It’s fall, which means it’s harvest time. My garden is done for the year, but I have been doing a different kind of harvesting. Harvesting edible and medicinal weed seeds!
You might know that I’m a forager. So I gather things from the wild to use for food and medicine. But the great thing about these “weeds” is that you can grow them too, wherever you want. Just by harvesting the seeds and saving them to plant!
Since these are weeds, they tend to be almost invasive. They grow like crazy, without any intervention from us humans. But if we do intervene a little, the results can be remarkable.
Fall is the perfect time to harvest these edible and medicinal weed seeds. They are mature now, usually already dried out, and pretty visible. The chaff, or organic coating around them, is usually dried out enough to also make the seeds easy to harvest.
Why would I want to harvest edible and medicinal weed seeds?
There are a few reasons why you might want to harvest edible and medicinal weed seeds. Let’s talk about those first.
Plentiful, free food to grow in your yard or garden
There are many edible weeds that grow in the wild. And since they are “weeds”, they grow plentifully and robustly, even without much help. If you do decide to tend to your weeds, the results will be astronomical. They will grow so thickly, you might not even be able to contain them to one spot!
A lot of these weeds can tend to take over, so you will likely have more than you know what to do with. You may even have to contain them in a pot so they don’t take over the whole garden bed.
Take goosefoot, for example (also known as lamb’s quarters). This “spinach substitute” can grow up to 5 feet tall or more. The leaves are tender and pretty neutral-tasting, and make a wonderful salad base. If fertilized and watered regularly, it will stay vigorous and tasty into the fall. Then in the fall, you can harvest the seeds or just scatter them all over the ground to grow more in that area. They are a perfect “cut and come again” crop.
You can feed your livestock with weeds and their seeds
If you have livestock – especially sheep, goats, chickens, and rabbits – you can feed them with all kinds of weeds. My goat, sheep, and rabbits love eating goosefoot and common mallow. The chickens enjoy eating dock seeds, mallow seeds, and sunflower seeds.
I actually let a bunch of weeds grow as much as they want near the rabbit hutches and chicken coop. Then, whenever I’m feeding them, I can toss in some weeds or seeds to them. It makes feeding them just a little cheaper and more convenient.
Common mallow is especially good for rabbits who are still nursing their babies. The mucilage in mallow helps safely stimulate milk production in all mammals.
Edible weeds are highly nutritious
A lot of the “weeds” that people so dutifully try to pull up, kill off, and destroy are actually more nutritious than the plants these same people dutifully tend to in their garden. They don’t realize the abundance and nutrition that Mother Nature gives us. I don’t want you to be one of those people!
Let’s take goosefoot again. Goosefoot, also known as lamb’s quarters, is often known as a spinach substitute. But what you might not know, is that goosefoot actually has more vitamin A, and 3 times more calcium than spinach. It’s one of the best plant sources of beta-carotene, iron, potassium, and calcium. It also has high amounts of copper, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and vitamins C, K, and B. Goosefoot is actually 24% protein, and has many amino acids to keep us healthy.
And let’s look at dandelion. Dandelion greens are super nutritious and packed with flavor. Some find it a bit bitter, but younger leaves are less so. With only 25 calories per cup of dandelion greens, they provide 1.5 grams of protein and 1.9 grams of fiber. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, C, E, and K, and also provide calcium, potassium, iron, folate, and magnesium. Just 1 cup of dandelion greens can give you over 300% of your body’s daily needs of vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for heart and bone health.
You can craft free medicine from your yard
Harvesting medicinal weed seeds can step up your herb garden to entirely new levels. If you dabble in making herbal medicines, you will likely find it insanely helpful to have so many medicinal weeds right in your very own yard. I absolutely love foraging “weeds” for my own medicine, so having them on my own property is such a blessing.
You can make teas, infusions, tinctures, glycerites, oxymels, salves, and so much more by foraging common medicinal weeds. It’s just a matter of knowing what you have, and how to use it. Wouldn’t it be helpful if you had seeds to plant so you know exactly what you have, and where it’s at?
How to harvest edible and medicinal weed seeds
Find the seeds of the plants you want to harvest. Normally they will be at the top of the plant, and in the fall they will usually be brown. Pull them from the plant, and put them in a shallow bowl. Many seeds have chaff around them.
If you blow the seeds while tossing them slightly in the bowl, the chaff should blow out of the bowl. You can also toss them in front of a fan so the fan will blow out the chaff. Here is a video of harvesting seeds and blowing out the chaff.
Make sure your seeds are totally dry before you store them. If needed, you can put them in a dehydrator at a low temp. When they are completely dry, put them in a ziplock bag or store them in a glass jar. You can also put them in mylar bags for a longer shelf life. Most seeds, especially weed seeds, remain viable for many years. So if stored correctly, you can still plant these seeds for years to come.
If you don’t want to harvest your own edible and medicinal weed seeds, I can help!
If you’re not a forager, but would like to have your own edible and medicinal weeds in your yard or garden, I can help with that. I’m going to be offering weed seeds for sale in my shop soon. Keep watching for updates!
If you’re also interested in foraging for your own medicine and other home remedies, you need this book! The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies has lots of plants you can forage in your own backyard to make healing medicine for your family.