An MD's 6 Favorite "Superweeds" That Deserve A Spot On Your Plate
The only difference between a flower and a weed is judgment. Isn't that how the saying goes? And according to family physician and science journalist Daphne Miller, M.D., we're judging common yard weeds way too harshly. In fact, she says we shouldn't regard them as "garden pests" at all: We should treat them like the nutrient-dense little grasses that they are—and call them superweeds.
"They are all delicious," Miller says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "I pick them all and put them in my salad." Below, she offers up her favorite edible superweeds—they may be common, but they boast tons of nutrients and flavor:
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Akin to a three-leaf clover, this delicate, vitamin C-rich plant has a slightly sour taste (thanks to its oxalic acid content). We should note, high amounts of oxalic acid have been linked to kidney stones, so those with a history may want to keep an eye on their intake. (And for what it's worth, other healthy greens like beet greens, turnip greens, Swiss chard, and spinach are high in oxalic acid as well).
Ever heard of dandelion greens? These tiny daisies have a natural bitter flavor that's perfect for a fresh salad or sautéed side dish, as well as vitamins A (in the easy-to-absorb beta-carotene form), K, E, and C; potassium; and fiber. See here for all the creative ways you can whip up the common yard weed.
3. Bristly oxtongue
A rather bristly plant (hence the name), this roadside weed can be eaten cooked or raw, depending on your flavor preferences. The leaves are rather bitter, so you might want to coat it in spices and sauté before digging in.
4. Dock weeds
This weed comes in many forms (curly dock, broad-leaved dock, patience dock, etc.), but it generally has a sour, lemony taste—again, thanks to oxalic acid. Feel free to toss the leaves into salads, or you can always boil or sauté them to deepen the flavor.
5. Three-cornered onion
What is a three-cornered onion, you ask? Also known as a three-cornered leek, it has flower stalks lined up in a three-cornered shape. It also has tender, crunchy stems and leaves—when crushed, these parts give off an onion-like odor and flavor. The entire plant is edible—from the bulb to the stem to the leaves—and it's a perfect fresh garnish for your salad.
6. Mallow weeds
Also called a "cheeseweed" (as the fruits form in little cheese-like wedges), mallow is one versatile plant. You can eat it raw in a salad, stir it into soups to thicken the consistency, and you can also pick off the flowers and buds, pickle them, and use them as a substitute for capers.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but you shouldn't pop just any garden weed into your mouth without some research. Yes, there's a variety of backyard edibles you can get your hands on, but make sure that you safely I.D. the plant (or consult an expert) before consuming it.
Precautions aside, superweeds are a worthy find: "If you think about it, they have all the characteristics you really want in a plant," Miller notes. "They're climate-resistant and perennial. They really make it through dark times because they have survived without being watered or encouraged for generations, so they really have that persistence."