What do people say about you when you’re not around? If you’re anything like me then it’s probably something along the lines of, “she’s eating weeds, again!” Well, it’s true, and I’ll shout it from the top of my beehives. I EAT WEEDS! I love them. I really, really love them. With spring’s perky arrival in the Appalachian Mountains there are now weeds popping up from every lawn, ditch and forest floor….and I’m out there sustainably foraging like it’s pirate booty.
Wild weeds are the lifeblood of healthy soil and, as it turns out, for our own bodies as well. There is a reason that weeds make up a significant portion of traditional medicines – and the organic compounds from which pharmaceuticals take their cues. These backyard beauties are suuuper nutrient dense and packed with minerals that are vital to our health. Did I mention that they’re also considered ‘gourmet’ in taste? Many renowned chefs have made their mark by bringing ‘weeds’ into their culinary repertoire.
Though I would not go so far as to call myself a gourmet chef, I do know a thing or two about delicious food prep. The seasonal favorite in my home, even with the kids, is Wild Pesto. With ingredients foraged from around our homestead, this traditional dip goes from ‘appetizing’ to downright delectable. The fact that it’s medicinal is a bonus I look for when feeding my family. Using these abundant and native plants, Wild Pesto stimulates the digestive and lymphatic systems, acts as an antidote for seasonal allergies, and rejuvenates our sluggish winter metabolisms.
Here’s what we found to toss into the food processor (full recipe at the bottom):
Stinging Nettles - mineral rich, adaptogenic, high in vitamins A + K, anti-inflammatory, source of bioavailable protein, and a seasonal allergy warrior due to it's natural histamine properties. Stinging nettles has been such an ally in our home to combat hay fever and seasonal allergies that I made a specially formulated tea blend featuring this dynamic herb.
* Wear gloves when you harvest this powerful plant or pinch the leaves firmly from underneath. The tiny hairs lining the leaves will leave your skin stinging if you touch them!
Chickweed - high in chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamins C, A, and B factors like folic acid and riboflavin. The tender texture of chickweed is juicy-sweet, especially in the little leaves.
Dandelion – a natural diuretic, bitter digestive aid, high in Vitamin K.
Violet - a handful of violet leaves has more Vitamin C than an orange, and the flowers are a crisp, nectar-rich treat.
Purple Dead Nettle (also known as Archangel) - packed with anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, fiber, and iron.
- 1 cup Nettle Leaves
- 1 cup Chickweed, before flowering stage
- 1/2 cup Dandelion leaves and flowers
- 1/2 cup Violet leaves and flowers
- 1/4 cup Purple Dead Nettle
- 2/3 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup nuts (we used walnuts)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup parmesan (optional)
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Blend together in food processor until texture is smooth.
I love to spoon this green goodness onto pasta noodles, chips, and sandwiches. It also makes an excellent dip for fresh vegetables or an alternative to tomato sauce for pizza. There are so many uses for pesto in your kitchen. Go wild and eat more weeds!!
Can any of you identify these plant species in your neck of the woods? Who here loves to pamper their palettes with wild foods? I’d love to hear from you!
* Be sure not to forage wild edibles within 50 feet of a road. The lead content from vehicle exhaust is toxic. Please harvest sustainably!