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.
Hypochaeris radicata. The leaves are edible. The roots can be roasted and used to make a drink.
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.
Galium aparine. A prolific weed with a long history of medicinal uses. It can be steamed, or the tips can be eaten raw, but the texture is a ‘thing’; a bit like eating velcro.
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.
Taraxacum officinale. Commonly used as a liver tonic and aid to digestion, Dandelion greens are good raw or steamed and are highly nutritious. Widely used medicinally.
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.
Plantago lanceolata. Common names include English plantain, narrow leaf plantain, ribwort plantain, ribleaf, lamb’s tongue, and jack straw. All of the plant is edible. It has also been used medicinally.
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.
Capsella bursa-pastoris. Common all over the world, and widely used as a food in Asia. Can grow anywhere from lowlands to mountains.
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.
Viola odorata. The leaves and flowers are edible. The flours, leaves and roots are widely used as a medicine. Violets spread vigorously, and are tough.
Great work mate!
fantastic!!! Thank you so much!! I didn’t realise how edible my garden was. Thanks again!
Super. Thankyou. These edible weeds also provide healthy habitat for bees and other pollinators
Awesome resource David