Don’t Forget to Eat Your Weeds

Google “Chickweed” and you’ll get about 50% articles extolling its virtue as food and medicine, and about 50% articles telling you how to kill it. It’s sort of like Dandelions that way. And y’all know how I feel about Dandelions.

While Dandelions have a special place in my heart because of their charming personalities, and my appreciation of them as food and medicine is secondary. But chickweed is delicious–it has an earthy taste, like fresh spinach. So, first of all let me show you the best way to identify Chickweed (Stellaria media):

Little Tiny Hairs are the Key to Identifying Chickweed

See that line of tiny hairs on the right side of the Chickweed stem? It’s the only plant I know of that has that kind of hair pattern. It’s the surest way to tell that you’ve really got chickweed, since the flowers are fairly indistinct.

Here’s another shot that shows the hairs–they look like a fine white line down the center of the stem.

See the Fine Line of Hairs?

Chickweed is in the Pink family–the same as Carnations and Baby’s Breath. The leaves are small and completely smooth, and grow in opposed pairs.

Teeny Tiny Leaf

They are also very wee, as you can see from the photo above. The flowers are very simple, and very tiny:

Sweet Little Flower

Leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. It’s best to trim the top several inches–the leafiest, lushest part–of the above-ground portion of the plant. This will not only give you the best eating, but also helps the plant to continue branching out and growing lovely, healthy foliage and flowers.

Chickweed isn’t exactly a creeping plant . . . she’s more of a sprawler. But she does tend to grow close to the ground, part of her stems lying prostrate.

The remarkable thing about chickweed is that it loves cool weather. Chickweed is happy and prolific in my garden even in December and January, though it really becomes spectacular in February and March.

Chickweed in late January

I have read that even in really cold climates like upstate New York, Chickweed can be found green and thriving under trees where the snow hasn’t piled up. She loves moist, cool places–which is why she often moves in to well-watered gardens and snuggles up close to taller plants that can provide her with shade. So she’s an EXCELLENT source of free nourishment in the lean winter months–I’m always thrilled to have fresh edibles at those times.

She’s very nourishing, high in vitamins and minerals. And she also has remarkable abilities to dissolve cysts, mucous, benign tumors, and other unwanted things in our bodies. The saponins in chickweed also help with cell permeability, allowing us to absorb and assimilate nutrients better. And Chickweed is an excellent help for all sorts of hot, inlamed conditions. For more detailed information, see this excellent article by Susun Weed. Or read Susun’s book, Healing Wise, or Gail Faith Edwards’ delightful Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs.

So there you go, a way to save weeding, and save money on groceries. You can thank me later.