That’s chickweed in the picture – also known as winterweed because it was a mainstay of the Mediaeval diet through the winter. It’s fatal if eaten by the kilogram, but trust me, you wouldn’t want to.
Last night I went to the supermarket and in a moment of weakness spent the best part of £4 on a magazine that purported to contain an article on eating wild salad (or weeds as I call them). Having been talking about them all Sunday, and forcing them on members of the public I thought I’d like to learn a bit more. As I like reading off paper I thought I’d treat myself.
Turns out I needn’t have bothered, I seem to know more than the writer. Considering that I’m a mere novice compared to the dozens, if not 100’s, of people who write about foraging on the internet I feel seriously cheated. It took me two minutes to find several better articles on the web this morning.
As the title says, it wasn’t just the salad that was wild.
I’m going to start a new page on the blog about foraging. There may be one or two unprofessional entries, because I’m not at all sure I want to eat sweethearts/cleavers/goosegrass/stickyweed or whatever regional variation you call it. It looks stringy and it has hooks on. If you’re so interested in it YOU eat it.
When you think of salad you probably think of lettuce, or possibly rocket. If you think of chickweed or fat hen you’re in a minority, and you probably don’t need to read this. Fat hen, incidentally, contains twice as much iron as spinach, so eating weeds does have something to offer nutritionally.
In an hour or two I’m going to be taking a party of Rainbows round the garden to see what we can find to eat. We have a good crop of chickweed growing in a newly-composted raised bed and plenty of mallow. There is definitely some fat hen round by the edge and we have plenty of marigold and nasturtium flowers. We also have dead nettle , borage and dandelion so without resorting to anything from the herb garden we can provide a plate of colourful salad, though I will add some chive flowers for the onion flavour.
We have some nice tender nettles coming through, but although they are edible they are not recommended in salads. I will pause for a moment while you think about it…
It seems we need a permission form signing if we want to feed garden weeds to children, though we didn’t need special permission last week. It’s something to look into, and worth remembering that educating overly-cautious adults is also part of our job.
Strangely, when the foraged food is made into jam and spread on warm scones you don’t need special permission. I suppose it’s a case of familiarity seeming safer than the unknown. And sugar being more palatable than salad.)