Sunday, July 08, 2007


Eating Weeds

My mother served us children dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) on occasion. I didn't like them much, but they were a healthy food. According to Sara B. Stein, My Weeds: A Gardener's Botany (1988; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1990), p. 15, "Its leaves contain nine times the scurvy-battling vitamin C in lettuce, three times the anemia-preventing iron in spinach, and forty-two times the vitamin A in ordinary iceberg." I've never tried dandelion wine.

My mother also fed us fiddleheads (the young curled leaves of ferns), which I did like. Some people eat fiddleheads from bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), which the USDA's Common Weeds of the United States (1970; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971), p. 8, classifies as a weed, but I think we ate fiddleheads from the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris).

Another weed I keep pulling out of my garden, Portulaca oleracea or purslane, is supposedly also edible either raw or cooked, but I haven't yet tried it.

The scientific name for ragweed is Ambrosia. Ambrosia was the food of the gods in Greek mythology. I've never heard of humans eating ragweed, and even most animals won't touch it. The larvae of some butterflies apparently do eat it.

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