Tips for Harvesting Edible Weeds and Flowers

Forage for supper in your own backyard. Learn tips for gathering edible weeds and flowers.
Born With a Mission

Born With a Mission

Grow some dandelions for nutrition-packed greens and flowers.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer,

Image courtesy of Kurt Vollmer,

Grow some dandelions for nutrition-packed greens and flowers.

Set your sights on some homegrown food you don’t have to plant, tend or weed. Sound too good to be true? When you learn which weeds and flowers in your garden are edible, your entire yard becomes a buffet.

Most garden-variety weeds pack a nutritious punch, serving minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and even protein. Edible flowers add beauty and color to mealtimes, as well as unusual tastes. Edible weeds and flowers bring rustic flavor to the salad bowl, soup pot and cooked dishes.

Harvesting weeds and flowers also helps trim your grocery bill. This free-for-the-picking food is quite commonplace in yards and along the edges of gardens. You probably have a handful of these tasty tidbits growing in your yard right now. Many of these plants—including the greens of dandelions, lamb’s quarters, wood sorrel and purslane—serve as yummy soup greens and also form a tasty puree base. Blanch and freeze wild edibles for nutritious year-round eating.

Follow a few simple rules for safe foraging.

  • Never eat anything you cannot positively identify. Get a reliable plant guide and learn how to use it. Consider trying Wild Man Steve Brill’s Wild Edibles app to help identify weeds. If you’re uncertain about the identity of a plant, take it to your local extension office for a positive identification. Many edible weeds grow alongside look-a-like plants that are poisonous. Don’t take a chance; always identify plants before eating.
  • Do your homework to determine whether or not a plant is edible. There are basic botanical rules of thumb that help determine if a plant is edible or not. The non-edibles often have traits of milky sap, almond scent in wood or leaves, pods containing beans, seeds or bulbs. But don’t rely solely on these traits to determine if a plant is edible. Always properly identify plants before nibbling.
  • Pick from areas that are free of pesticides and herbicides. This is why harvesting from your own yard is best—you know if the plants have been treated with chemicals.
  • Avoid harvesting too close to roads. If possible, give yourself a 25- to 100-foot barrier between the road surface and where you start picking edibles. Roadway edges are often sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and car exhaust can contaminate soil with lead.

Editor's Note: The content of this article is provided for general informational purposes only. Be cautioned that some wild plants can be poisonous, and poisonous plants sometimes resemble edible plants which often grow side by side. It is the responsibility of the reader, or the reader’s parent or guardian, to correctly identify and use the edible plants described. HGTV does not guarantee the accuracy of the content provided in this article and is not liable for any injury resulting from use of any information provided.

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