A lush carpet of pure grass looks inviting, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, pollinating animals disagree. Though on a smaller scale, “perfect” lawns pose the same threats to pollinators as commercial agriculture — they kill them with pesticides and leave them nothing to eat.
Would you believe that in the United States, alone, lawns take up 40 million acres? That much land could feed a lot of bees! Better yet, bees love so-called weeds. What could be easier to grow?
Worried about looks? There are some weeds that are both beautiful and useful. You might like these five I found for you.
These iconic flowers aren’t just for making wishes. They’re delicious and nutritious!
Every part of a dandelion is edible, including the roots. Dandelions are also one of the safest plants to forage, as they have no poisonous look-alikes.
Dandelion leaves and roots are rich sources of vitamins A, C, K, and B, as well as minerals such as calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
If you like salad, raw dandelion leaves are a delicious addition to other raw greens. You can also cook them if you’d like — they make delicious recipe substitutes for kale, collards, or spinach.
Dandelion roots can be eaten like vegetables or roasted to make a coffee substitute.
Meanwhile, the sunny yellow flowers can be enjoyed raw in salads or fried into delicious, crispy fritters. If you’ve ever read Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, you know that the flowers can also be made into a sentimental wine.
*Note: Because dandelion leaves and roots are diuretic, be sure to drink enough fluids if you consume them regularly.
Also, make sure that the ones you pick haven’t been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.
They’re Edible But Use Caution.
You can eat clovers, but they aren’t as palatable or digestible as dandelions. Even tender young clover leaves can be hard to digest if you eat too many, and cooked older leaves just don’t taste good.
However, many people love blossoms in salads or cooked recipes.
Though clovers are highly nutritious, being rich in protein, vitamin C, and most B vitamins, they should be consumed with caution. Many people are allergic to them, and clovers in hot climates can produce cyanide.
Red clovers are also high in isoflavones, which act like estrogen in the human body. This may be a problem, since taking estrogen can have harmful side effects.
Where Clovers Shine: As Fertilizer And As Grass Alternatives
Some better reasons why you should leave clovers on your lawn are that they add nitrogen to the soil and need far less care than grass. In fact, people used clovers as fertilizer until the 1940s, when synthetic fertilizer was invented.
You may want to do away with your grass completely! Clover is drought-resistant, stays green longer than grass, and is great at out-competing weeds. This is why it’s sold by grass seed companies.
You may prefer recently-developed micro clovers over regular clovers since their smaller size makes them look more grass-like.
In China, daylilies have been enjoyed as a vegetable for thousands of years. In other places, they’re generally seen as ornamentals or weeds. If you have the right kind of daylily in your yard, you have a delicious delicacy!
This plant could have been named better, as it isn’t a lily at all. Real lilies have leaves all the way up their stems, whereas daylilies have long leaves that grow from their bases.
Know that many real lilies are toxic, as are some pseudo-lilies.
Moreover, not all daylilies are edible. The one you want in your hot-and-sour soup is Hemerocallis fulva, the original orange daylily from which thousands of cultivars were made.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to identify plants correctly before you eat them. If you’re not sure you have Hemerocallis fulva but really want to try it, you could always track down a field guide or other expert for identification.
Love bell-shaped flowers like daylilies? Check out my list of a few others!
Think twice before pulling this plant! You know it’s got to be good for something when it’s sold at farmers’ markets for $7 a pound.
Indeed, this succulent is a nutritional powerhouse high in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A, B, and C. Calorie for calorie, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence.
But purslane’s most surprising claim to fame is its omega-3 content — it has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy green veggie. In fact, its omega-3 density is comparable to that of fish!
*Note: If you are at risk for kidney stones, beware that purslane contains oxalates.
Also, be absolutely sure that your plant is purslane before you eat it. Purslane has a poisonous look-alike called spurge.
Have you ever felt enchanted by a cluster of vibrant goldenrod, only to worry about its pollen causing allergies? There’s good news for you — innocent goldenrod gets blamed for its cousin’s bad behavior.
Ragweed blooms at the same time as goldenrod, causing the illusion that both of them make people wheeze. According to most experts, goldenrod doesn’t cause seasonal allergies or hay fever. However, many people do get skin reactions from touching it.
The flowers and young leaves of goldenrod are edible, but be sure you’re not allergic. You can use the flowers to garnish a salad or use the leaves like spinach in cooked recipes.
Fresh or dried leaves and flowers can also be used to make herbal tea, and here is a recipe for the goldenrod marinade.
*Note: Goldenrod has some toxic look-alikes whose effects can be serious. If you aren’t completely confident that your plant is goldenrod, you can still enjoy it for its beauty.
Please, Leave It For The Bees!
Goldenrod is special among wildflowers because it’s often the latest source of nectar before everything’s dormant for the winter.
Just as squirrels hoard nuts for the winter, bees hoard honey. Letting bees collect the latest nectar available helps them to survive winter.
Of course, such a tall plant can look tacky on a lawn. Build a bed around it, and it will look like you put it there on purpose.
Bee A Pal – Leave Wildflowers For Pollinators
Did you enjoy learning about these five wonderful weeds? If so, you may also like this post about pokeweed.
Please let me know what you think in the comments, and share this article with any friends who might like it!