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A local garden story - Edible weeds at The Welcome Cafe

Late winter/early spring is the best time to look for edible weeds in the UK. There are a number of small plants that specialize in growing on bare soil during winter, producing abundant seed and dispersing it before they are overshadowed by other, bigger plants that need more light and warmth to thrive.

You would harvest the leaves before the plant begins to flower since by then it has started to put its energy into producing seed and the leaves can turn bitter. (This is why for instance, it is advised to prevent your basil plants from flowering on the windowsill)


At the GFiG network meeting hosted by the Welcome Cafe in Woolwich, there was a short presentation on edible weeds by Kevin of GCDA.

A sheet of drawings was provided displaying the leaves of three readily available wild plants - hairy bittercress, dandelion and three-cornered leek as well as the actual plants themselves together with an example of a sow thistle and a herb robert (this is better as a tisane rather than a leaf to eat, but it is perfectly edible and like many wild plants used in folk medicine as well as modern treatments).

Ideally there would also have been an example of chickweed since it is perfect for picking now, but there wasn't any to be found in the host garden. The only ones readily available were growing in areas likely to have been visited by dogs, or to have been sprayed by glyphosphate as part of the council's weed control programme, but it is worth seeking out, with an earthy flavour like beetroot without the sweetness. 


Probably you will have seen some of the weeds featured without realising that they can be harvested and eaten like regular crops provided you are quite sure of what you are eating and bearing in mind the points re dogs and poisonous spray, see above. The plants available at our quarterly meeting were fresh and organic, hence were safe to pass around for anyone who wanted to try them. If you would like to be sent an email with links to some common edible UK weeds, contact us"

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