Many wild plants, grasses and flowers that are considered weeds could be used for food or medicinal purposes. Many of these plants may have been introduced by earlier settlers, but then forgotten over time and eventually condemned from the garden as weeds. Among the wild plants are edible grains, root vegetables, leafy greens and medicinal herbs that are free to anyone willing to learn their identification and uses.
Burdock is a common plant found in the wild worldwide. The plant grows up to five feet tall, and has purple flowers that grow from burs. The root is a common vegetable used in many Japanese dishes. Burdock is nutritious, and high in iron, inulin and beneficial oils. Burdock helps the kidneys, liver and colon to remove waste from the body. Chicory root is another common edible root that is often roasted and used as a coffee substitute. Queen Anne's Lace is a wild, edible carrot that is common, but hardly harvested because of its similarity to the deadly Poison Hemlock plant.
Purslane is a common, succulent plant high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C. The stems are typically a purplish-red colour with oval-shaped leaves. They often grow close to the ground, and the leaves grow to 1-1/4 inch in length. Nettles also are common in the wild. They can be juiced or cooked, but caution should be taken to avoid the stinging sensation that is caused when they are touched. The stinging sensation disappears once cooked or juiced, and the plant has more minerals than wheat grass juice. Lambs quarter is a plentiful plant that is similar to spinach. The seeds and leaves can be used as food, and are high in protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
Clovers are a very common flower that can be added to salads or juiced. They contain a high amount of protein. Dandelion flowers are one of the most common weeds to infest lawns and gardens. However, the flowers, leaves and roots are edible, and offer strong healing benefits for the body, including helping to cleanse the liver and kidneys. The flowers and leaves of wood sorrel are also edible in small doses. The leaves of this plant look much like a shamrock, and it has yellow flowers. They are often used to flavour desserts or salads. In high doses, the chemical oxalis in the plant is toxic. Wood sorrel should be used sparingly.
There are more than 400 kinds of grasses. All grasses are considered edible and healthy. The most common grasses that are eaten are oat, wheat, barley and other cereal grasses. Grass contains protein and chlorophyll, which is healthy for the body. Many grasses also contain magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
It is important to properly identify plants in the wild before using them. Many plants are deadly, or can cause serious side effects. Some of these plants even closely resemble other plants that are edible. Members of the wild parsley family, like Poison Hemlock, can cause death. Poison Hemlock was the plant that killed Socrates when he was forced to drink it as a punishment. The plant is often mistaken for Queen Anne's Lace, which is edible. Other plants can cause permanent damage to the body or brain.