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The Common Weed
Surprising Sources of Superior Nutrition

by Brett Mayette

Prior to the age of agriculture—10,000 to 12,000 years ago—people ate what was available in the wild. Our bodies still function best on a diverse diet; our DNA requires it.

It is not unusual to see “foraged” foods on menus at high-end restaurants, and articles about the benefits of eating common weeds are cropping up in main stream publications. In fact, every spring, residents of Greece look forward to the emergence of the wild horta greens so they can be added to their diets.

Common weeds have been a source of nutrition for centuries, and their healthful benefits are now being rediscovered. They are in our yards, the park down the street and along the fields and roadways in abundance, but it is important to know which ones are good for us and how to identify and prepare them.

Some of the most common wild plants available are the most nutritious as well. For example, the dandelion—reviled by many as a sign of an imperfect lawn—is a complete protein having all the essential amino acids. One cup of leaves has half of the RDA of vitamins and minerals needed in one’s daily diet. Lambsquarter (goosefoot), a wild relative of quinoa, is another complete protein loaded with vitamins and minerals. One cup of leaves has 73 percent of vitamin A, 96 percent of vitamin C, and most of the B vitamins suggested for a healthy diet.

Another highly nutritious plant is purslane. This is high in vitamins A, B, C, E and B complex, among others, and has seven times more beta carotene than carrots, six times more vitamin E than spinach, and is the best plant source of the much needed Omega 3 oils.

Common foraged plants are simple to incorporate into one’s daily diet by adding them to a favorite salad. Others that are best cooked can be substituted in place of kale, collards or chard in soups and stir fries for an even more nutritious and savory dish.

It doesn’t take a professional chef to use these plants effectively and deliciously. Eating a diverse diet is recognized as critical to our well-being. Nature offers a multitude of food options that grow commonly and abundantly, are free of charge, and in many cases are more nutritious than any plant that can be cultivated.

Brett Mayette is a passionate cook, organic grower, forager, herbalist and owner of Conscious Cuisine—Enjoying Wild Plants for Better Health. This unique business, in West Greenwich, educates and informs about the importance of using wild foraged plants in the modern diet through cooking classes and demonstrations. For more information, call 401-580-6919 or visit ConsciousCuisineRI.com. See ad, page ??.