Weed Cuisine

When I first moved here I noticed that this plant was EVERYWHERE and was clearly able to take over any space it encountered so I began to treat it aggressively as a weed. What I have since discovered is that it only does that if there is room, it’s not greedy, and it’s flowers are rather pretty, and it’s a lot nicer, to my eye, than it’s cultivar version. The flowers on this plant are pink, and the cultivars have white or red flowers which are plentiful and brash. They are often grown in pots, and are good if you want a splash of colour for not much work.

wild geranium. a pleasant plant, unassuming, with a secret – yo! we can eat these bad boys!

I have become rather fond of this native plant. I like the way that over on the marshes it grows to armpit height, while wherever it encounters mowing it simply adapts and flowers near the ground. It’s an unassuming little thing, identifiable by the dark heart on the leaves.

The other day in the park I came across a woman stuffing a plastic bag with these leaves so I asked her what she was doing. She told me it was for a Turkish dish. I asked if it was like spinach, and she agreed. The leaves are too tough to be nice in a salad, and spinach cooks down from a massive volume of fresh leaves, so I quite understood the sheer volume she had picked.

What I have discovered is that while British people must have made do in various ways during the war, other people were much more imaginative. This is probably because when the UK industrialized and then send what was left of their country dwelling young men to die in the “Great War” a lot of knowledge was lost. A principally urban population simply turned to eating really crappy food.

Previously, I have seen Polish people picking fruit and nuts in public spaces. It is ALWAYS worth asking what they are up to, because we let these fruit and nuts fall to the ground without a second thought, and given the EFFING AUSTERITY situation, we are missing a trick. The only thing that Brits routinely pick from the wild are blackberries. While blackers are delicious, we could really forage more, but we also need to learn how to store things and how to cook with unfamiliar ingredients. We also need to plant edibles. This is considered so radical in some quarters that an Occupy garden was destroyed by the local council just before harvest in Toronto. Shame on them.

A similar looking plant is the nasturtium. I have that growing in the garden, and this time last year it was fully mature and covered in orange flowers – both the leaves and the flowers are edible, though not particularly tasty, but there is something very jolly about having flowers in a salad.

nasturtium. a cultivar, but self seeding, so no real work involved. both leaves and flowers are edible. the heart of the leaf is white, and the leaves are a similar shape to the geranium but a lot flatter and probably a bit more tender.

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15 responses to “Weed Cuisine

  1. I personally love the taste of Nasturtium leaves, but then I love anything with a peppery kick. I was going to chop some leaves and stems for salad dressings, but I forgot.

    Don’t forget that you can also eat the flower buds and seed pods, as well as pickle them!

    Just one small point: The Nasturtium protects all your other plants by attracting every single nasty that wants to eat your ornamentals and your noms. It doesn’t take any damage itself, but always wash everything very carefully 🙂

    • Thanks for making that point – because ALSO if you are picking wild stuff remember dog pee and so on – wash with water and vinegar before eating.

      • Absolutely! It’s amazing how many people don’t actually think of that!

        Also, cat pee in gardens. You never know which neighbourhood moggy has pissed all over your radishes!

          • Yep. We know for a fact that the evil Tuxedo is using our veg patch as a litter tray because we’ve caught the bitch. And as much as I love BSC I don’t know that he hasn’t pooped there once or twice.

  2. PS: If you live near a salt marsh, there is SAMPHIRE, which is heavenly when eaten raw and tasty when fried in butter. Goes well with asparagus and fish.

    If you don’t live near a salt marsh you can find packs of it in Asda 🙂

    I’m still wondering what on earth the other local Solitary wants rowan beries for. I don’t like to disturb fellow Wicca when they’re “working” but I’m really curious so I need to ask!

    • I bloody love samphire. I think I have a freshwater version of it growing in my garden – it’s known as mare’s tail i think. Also probably edible, but without the juicyness or saltiness of samphire it might be a bit boring.

      I used to be shy of asking, but now I always do, because people are usually friendly enough about it, and the information you can get is mindblowing.

      • (talking to a neighbour about this the other day, he mentioned that his grandfather grew potatoes, and when he harvested his new potatoes he would put some in a tin with some earth and bury it, to dig it up months later and have fresh new potatoes for xmas dinner!

      • Haha yes – Dom has to try not to let me know that we have samphire because I will grab the pack from the fridge and eat the whole damned lot!

        I really should feel less awkward about asking; I could make a friend out of the only other Witch I know about in the area for one thing!

        • This talking to people business has come about because of having a dog. I am so used to talking to strangers now, it’s brilliant!

          • I have one of those faces; people seem drawn to talking to me – I’m just too shy to approach a stranger first! The last time this happened I was holding a slow worm and this bloke came up to tell me that he hadn’t seen one in years and I was braver than him because he’d never touch one. It’s only a lizard, and a pretty one at that!

            Dogs are definitely great conversation starters – I’ll always speak to somebody with an adorable canine at their side 🙂

            • me too. i must either look friendly or local or both. i am often asked for directions.

              i had a good grope of a dead swan on the towpath at one point – my neighbours were horrified! i was all CSI about it – i could tell it was a juvenile because it still had a couple of grey feathers. most likely crash landed. should have taken it home and eaten it.

  3. When I look at the first pic, it seems to me that the obvious edible plant is mallow (Malva parviflora) rather than a geranium. A decent eating weed that some call slimy and others call good for thickening a foraged soup.

    • yep, we are talking about the same plant, for sure. i was told it was a wild geranium, but looking up malva parviflora it’s certainly the one i am talking about.

      i can’t remember who told me it was a geranium, so i can’t closely question them. annoying!

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