Visit one of Cookies Weed and you are likely to be taken aback by what’s on the menu — especially the salad menu. The trend among our top chefs is to serve up weeds and wild flowers rather than the more traditional salad ingredients. Ask what’s in your salad, and expect to hear dandelion, ox-eyed daisy, purslane, wild sorrel, nettles, chickweed, shepherd’s purse and barrage as well as fresh herbs such as chervil and watercress.
Our prestigious chefs don’t just serve any old weed, of course. While it is tempting to visualize them roadside, attired in their white hats, pulling dandelions up by the roots and stuffing them into coolers, such is not the case. Our chefs obtain ‘high quality weeds” which are grown organically by local farmers who specialize in supplying salad greens and other vegetables to high end restaurants.
And get this: the demand for high quality, organically grown weeds is so high that one farmer reports supplying weeds and veggies to twenty-seven restaurants and has an additional seven restaurants on the waiting list.
The question now among foodies is whether or not the average family will jump on the organic weed bandwagon and start serving wild foraging crops at their family dinners and barbecues.
One can only imagine how a side of weeds would taste. Still, to be fair, many of the foods we eat are acquired tastes. Remember the first time you tasted broccoli? Or green olives? Or parsnips? Chances are you had to train yourself to eat those foods. No doubt we can train ourselves to eat weeds as well.
But why should we? Believe it or not, there are a few good reasons why eating weeds makes good sense.
Weeds are Free
You can buy your weeds from organic weed growers, if you have any in your area. Otherwise, you can be truly authentic, spurning purchased weeds and foraging for your own. Before you start, you might want to avail yourself of one of the publications on this topic, such as Samuel Thayer’s book, The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants. This book pretty much tells you what you need to know when you start to forage for wild plants. It also discusses how to identify them, serve them and cook them.
The appeal of foraging is twofold: first, the plants you find are free, so you save money. Second, the weeds qualify as local produce so you’re doing your thing for the environment.
Alternatively, if traveling around looking for good quality weeds isn’t your idea of a fun way to spend Sunday, then you could encourage the weeds that want to grow naturally in your lawn or garden. Not that they need much encouragement, but you get the idea.
However, and I want you to know that I have TRIED ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THIS, but apparently if you are planning on turning your lawn into a big salad bar, you will discover that you have to fiddle around with the weeds to make them good eating.
You may have to thin your weeds out, just as you do your row of garden lettuce and carrots. You will have to remember to harvest your weeds while they are in their prime, else they will be too old and tough. One dedicated weed eater maintains that she trims her chickweed with scissors every four to seven days, ensuring it stays tender all spring.