As well as common weeds, this list includes plants that can easily be sown and left to self-propogate. Suggestions for additions or amendments to this list can be sent via the contact form.
Solanum nigrum. Blackberry Nightshade’s berries and leaves are used as food in many parts of the world, and it is grown as a crop in many areas. The leaves can be used like spinach, and the berries can be used raw or in jams or baking.
There is a common misidentification made in Australia, where this plant is sometimes wrongly called ‘Deadly Nightshade’, and regarded as dangerous. This plant is not Atropa belladonna, which is the poisonous plant commonly referred to as ‘Deadly Nightshade’ around the world. You can see pictures of it at Wikipedia.
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is grown around the world as a cover crop and also for its grain-like seeds, which are a common food item, and are a staple in various parts of the world, including Russia. If allowed to get out of control, it can become an invasive weed. It sprouts readily.
The leaves are eatable, and the seeds can be steamed or ground to make four.
Stellaria media. Long regarded as a medicinal plant well-suited to skin complaints, and anything to do with liver and bile. Chickweed has a mild taste and makes a great base for salads. It also steams well. Likes cooler, damper weather, like the undergrowth of the forest it would probably like to be amongst.
Cichorium intybu. Chicory is one of the toughest plants you’ll ever have in your garden. It laughs at hot weather when everything else is falling over. It can grow in dry lowlands, as well as mountains. The leaves and flowers are wonderfully edible. The roots are used to make a coffee-type drink. Chicory has been credited with many medicinal qualities in support of digestion and the liver, mainly due its bitter principles.
It is a perennial plant, with a long tap root, so it plays a valuable part in breaking up tough soil pans, and conditioning soil by bringing nutrients up from the depths.
Malva neglecta or sylvestris. All parts are edible, and are widely used as food. Adds a mucilaginous quality to food when cooked. The plant is hardy and provides leaves for a long growing season. Self-seeds vigorously.
Rumex obtusifolius. Broad-leaved Dock is a hardy perennial, and will tolerate a wide range of climates and soils. The leaves can taste tart because of the oxalic acid in them, so they are best used as a garnish or else in combination with other greens. The seeds are widely used.
- Massey University
- Practical Self-reliance blog: using dock seed for flour and baking
- Health Benefits Times
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is well known as a medicinal planet, because extracts from its seeds are known to support the liver. Its leaves make excellent eating if you cut the spines off; when the plant is young and vigorous, the leaves are thick and fleshy, and steam up well.
Oxalis (Wood sorrel)
Wood Sorrel (genus Oxalis), or sourgrass, is a medium sized weed that occurs throughout most of the world. Within the genus Oxalis, there are several hundred species.
Wood sorrel looks similar to clover and tends to get misidentified as clover. It has a sour taste which is reminiscent of Sorrel or Dock, but it is only a distant relation.
Cucurbita pepo. Not a ‘weed’, but pumpkin will grow freely and vigorously if given the chance. Volunteer pumpkins are common. They won’t always set fruit, but the leaves and the growing tips of the vine make good eating and steam well. They are sweet. Pumpkins are worth growing just for the greens.
Portulaca oleracea. All of the plant is edible: the thick fleshy stems, the leaves, and the flowers. The stems steam up very nicely, but it is also fine chopped finely into a salad.
Purslane is highly nutritious. It is the highest source of Omega 3 fatty acids in the plant world, as well as being rich in proteins, sugars, and mucilage. Definitely a valuable weed. A fat juicy Purslane stem is a good find.
Sonchus oleraceus. Leaves and flower heads are edible, especially if you like bitter.
Urtica dioica. The leaves are commonly cooked as food, and it has a reputation as one of the most nutritious plants in the world. Nettle soup is common. Stinging Nettle has been credited with many medicinal benefits, and is used to purify the blood and stimulate the digestive system.