Let’s talk weeds. Not the type of weed that’s been on the ballot, but the weeds all farmers and gardeners fight on a daily basis. Webster defines weeds as a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants. Therefore the number of weeds can be never-ending.
At our farm and home, we specialize in growing weeds. Our weeds hit top yields thriving in every soil type, every weather condition and definitely are never ending! My crash course in weeds began about 10 years ago when we started our berry farm. OSU agriculture students today take their initial weed class that last a semester and cover as many as 25 grasses and up to 150 broadleaves. John Bolte, a current OSU student and current berry farm employee tells me that students are expected to learn the common and scientific names, their life cycles, seed identification, mode of herbicide actions and more.
Who knew there is even a weed competition this summer? In the North Central Weed Science Society competition, John will need to know 80 weeds, forward and backwards. Wowser! I had no clue there was so much to know about weeds.
Weed control is a priority on any farmer’s to-do list. But, have you ever thought about serving them for dinner? Good Housekeeping states, “Many wild plants are not only safe to eat — they are also delicious.” Beware when you Google weed recipes and cookbooks, you quickly venture into the world of culinary cannibus. From brownies to veggie lasagna, you name the recipe, you can add it. Maybe that’s a topic for another column (that is if Matt approves).
Bruce Ackley, Extension Program Specialist Weed Science is currently working on a new digital edible weed cook book. In regard to edible weeds, he said, “It really depends on your tastebuds and willingness to try new foods” which weeds are the best tasting. His students try a sampling of a bunch of different species each fall in his class. Here are a few of his favorite edible weeds.
Dandelions are popping up in yards and fields across the state. They are probably the most popular when thought of eating a weed, especially as dandelion wine. The young, smaller leaves are thought to be more tender and less bitter and can be added to any salad as well as steamed and added to soup, stir-fry. Some have even tried breading and frying the blooms. Sounds like a state fair food! Beware they do seem to have a lot of drug interactions so talk with your doctor before consuming.
Common lambsquarters is a summer annual and just starting to pop up now. Lambsquarters was a major plateholder until is was ousted in the 16th century with the introduction of spinach. It is common all over the state and tastes a lot like spinach and can be substituted for spinach in any recipe. It contains more calcium, Vitamin A, protein, phosphorous, Iron and Vitamin C than spinach.
Common chickweed is a winter annual so it is mostly flowering and passing on now. Common chickweed tastes kind of like edamame — an immature green sweet soybean. It has even been known to help with minor cuts, burns or other skin rashes. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should probably avoid it.
Pigweed is rich in Vitamin A, Calcium and Iron.Young leaves can be added to salad or substituted for any cooked green. The Columbus Dispatch says the seed, although tiny, can be popped fresh or added to bread dough, rice or pancake batter or cooked like any whole grain.
Common purslane is a fall annual and is still considered a major food source in India. The it is rich in vitamin E, Vitamin C and beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and quite high in protein.
Wild garlic is related to chives and can be used in recipes that call for delicate herbs such as basil or baby greens such as spinach. They can be eaten raw in a salad or to any pasta dish.
Next time you are weeding your garden, don’t forget to take a ride on the wild side and add these to your plate.
Eat well and healthy!
Chickweed Pesto by Bruce Ackley
few cloves of garlic more or less depending on love of garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cups fresh picked chickweed
pinch of salt then blend well.
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese (optional but that depends on how old or young the chickweed is)
Blend in a food processor until desired smoothness. Eat on crackers, mix with pasta, spread on pizza, rolls, frittata or fried egg sandwich.
Peach Blueberry Smoothie with Lambsquarters by Bruce Ackley
2 cups of lambsquarters
2 cups of peaches
2 cups of blueberries
1-4 cups of ice and or water depending on how thick you want the smoothie to be. simple refreshing and delicious. Put in a blender and process smoothie to desired consistency.
Purslane Potato Salad with Curry www.culinarymusings.com
Since purslane is such a popular food in India, it just makes sense to spice up your purslane potato salad with a bit of curry. Mix the salad while the potatoes are still warm (not hot!) and they’ll soak up more of the flavors of the salad.
3 cups potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks, and boiled just until tender.
3 stalks celery, minced
1-2 green onions and stems, diced
½ cup sliced bell pepper
2/3 cup raw purslane leaves
½ to 2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
While potatoes are still warm, add remaining ingredients and stir well to coat vegetables. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 4 servings
Dandelion Wine www.winemaking.jackkeller.net
3 qts dandelion flowers
1 lb white raisins
1 gallon water
3 lbs granulated sugar
yeast and nutrient
Pick the flowers just before starting, so they’re fresh. You do not need to pick the petals off the flower heads, but the heads should be trimmed of any stalk. Put the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside 1 pint of water and bring the remainder to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers and cover tightly with cloth or plastic wrap. Leave for two days, stirring twice daily. Do not exceed this time. Pour flowers and water in large pot and bring to a low boil. Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and orange. Boil for one hour, then pour into a crock or plastic pail. Add the juice and pulp of the lemons and orange. Allow to stand until cool (70-75 degrees F.). Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and put in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug). Add the raisins and fit a fermentation trap to the vessel. Leave until fermentation ceases completely, then rack and add the reserved pint of water and whatever else is required to top up. Refit the airlock and set aside until clear. Rack and bottle. This wine must age six months in the bottle before tasting, but will improve remarkably if allowed a year. [Adapted recipe from C.J.J. Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking]
Wonderful wild garlic and sausage fusilli www.jamieoliver.com
2 heaped teaspoons fennel seeds
2 dried red chillies , crumbled
(1 tsp.) Olive oil
4 Italian or Spicy Sausages, Turkey or Pork
4 handfuls wild garlic leaves , washed, or 4 cloves of garlic, peeled, plus 4 handfuls of spinach leaves, washed
320 g fusilli (this is about 11 oz.)
freshly ground black pepper
1 small handful Parmesan cheese , freshly grated, (1/2 c)
Crush the fennel seeds and chillies in a pestle and mortar, then put to one side. Heat olive oil in a pan on a medium heat. Cut open the sausage skins and squeeze the meat into the pan. Stir it around with a wooden spoon, breaking it up into small pieces so it resembles coarse mince. Fry for a few minutes until the meat starts to colour and the fat has started to render out.
Add fennel seeds and chillies to the meat, and cook on a medium heat for around 10 minutes until the meat is crisp, dark golden brown and caramelised. Turn the heat down to low.
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil. If you managed to get hold of wild garlic leaves, simply blanch them in the boiling water for 3 minutes, then scoop out and put in a food processor. If you aren’t using wild garlic, add the garlic cloves to the water and cook for 3 to 4 minutes before adding the spinach. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the spinach has wilted, then fish out all the spinach and the garlic cloves with a slotted spoon, and put it all into a food processor. Add the fusilli to the water, bring it back to the boil and cook according to the packet instructions.
Blitz the wild garlic leaves or the cooked garlic and spinach in the food processor, until you have a deep green sauce, then add a lug of olive oil, a grating of lemon zest and a pinch of salt and pepper.
When the pasta is al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. Put the pasta back in the saucepan and add a splash of the cooking water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Gently stir the lovely green sauce into the pasta to coat it then immediately divide the pasta between your bowls. Top with the delicious crisp sausage meat and a nice grating of Parmesan cheese, and serve.