There are a lot of rumors going around about a potential food shortage coming. And while I’m not going to say that I’m sure of it, I have been doing my best to prepare for it. I actually have been for years. I believe that a good way to prepare for any kind of food shortages is to learn the weeds that grow around us. So today I’m going to show you how to forage a wild greens salad, and make your own dressing to go with it.
Weeds grow like crazy, without any help from us. They are so plentiful, some have great nutritional benefits, and some are medicinal as well. The hardest part is to learn them!
Well, if this is something that interests you, I would highly recommend getting a plant identification app on your phone. But don’t rely on just that! You should also invest in a good field guide on the plants that grow in your particular area. Another good thing to get is a few books on how and when to eat your weeds.
I personally have this book, and I really like it. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to learn how to eat the weeds!
If you’re new to foraging, there are a few rules you should know. I go over a lot of them in my beginner’s guide to foraging post, but the most important one is this: Never eat anything you can’t 100% identify.
I can’t stress this enough! That’s why a plant identification app is so helpful – you can take a picture and it will tell you what the plant is. But they’re not always 100% accurate, so always back it up by referring to your books or online to confirm.
Forage a wild greens salad
If you have a little bit of land, chances are you have some wild food growing at your feet. But if you don’t have land, you should still be able to go for a short walk and forage a wild greens salad.
My salad was foraged from my land. I have several edible weeds growing happily on my less-than-manicured property.
Here is what I gathered for my salad, and what you may be able to find yourself.
Purple dead nettle
Purple dead nettle is an edible and medicinal plant that mostly grows in the spring and early summer. At least around here, it dies off when it gets really hot. It is often confused with henbit, but henbit is edible as well.
Purple dead nettle grows low to the ground, and is usually 5-6 inches tall. The stem is squared, which tells you it is in the mint family. The leaves are slightly fuzzy and scalloped, and are arranged on the stem in layers. The tops are adorned with small purple flowers. It is medicinal, helping allergy symptoms and inflammation.
As an edible green, purple dead nettle is a great source of vitamin C, iron, fiber, and flavonoids. The oil in the seeds is packed with antioxidants.
Also known as goosefoot, lamb’s quarters is a nutritious wild green that grows nearly everywhere. It’s a member of the spinach family, and is arguably more nutritious than spinach.
Lamb’s quarters can become a huge plant, but it’s best to eat when the leaves are small and immature. Its leaves are somewhat shaped like a goose’s foot, hence, the name. The leaves have a powdery silver coating on them that is most prevalent on the undersides.
Lamb’s quarters is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins A and C. It’s also high in manganese, copper, calcium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and has some iron.
Purslane, also known as portulaca, is a succulent plant that grows very well in drought-like environments. The stalk is thick and round and has a reddish-green tint. The leaves are teardrop shaped, very thick and fleshy, and are arranged opposite on the stem.
Purslane has a wonderful, tart flavor and is an excellent snack straight from the garden. It’s slightly salty with a hint of lemony flavor. This weed is actually one of my favorite raw vegetables to eat.
Portulaca is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. At only 10 calories per cup, it has the highest content of vitamin A of all green leafy vegetables. It has 6 times more vitamin E than spinach, and 7 times more beta-carotene than carrots. It has omega-3 fatty acids, and even includes fatty acids that are normally only found in fish.
Purslane also has good levels of vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron, and calcium. It has 5-7 times the ALA of spinach. It also contains melatonin, which can help you sleep better.
Medicinally, purslane helps keep mucus membranes healthy, and may help prevent lung and oral cancer. It aids in weight loss and supports a healthy cardiovascular system. It helps regulate blood pressure and reduces bad cholesterol levels. Purslane boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of stroke. Traditionally, it has been used to treat burns, heartburn, headaches, stomachaches, coughs, and arthritis.
Common mallow is a relative of marshmallow, but much more common. It is considered less medicinal than marshmallow, but more edible. Mallow is a weed that grows nearly everywhere. It has rounded and slightly scalloped leaves. It gets small pinkish-purple flowers on it, and the seed pods look like a wheel of cheese.
It is very high in mucilage, which makes it valuable for soothing mucus membranes. Medicinally, common mallow is good for dry coughs, bronchitis, dry scratchy throats, stomach and GI issues, constipation, bladder problems, and wounds. It is a natural, gentle treatment for Crohn’s and IBS.
A wonderful edible weed, common mallow is high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, selenium, and iodine. It also has high levels of vitamin B complex, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Curly dock, or yellow dock, gets its names from its wavy leaves and bright yellow roots. The leaves are long and lance-shaped, with a rib down the middle and curled edges. It’s a dark green plant. The seeds grow in a long stalk at the top of the plant, starting out reddish-green and turning dark brown in the fall.
The leaves are edible, and have more vitamin A than carrots. It’s high in fiber, and has a decent amount of protein. The leaves are also high in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and zinc. The seeds are rich in fiber and calcium, and can be dried and ground into a flour substitute.
Curly dock is also used medicinally. It is a wonderful gentle laxative, especially for mild constipation. It is considered a cleansing and purifying herb. Due to its high antioxidant levels, it is also an anti-inflammatory. Dock was traditionally used to treat intestinal parasites, to treat scurvy, jaundice, and rheumatism. The most commonly used part of dock for medicine is the roots.
Of course, you can’t forage a wild greens salad without dandelion. Dandelion is a common weed that grows nearly everywhere. Dandelion is recognizable to pretty much everyone. The basal leaves develop a hollow stem that holds a single yellow flower on top. When the leaves are broken, they expel a small amount of milky sap.
Dandelion is edible, but bitter. The bitterness is actually what makes it medicinal. It is a wonderful liver cleansing herb, and helps stimulate digestion. It is also diuretic, and will help relieve water retention and lower blood pressure. Dandelion helps fight inflammation, and may regulate blood sugar levels.
As a nutritious edible green, dandelion is a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and fiber. It also has vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, potassium, and manganese. Dandelion may also help aid weight loss.
No, we’re not talking about the banana-like fruit here. Plantain is a very common weed that grows throughout the world. There are two main types, broadleaf plantain and narrowleaf plantain. Broadleaf plantain has oval to egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette on thick stems at the base of the plant. Narrowleaf plantain has lance-shaped leaves with a strong center vein. Both types have string-like veins that resist breaking more than the leaf. Both types will develop a long, slender stalk with a cluster of seeds at the top.
Plantain is a wonderful medicinal weed. It’s used to treat all kinds of skin conditions. It has a drawing quality that helps remove toxins from bee stings and mosquito or spider bites. Plantain also makes a good eye wash. It is a very common ingredient in herbal salves.
Nutritionally, plantain is high in calcium and vitamins A, C, and K. It can be eaten raw, preferably when the leaves are young and tender. It can also be eaten as a cooked green and put in stews and soups.
Homemade salad dressing for a wild greens salad
Of course, you can use any salad dressing when you forage a wild greens salad, but I wanted to stretch my self reliance a bit by making my own homemade salad dressing. For this recipe, I gained inspiration from several salad dressings to get this perfect one.
It’s slightly tangy and is a great compliment to the mix of flavors that my wild greens gave me.
Wild greens salad dressing
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- dash of dill
You can add other herbs and seasonings as you would like. I just chose to keep it fairly simple to let the wild greens flavor shine through.
This dressing was so easy to make, it almost doesn’t need instructions! Simply combine all ingredients into a jar and shake until they are thoroughly mixed.
Are you going to forage a wild greens salad?
So now that I’ve given you some tools to use, are you going to forage a wild greens salad? It’s so nutritious (much more so than lettuce!) and easy, and you’re able to take advantage of what Mother Nature provides for us.
This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of the weeds you may be able to find to make yourself a salad. There are close to 80,000 edible plants in the world. Some other good options would be pineapple weed, clover, or sorrel. Just do your research and see what you can find!