Sense & Centsibility Blog

Frugality 101: Eat Your Weeds

We have extreme climate conditions here in Minnesota. One week we’re buried under 18 inches of snow, and the next week the weeds are a foot tall. That’s what it feels like, anyhow. The growth is frantic here once the snow melts and temps rise. The weeds have really got it down — they know how to survive.

While my planted seedlings in the garden are barely a few inches high, the weeds are quickly towering over them.

Lambs quarters I was pulling weeds the other week to give my seedlings a fighting chance. I had an armful of a Lambs Quarters ready to toss into the compost pile when I remembered the time my neighbor served me quesadillas made with Lambs Quarters. They were delicious. (And quite nutritious I later learned.)

I brought that pile into my kitchen, gave them a good rinse, and quickly steamed them, adding a little salt and pepper. Mmmm, good! I saved myself probably $5 worth of greens at the grocery store just that one day.

While I wait for my cultivated greens to get big enough to use, I have continued to harvest the Lambs Quarters and some other weeds to get my leafy greens. We’ve all heard how important it is to eat our greens  — they are packed with a variety of nutrients and important fiber. (Always look up the plant to safely identify and prepare.

Lambs Quarters, for instance, contain oxalic acid and you don’t want to eat too much of them raw, but cooking removes the acid.) 

If you’ve got a yard or garden, you no doubt have edible weeds.Purslane

I’ve also been eating Purslane, which is a pesky weed in the garden with its stubborn tap roots and bazillion seeds. So, I get particular pleasure eating them. Besides being high in Omega-3’s, vitamins, potassium, iron, etc., they have a high level of pectin which can thicken your soups and stews. But, they are great raw in salads adding a little crunch with a slight lemony flavor. The World Wide Web is full of great recipes! Here’s one for Purslane Pesto.

Stinging nettleI learned to eat another weed while visiting my daughter a few years back as she interned on an organic farm in Wisconsin. She sent me out to harvest Stinging Nettle growing abundantly on the side of the barn.

I thought it was a cruel joke, having made the mistake of pulling Stinging Nettle bare handed in the past. But, she loaned me a pair of gloves as I headed out. We ate them simply as a side dish with butter.

The sting from the little hairs is destroyed with cooking. I have since inadvertently eradicated Stinging Nettle from my garden by harvesting them! Oh well. Plenty of other weeds to eat that don’t hurt you if you touch them. And, I just need to visit an organic farm to get my fill.

DandelionThree plus decades ago I had newly arrived Hmong neighbors. The grandmother of the family often visited my sister and me in our garden. We had one of just a couple of gardens in the neighborhood.

It was a time before our current urban gardening trend was in style, and long after the Victory Gardens faded from memory. We didn’t speak the same language, but I learned a lot from her. In particular, she taught us to eat our Dandelion greens. We followed her instructions, still apprehensive about eating weeds.

They’re a little bitter raw, but cooking cuts the bitterness. They are a powerhouse in terms of nutritional value and health benefits. As with all weeds, harvest in areas you know are not treated with chemicals.  

There are plenty of other weeds in my yard to eat that I haven’t tried, including:

  • Violets
  • Plantain
  • Chickweed
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Pigweed

I’m in no danger of running out of greens to eat! I might even freeze some for the long, extreme winter we can count on.

Author Mary Ellen Kaluza is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and our resident frugality expert. LSS empowers people to pay off their debt, build savings, and achieve financial wellness.