Eat Your Weeds: 10 Delicious Invasive Plant Species

May 22, 2020 at 11:43 am

Once considered a nuisance, more and more “weeds” are making their way into the kitchen and onto the menus of high-end restaurants

Farmers and gardeners are giving up fighting many of the invasive plants they once considered “weeds,” and selling them to chefs, CSAs and health food stores, making better profit for less labor.

Not only are these weeds making them more money than many of their traditional crops, because of their “invasive” nature, they take no work at all to grow.

Invasive plant species produce large quantities of seeds that are spread long distances by birds, wind or humans.

They thrive where traditional agricultural crops can no longer grow because of damaged soil and repair the soil with their long, dense root systems.

While most farmers hate them for competing with their labor-intensive, annual crops, New York City forager, chef and author Marie Viljoen encourages them to give in to the free food Mother Nature is providing without them so much as lifting a hoe.

With no tilling, fertilizing, planting, weeding or watering required, farmers could make a killing just by going out and harvesting what grows naturally, she says in an article for Saveur.

Below she lists 10 of her favorite delicious and nutritious culinary “weeds” from her new book Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine:

Autumn Olive

Autumn Olive, *Elaeagnus umbellata*

Marie Viljoen

The sour crimson fruits of autumn olive (also called autumn berries) are as tart as red currants and can be used in similar ways. Their high lycopene content can cause jams to separate, but their color and flavor invigorate sweet and savory sauces and fruit leathers.


Burdock, *Arctium lappa*

Marie Viljoen

Peeled burdock stems are crisp and versatile. Dip them into hummus or braise them. Burdock’s cold-season taproot (better known as gobo) is a substantial, starchy vegetable that takes well to slow, moist cooking.


Chickweed, *Stellaria media*

Marie Viljoen

With its appealing flavor of nutty corn silk, spring chickweed is a delicacy best appreciated raw. Its tender stems, leaves, and flowers are ideal fillers for summer rolls, and a gentle bed for seared seafood.