Spring has sprung and our backyards are showing it. Daffodils and tulips are blooming, lilac trees have started pushing out blossoms, and your lawn is full of dandelions and violets. Some homeowners love their lawn dotted with yellow and purple flowers, and others spend all summer trying to clear their yards of the stuff.
But there is a good reason to keep the weeds in your backyard: many of them are edible. Foraging has been picking up in popularity these last few years, with videos of people online collecting mushrooms on their hikes and making tea out of cherry blossoms spreading like wildfire across the internet. But foraging for food doesn’t have to be so complicated, and you certainly don’t need to go on long hikes in the woods. You can actually get started with the plants right in your back yard.
Here’s three that you might not have known are edible.
If you’ve ever looked at the herbal tea section of the supermarket, you may have seen Dandelion Root Tea for sale. If you were wondering, yes, this is the same exact plant that your dad or your grandma used to pull obsessively out of their lawn. Every part of a dandelion plant is edible, from the flowers to the leaves to the roots. It’s one of the easiest edible weeds to start with if you want to get into foraging.
Dandelion root tea is full of nutrients and is known for supporting your liver. But to make it, you need to dig up, clean, and roast the roots of the dandelion. If you’re new to foraging, it will be much easier to start with the leaves and the flowers. In spring, the leaves make an excellent addition to salad, with a bitter flavor similar to radicchio or endive. You can also add the flowers to salads as a colorful addition. The flowers can also be used to make wine, infuse into vinegar or oil, or to make tea.
And later, in the fall, when you’re feeling much braver, you can dig up the plants to roast the roots for a tea that is similar in flavor to coffee and known for its health benefits.
Maybe instead of digging dandelions out of our lawn, we should be planting them in our garden beds.
Another flower that has a favorite pastime of filling your lawn with color are violets. Foraging for violets is simple – just pick the flowers before you mow your lawn or weed them out of your flower beds. These small, purple flowers are abundant in springtime and are also, of course, edible. You can toss them in a salad or make a deep blue tea with them. Traditionally, they’ve been candied, dried, and used as decorations for baked goods. They have a very subtle flavor that goes with most everything, and are easy to dry in between tissue paper in a heavy book to use as decorations on baked goods throughout the year.
Also, violets, if steeped in hot water overnight and mixed with sugar, will create a deep blue syrup that changes colors when added to acid or a base. Add it to lemon and it changes from deep blue to bright pink. It’s incredibly fun to make a springtime lemonade and add in violet syrup to watch it turn colors.
Red clover isn’t as easily recognized as violets and dandelions, but it’s likely that you have some of this in your yard as well. It has the traditional clover-shaped leaves and small, spherical, dark pink flowers. It’s easy to identify and therefore easy for foraging. Red clover is another flower that can be used as a beautiful garnish for foods and baked goods. Also, the flowers can be dried to drink as tea. There is limited scientific study on the use of red clover, but traditional uses of the herb are for menopause, bone health, skin and hair health, and fertility.
These are just three plants that are readily available in our backyards and wild areas, but if you’re interested in learning more, we’d be happy to talk with you. And, if you’re not interested in foraging yourself, you can always pick up these plants and hundreds more as part of our dried herbs section on our website.