. (Don’t forget some good dippin’ sauce)
*Make yourself a batch of dandelion wine!
*For a natural wart remedy, dab a bit of the latex from the stem on plantar warts a few times a day until gone.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
The leaves on this plant are wonderfully fragrant. When not in flower, you will see a cluster of the leaves laying low to the ground, which is usually how they appear on lawns because of the mowing.
You can make a tincture type bug spray from them by adding them to alcohol. But I love this plant for first aid uses. The leaves stop bleeding so effectively! They even help with the pain and impart an antiseptic quality to the wound.
My husband cut the tip of his finger off once and it it still hadn’t clotted after an hour. That is until I grabbed some yarrow from the lawn. The bleeding instantly stopped and the throbbing went away. It makes a fun band-aid for little kids too!
I have read that Yarrow contains Thujone, which is neurotoxic in large doses and can cause miscarriages. This probably when used internally, but but it should still be mentioned. Also with any plant, if you have sensitive skin, you may have a reaction.
So as you can see, these are just a few of the useful plants mother nature has provided us with, and just a few of their many uses. I highly recommend the following books and own every single one of them. They are practically my babies. If you are a beginner, and could choose only one, I would pick the “Edible Wild Plants: Wild foods from dirt to plate” because it focuses on a few plants in great detail. It has awesome pictures and recipes and compares the plants to other look-a-likes.