Believe it or not, some weeds are actually healthy, and healthier than a lot of vegetables. See below for the healthiest weeds:
Plantain is not only nutritionally healthy, but also can be used as first-aid. It has soothing properties and decreases inflammation which helps in the healing process. If you cut yourself or get an injury, such as a bee sting, simply tear off a piece of the leaf, bite into it to release the oils and apply to the injured area. I visited a lady several months ago who actually got a bee sting in front of me and that is exactly what she did; she rubbed her bee stung hand with the oils from the plantain and soon the swelling and redness started dissipating.
You can actually eat plantain, as well. It is loaded with iron and other important vitamins and minerals. The leaves are tastiest when small and tender, usually in the spring but whenever new shoots appear after being cut back by a lawnmower. Bigger leaves are edible but bitter and fibrous. I find the same thing to be true when gathering grape leaves to use later during cooking.
The shoots of the broadleaf plantain, when green and tender and no longer than about four inches and has a nutty, asparagus-like taste. Pan-fry in olive oil for just a few seconds to bring out this taste. The longer, browner shoots are also tasty prepared the same way, but the inner stem is too fibrous. You’ll need to place the shoot in your mouth, clench with your teeth, and quickly pull out the stem. What you’re eating are the plantain seeds.
Dandelion is one of the healthiest plants out there. The entire plant is edible. The leaves contain a lot of vitamins A, C, K, calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium, more than other vegetables, such as the tomato.
The leaves are most tender, and tastiest, when they are young. This happens in the spring but also all summer along as the plant tries to rebound after being cut or pulled. You can add them to soup, prepare them Italian style by sautéing with a little olive oil, salt, garlic and some hot red pepper. My mom use to make it this way. You can also eat the bright, open flower heads in a lightly fried batter.
Purslane grows in cracks in the sidewalk. It is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Purslane has a lemony taste. The stems, leaves and flowers are all edible; and they can be eaten raw on salads or lightly sautéed.
Beware: Watch out for spurge, a similar-looking weed that grows in sidewalk cracks. Spurge is much thinner than purslane, and it contains a milky sap, so you can easily differentiate it. Look for purslane growing in your garden, or consider transplanting it to your garden from a sidewalk.
4. Stinging Nettles
Nettles tastes a little like spinach, only more flavorful and more healthful. They are loaded with essential minerals such as iodine, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, silica and sulfur. Nettles also have more protein than most plants.
You can eat the leaves and then drink the water as tea, with or without sugar, hot or cold. You can also collect entire plants to dry in your basement. The tiny needles fortunately fall off when steamed or boiled. The trick is merely using garden gloves to get the nettles into a bag. The needles will eventually fall off, and you can save the dried leaves for tea all winter long.
5. Lamb’s Quarter
Lamb’s-quarters are like spinach, except they are healthier, tastier and easier to grow. They can be found wherever there is a little dirt on the landscape. A one-cup serving will give you 10 times the daily-recommended dose of vitamin K; three times the vitamin A; more than enough vitamin C; and half your daily dose of calcium and magnesium.
The best part of the lamb’s-quarters are the leaves, which are slightly velvety with a fine white powder on their undersides. Discard any dead or diseased leaves, which are usually the older ones on the bottom of the plant. The leaves and younger stems can be quickly boiled or sautéed, and they taste like a cross between spinach and Swiss chard with a slight nutty after-taste.