Edible Chickweed

April 5, 2007

Some weeds are making themselves easy targets with rapid early spring growth that causes them to stand out in the garden with no place to hide.

Chickweed is one of the common weeds that you may notice taking over sections of lawn and the fringes of your garden beds.

If you’ve read any of the entries on my favorite edible weeds such as Nettles and Lambs Quarters, then you probably expect that my take on Chickweed will focus more on the positive aspects of this unpopular plant than on how to wipe it off of the face of the earth with poisons.

What’s to Like about Chickweed?

Chickweed PhotoFortunately, chickweed is simple to identify and if you don’t let it get totally out of hand it shouldn’t be much of a problem to control, at least not in cultivated garden areas. What’s more, chickweed is edible, nutritious, and has even developed a reputation as a medicinal plant.

While chickweed is easy to recognize, it’s not as easy to describe. The plant grows in a thick clump or mat of leaves, stems, tiny buds, and flowers, all of which can be eaten. It is a low growing plant that spreads along at ground level rather than growing vertically.

The small oval shaped leaves grow in pairs and are medium green in color. The plant’s stems are delicate, almost hollow-like and succulent. You’ll notice tiny unopened flower buds and white flowers along the ends of the rambling stems.

Chickweed’s Growth Habits

Chickweed is a rapidly growing weed that grows best during the spring and fall seasons and will become sparse and spindly during the heat of summer. It matures rapidly and can blossom and set seed within a very short time of germinating.

Chickweed LeavesThe rapid growth and seed production is what can turn this edible weed into a nuisance in lawns and even gardens if allowed to grow unchecked. So never allow it to grow in garden areas long enough to mature and produce a seed crop, and don’t add this plant to your compost piles.

While I haven’t had a problem with chickweed growing out of control it in my garden, I would definitely not purposely introduce it for the sake of having a wild plant to feast on. Once you become familiar with the appearance and habits of chickweed you’ll have no problem locating more than you can use because it’s all over the place.

Locating and Using Chickweed

There’s one variety of this edible wild plant goes by the name of Common Chickweed, and it is one of the most widespread and common weeds that you will find. Just another example of why there is no reason for people to go hungry when oftentimes there is food, organic as can be, right at our feet with no cost beyond the time it takes to gather it up.

As with any edible weed or wild plant, be 100% certain of its identification before eating it, and never collect plants form areas that may be polluted or exposed to chemical pesticide or herbicide treatments. Also, be aware that even though a plant is edible, some individuals may have allergies and sensitivities to eating or even touching them.

Chickweed Flowers and BudsVitamin rich chickweed can be steamed or cooked as an ingredient in soups, but probably the most popular culinary use is simply as an addition to green salads. Harvest the plants when they are lush, green, and full, including the tender stems, buds, and flowers, right along with the leaves, as they’re all edible.

Chickweed is reputed to have many medicinal properties and is often recommended as a weight-loss aid and for skin irritations. In addition to using the fresh leaves, it can also be dried for use in making herbal teas. The plant is sold in capsules and tinctures, and used in formulas for poultices and ointments.

Even if you choose to continue to treat chickweed as nothing more than a common weed at least familiarize yourself with its appearance and add it to your collection of edible weeds such as nettles, plantain, and dandelion that you can easily find and identify.

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