Backyard produce that’s easy to grow and hard to kill!

Considering starting a vegetable garden to off-set those high grocery bills? Have past attempts at growing food yielded ugly, anemic looking and unappetizing results for all your efforts?

You may want to consider harvesting what’s already growing in your yard in spite of you!

Lots of wild urban plants considered “weeds” are not only edible but delicious and nutrition packed. Chances are you’ve seen some of these growing in your yard or an adjacent area and never gave them a second thought except maybe “time to break out the Round-Up”.

The following is a list of the most common edible “weeds” found in urban areas and the best way to eat them:

·        Lambs Quarters- entire plant from the ground up is delicious if harvested when less than one foot tall. Use uncooked in salad, steamed or creamed as a spinach stand-in.

·        Green Amaranth- milder tasting relative of Lambs Quarters but not good raw. Try it steamed, creamed, boiled or fried.

·        Purslane- kind of crunchy and lemony tasting. Tender young leaves are good raw in salads or sandwiches, lightly steamed or stir-fried. Also good for “low-fat pesto” or a thickener for soups and stews.

·        Curly Dock- harvest before flower stalk appears. Basal leaves are good raw in salads or sandwiches. Lemony flavor intensifies when baked into casseroles or added to soups and stews in the last couple minutes of cooking.

·        Sheep Sorrel- use raw leaves in salads or sandwiches or cook in soups, stews or any dish calling for leafy vegetables. Particularly good with potatoes, squash or baked into bread.

·        Yellow Wood Sorrel- use raw in salads or sandwiches or cook 5-10 minutes with any cooking method. Great with any vegetable or dessert recipe that benefits from a sour flavor.

 

Harvesting wild edible weeds is a good idea for many reasons. They’re free, delicious, sustainable and loaded with dietary fiber plus your yard’s going to look a lot nicer!

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the nutritional value of these humble and much maligned greens. Here are some examples:

·        Lambs Quarters are chocked full of more iron, protein and vitamin B2 than raw cabbage or spinach.

·        Green Amaranth has more calcium and iron than raw kale and is also rich in vitamin A.

·        Purslane is a surprisingly good source of Omega 3 fatty acids as well as vitamins E, C, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and riboflavin.

·        Curly Dock is an excellent source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. 

·        Sheep Sorrel and Wood Sorrel are vitamin, mineral and antioxidant rich. They also have a variety of medicinal uses in addition to being good eating.

Always remember to never put a raw plant in your mouth without being absolutely certain you’ve correctly identified it. I highly recommend you get a foraging app like “Wild Edibles” by Steve Brill. Additionally, be sure to harvest only from areas free of herbicides, car exhaust and other pollutants.

 

How about some every day veggies? On a “difficulty” scale of 1-5 (5 being the toughest to grow) these are all 1 or 2 but hey….you still get bragging rights!

·        Carrots like plenty of sunshine and constant moisture. A pack of seeds produces about 30 pounds of Bug’s favorite.

·        Pole Beans need something to climb. Like a pole maybe? They mature in 55-70 days and a pack of seeds yields about 5 pounds of magical fruit.

·        Lettuce may be the easiest to grow. In areas with extremely hot summers stick with Romaine. Ready to pick at 75-85 days a pack of seeds produces 30-40 pounds of salad-in-waiting. 

·        Cucumbers need a fair amount of water and should be mulched to help retain moisture. Two plants can produce about 15 pounds of potential pickles.

·        Spinach hates too much heat and prefers shade in the hottest part of summer. A 6’ row of plants will give you 5 or 6 pounds of Popeye pleasing greens.

·        Tomatoes are best grown from “starter plants”. They need support from a “tomato cage” and mulch with straw to retain moisture. Two plants should fulfill your sandwich, salad and sauce needs all summer.

While not quite as easy to grow as weeds, a little nurturing goes a long way!

Published by Bill Hoover