Farmers are Giving Up the Fight Against “Invasive Weeds” and Selling Them to Chefs and CSAs

If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em! Did you know Japanese knotweed and pokeweed shoots are delicious and medicinal?

Some farmers are giving up the fight against invasive 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.

New York City forager, chef and author Marie Viljoen encourages farmers to stop fighting Mother Nature with plows, pesticides and fertilizers, saying they can make a much better living by just going out and harvesting what grows naturally.

Below are 10 of her favorite invasive species from her new book Forage, Harvest, Feast: A Wild-Inspired Cuisine:

Autumn Olive

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.


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.


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.


Familiar dandelions are the gateway plant to eating weeds. With crisp rosettes in late winter, mild leaves and succulent stalks in spring, and assertive flavor in summer, dandelions’ evolving profile makes them appealing throughout their growing season.

Field Garlic

Prolific field garlic (also called lawn chives, or wild garlic) is sold in neat bunches at New York City green markets. The little wild onions fetch $3 a bunch. The bulbs and leaves are a sustainable—if diminutive—alternative to vulnerable native ramps.

Garlic Mustard

Spreading thousands of seeds after flowering, biennial garlic mustard inspires ecological ire. Edible in its entirety, the plant offers second-year roots tasting like horseradish, leaves that are a gustatory marriage of broccoli rabe, mustard, and garlic, and budding stems in late spring that are an ephemeral delicacy.

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweed is notoriously invasive, but also delicious. It will definitely become more familiar as a market vegetable in years to come. Its mid-spring shoots resemble asparagus, but taste and behave like an earthier version of rhubarb crossed with fresh sorrel. Use it raw or cooked, especially in savory dishes that need a sour boost.


Mugwort’s feathery leaves are packed with a sage-like fragrance that is wildly versatile in the kitchen. Author and wild foods purveyor Tama Matsuoka Wong says they are “awesome as tempura.” From its first shoots through to its winter stalks (which can be used as kebab skewers), this under-appreciated herb is about to experience a slow-burn renaissance.


Known as poke sallet in the South, this indigenous but prolific plant was originally eaten by Native Americans. It is a succulent spring vegetable when blanched in ample boiling water, but it must never be eaten raw. Pokeweed’s notoriety stems from livestock poisonings or improper preparation … but once blanched, young poke shoots are delectable.


The early-season alternative to watercress, wintercress (also called creasy greens, wild cress, or upland cress) is a land dweller whose leafy heat is reminiscent of wild arugula. Later in spring, wintercress stems shoot up, bearing acid yellow flowers. These tender morsels, like baby broccolini, are a prime and ephemeral spring ingredient.





89 responses to “Farmers are Giving Up the Fight Against “Invasive Weeds” and Selling Them to Chefs and CSAs”

  1. Charlie Avatar

    Can you get sick if you misidentify these things? I’ve had dandelions, mugwort, burdock, garlic mustard, and wild onions/garlic and am OK.

    1. Mj Avatar

      I don’t know about the others, but poke weed is definitely toxic once it turns purple.

      1. George Rogers Avatar

        Pokeweed is toxic merey to touch, with no reference to purple. Actually, generally speaking, unripe fruits tend to be more toxic than ripe. Google “pokeweed mitogens.” Even from handling, the plant can set off a weird proliferation of lymphocytes, which led to its role in immune system research. Don’t take my word for it…internet work will indicate leaving pokeweed alone.

        1. JOHN NOLAN Avatar
          JOHN NOLAN

          people here in my neck of the woods pick it and fry it. never seen a problem with it.

          1. Pipp Avatar

            in the spring young shoots (6″ -8″ tall)of pokeweed should be snapped off at ground so that you get no part of the roots. Parboil twice throwing those waters away. A favorite way to eat in the Appalachias is to roll the parboiled pokeweed in cornmeal and fry. I know from experience that if you don’t properly parboil them first, you’ll have a night of diarrhea and cramping. They’re one of the first plants in spring that sends up shoots so if, as in the old days, you were craving some fresh greens these were a welcome sight.

          2. hermitress Avatar

            They used to sell poke sallet in a can for goodness sakes.

        2. Kathy Moebes Avatar
          Kathy Moebes

          As a child growing up in the south, we used to paint ourselves with the purple berries. Our moms just warned us not to eat them. In the spring a big plate of poke salad with hot crispy cornbread is so delicious!

      2. Jarred Avatar

        Yes it is toxic unless prepared correctly

        1. jim conner Avatar

          My wife has cooked poke salad, she brings it to a boil then pours off the water and puts in new water to cook. Be sure to put in streak o lean or ham scraps and salt to taste.

    2. Jenn Avatar

      I thought you could only eat the leaves of burdock, not the stems. Or is the entire thing edible? I know rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but the stem is ok.

      1. Cindi Quay Avatar

        Jenn, the burdock root is delicious! earthy in nature of taste. Cut up just a like a carrot for stews. You can also purchase burdock root at chinese food stores, known as Gobo root. Excellent fall food to gently “sweep” the liver.

    3. Judy Avatar

      Yes. Never eat any wild plant that you have not absolutely identified correctly.

    4. Marzy Avatar

      Yes,particularly the berrys.could be mistaken for many things by the unwary but rowan is a particularly nasty one also dont bother with the pokeweed, not worth the risk x

    5. Ro Avatar

      If you misidentify anything it can make you sick. Depends how bad your misidentification is. For instance, if you are planning on having a baked potato, but instead try to eat a baked housebrick, then it can damage your teeth.

  2. Linea Avatar

    I’m partial to Purslane, another invasive plant that is delicious. The succulent leafs can be added to salads, cooked, it’s great in stirfrys, soups, and egg dishes.

    1. Suzie Avatar

      yes me too , as you would know it has many seeds and i have been able to grow my own crops of Purslane well worth the effort grows well and about twice the size

      1. Sharon Avatar

        Where can you get the seeds?

        1. Dick Avatar

          West Coast Seeds has the domestic variety, there is also a wild variety that came into my garden and is actually a problem I can’t get rid of.

          1. Simone Avatar

            Are you in the Lower Mainland? If you aren’t too far I’d happily help you with that problem. lol

      2. Lee Avatar

        I love purslane but if you cultivate it, I would highly recommend doing it in a separate patch, away from your garden. I grew in it my garden last year, and when it went to seed it spread seeds all over my garden. It came up this year, and choked out everything else I had planted!

    2. MJ Thomson Avatar
      MJ Thomson

      yes me too. I belong to an organic coop and get often organically grown purslane for my salads. It’s lovely

  3. no Avatar

    I think you’re missing a few…

  4. dorianna Avatar

    What am I missing…article titled 10 weeds..I see 3?

    1. Lee Wainwright Avatar
      Lee Wainwright

      There are 10 listed and accompanied by 10 photographs… what are you viewing this on a nokia 3310?

      1. cameron Avatar

        I’m looking at it with chrome browser on a PC. It doesn’t show 10 items, it only shows 3, with no option for next page or anything. It ends with chickweed.

    2. Jami Bova Avatar
      Jami Bova

      I only see three as well…. on my laptop. I kept scrolling up and down looking for a “next page” link or something. glad I’m not alone.

    3. Penny Avatar

      I only see 3 also. I am on a computer, and I am searching around the website for something to click on, but there is nothing.

      1. Tracy Forsyth Avatar
        Tracy Forsyth

        thats strange I see 1o

      2. Tom Wilmore Avatar
        Tom Wilmore

        With Chrome on a PC I see 3, but with the same link and Firefox I see all 10.

        1. La Salvadega Avatar
          La Salvadega

          Only three here too, laptop, Firefox.

    4. Adrienne Avatar

      If you are using an ad blocker, try pausing it. I had the same problem, but temporarily turning off the ad blocker fixed it.

    5. Capncaveman Avatar

      they are trying to sell her book that has 10 weeds in it.. that is why there is a link before chickweed.. this is Clickbait

  5. Joaquin Martinez Avatar

    I`m a new user an want to know to cook them example dandelions? That is very abundant in Saskatchewan CA.

    1. MaryPat Avatar

      Dig them up – root & all, rinse. Boil in some water with some sea salt.My Newfy aunt made the best dandelion beer I have every had. There should be some recipes in internet for dandelion recipes, beer and wine also. Enjoy

    2. Davidio Avatar

      Use them as a salad leaf with a simple dressing (extra virgin olive oil & freshly squeezed lemon juice) or use them like a spinach leaf.

    3. Gitama Avatar

      Wash the leaves well and scramble briefly in eggs. If you get them before they flower, they are sweet.

    4. Rachel Wooding Avatar
      Rachel Wooding

      The flowers are great battered and fried 🙂

    5. Simone Avatar

      I make dandelion jelly and syrup. good on toast and pancakes

  6. christopher Avatar

    We look at weeds in an entirely different way these days. There are many plantain and stinging nettles in our garden. So far we have used the nettles in soup and wow was it totally creamy smooth.Hope other folk come to realise the many healthy benefits of garden weeds and stop the idiotic spraying which damages everything. Wake up sheeples.

    1. Daniel Avatar

      Nettles are delicious and extremely good for you.

      1. Sherry Cunningham Avatar
        Sherry Cunningham

        I think I have stinging nettles growing wild everywhere in my yard but I’m not sure if that is what it is. What is a good source for identification of these plants.

  7. Richard connell Avatar

    Ilike it i no dandelions grow in nsw do you cook it eat it raw

    1. Michele Avatar

      I have used the leaves raw in salads and sandwiches. I have stir-fried both the leaves and the flower buds Love dandelion

  8. j Avatar

    theres only three… soooo

    thats bad for your integrity

    1. Rachel Wooding Avatar
      Rachel Wooding

      I was only seeing 3 until I disabled my ad blocker, (mentioned in other posts). There are 10, so this person’s integrity is not questionable.

    2. Jess Avatar

      There are 10. You just can’t see all of them.

  9. Peter Fulda Avatar
    Peter Fulda

    Great article. A couple of notables were missed, however: Purslane – Very high in Omega-3s and a host of other nutrients, and has a sweet, succulent taste that rivals the best things that people grow in their gardens;
    How about Lambs Quarters?

    1. CK Avatar

      Lambs quarters are my favorite vegetable – very similar to spinach. Somehow we have less of it this year, and I miss my weeds!

  10. z Avatar

    any chance of updating these with scientific names? common names and pictures are helpful, but know exactly which wild plant your eating is the safest way to be sure it’s not a poisonous look-alike. great list though!

  11. Gary Corneil Avatar
    Gary Corneil

    Interesting article but I’m only seeing 3 suggested plans and the article says 10. Typo?

  12. Edgar Avatar

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

    I see three – autumn Olive, Burdock and Chickweed.

    1. Diane Jondreau Avatar
      Diane Jondreau

      There’s ten. Wait for it to fully load

  13. JeffK627 Avatar

    “Below she lists 10 of her favorite delicious and nutritious culinary “weeds””

    I only see three.

  14. Chris Johnton Avatar
    Chris Johnton


  15. julie Avatar

    only 3 plants listed (not 10)

    1. Tracy Forsyth Avatar
      Tracy Forsyth

      there are 10 when you look at on a lap top

  16. Priya Avatar

    Great article. Thank you. My one concern is correctly identifying these plants. Are there similar looking poisonous species we can mistake some of these with? Those autumn berries look similar to nandina berries.

    1. CK Avatar

      I think they must be what we call Russian Olive?

  17. sarah Avatar

    there are only 3 listed…

  18. Gerhard Avatar

    3 is not 10. Where are the other 7 “weeds”?

    1. Simone Avatar

      Look at the comments above for why and what to do about it.

  19. JK Avatar

    This is a great article, I wish you had it in a printer friendly PDF file so I could print it and use it as a reference. Might be a good idea to offer that on future posts.

  20. Nick Jones Avatar
    Nick Jones

    I thought I knew how to count. I guess I can only count to three because that is all I see on this page, unless your web designer doesn’t support Google Chrome web browser. I was looking forward to seeing what weeds I could nibble while sitting out in the yard, reading.

    1. Tom Wilmore Avatar
      Tom Wilmore

      Try Firefox. Works for me.

    2. Josephine Avatar

      Try using Google, this works for me

    3. Rachel Wooding Avatar
      Rachel Wooding

      Disable ad block on chrome, that worked for me

  21. olga Avatar

    Thanks for sharing , photographs are excellent for identification ,which I will use .Thanks !!!!!

  22. jane eades Avatar
    jane eades

    Please write up pieces like this *with* the plants Latin names.
    Also if you mention that a plant “inspires ecological ire” and leave this point unsupported, even with a link, readers are left dangling.

    Everyone who writes about the environment had best make the text robust.

    In the UK at least we consider Garlic Mustard one important food plant for butterflies.

  23. alison Avatar

    no lambs ears or shepherd’s purse??

  24. Bob Avatar

    Lots of folks only seeing 3 weeds. I see all 10 with my iPhone 6 and Safari browser.

  25. steve Avatar

    It seems to be chrome causing the problem. Copy and paste the web address into internet explorer and the whole article is there.

    1. David Stous Avatar

      I’m on Chrome. saw all 10, no problem

  26. Dennison Wolfe Avatar
    Dennison Wolfe

    i see ten in firefox on windows 7. possbily you don’t do internet right 😉

    The sour crimson fruits of autumn olive (also called autumn berries) are as tart as red currants;

    Peeled burdock stems are crisp and versatile;

    spring chickweed is a delicacy best appreciated raw;

    dandelions are the gateway plant to eating weeds;

    field garlic (also called lawn chives, or wild garlic) … are a sustainable—if diminutive—alternative to vulnerable native ramps;

    biennial garlic mustard inspires ecological ire;

    Japanese knotweed is notoriously invasive, but also delicious.;

    Mugwort’s feathery leaves are packed with a sage-like fragrance;

    poke sallet … is a succulent spring vegetable when blanched in ample boiling water, but it must never be eaten raw;

    wintercress (also called creasy greens, wild cress, or upland cress) is a land dweller whose leafy heat is reminiscent of wild arugula. (I’ve sure wasted a lot of this over the years).

    Here’s seconds to the commenters adding purslane and lamb’s quarter.
    @Jane Eades, in the US, Garlic Mustard has recently (ten years now?) taken over large swaths of park and forest, and US readers are likely to have seen something about it in newspaper features.

  27. Judy Avatar

    Strange because I see 10.

  28. IfollowYahshua Avatar


  29. FH Avatar

    You have to scroll payy the the annoying drug ads to see all ten.

  30. Bernice Clark Avatar
    Bernice Clark

    When I was a child in Colorado, my mother used to send us out for wild asparagus that grew along irrigation ditches, and purslane (Spanish: verdulagas) a weed that grew in abundance. Delicious in flavor with a bit of a rubbery texture. We also used to gather wild spinach (Spanish: quelites) which had a slightly sugar like coating on the leaves. Also very delicious and nutritious! Somewhere I have photos of these edible weeds!

  31. EvilLurks Avatar

    Where’s the rest of the list?

  32. jon cappy Avatar
    jon cappy

    10 weeds, count

  33. anonymous Avatar

    Something with your site is causing only the first 3 to load if ads are blocked .. just FYI .. if you aren’t seeing all 10, disable your adblocker (or, better yet, move on to a website that doesn’t require ads/tracking to be enabled in order to view it)

  34. Kris Roth Avatar
    Kris Roth

    I’d really like to try some of these but everyone I know who has a yard in North Carolina has them sprayed for mosquitos each month. I’m too afraid of that poison.

  35. Laura Avatar

    Please don’t grow or plant garlic mustard. I am still dealing with it in my yard 8 years after it creeped over from my neighbours. It is extremely invasive. Any hints on how to get rid of it?

  36. Tracy Forsyth Avatar
    Tracy Forsyth

    I wish there was recipes or instructions or tips how to cook/eat these

  37. Kj Avatar

    You missed purslane and wood sorrel. Overly abundant aaaaaand delicious.

  38. Brett H Reneau Avatar

    I now grow crops of Plantain and Wild Opium Lettuce …

  39. Jonathan Avatar

    your site only shows me 3. please fix the site to work in all browsers.

  40. ManxCat Avatar

    Can’t believe how rude some people are…’please fix your site to work in all browsers’. This is a FREE page to view, someone has given up their time and knowledge to spread and share this valuable information. And people whose browser or settings mean they only see 3 of the 10 (at least until they fix their settings) are whining as if it were bad service in an expensive restaurant they’d paid for, or being sneery about the site’s ‘integrity’ because they’ve not bothered to investigate properly. Poor show, ingrates!

  41. Jason Avatar

    In the springtime we have wild mustard here in Arizona. It is a delicious spicy green that has a sharp radish/watercress taste.

  42. Linda Avatar

    I am from Yorkshire England…….We have a fizzy drink (soda) here made from dandelion and burdock…….It’s absolutely gorgeous…And l have always said it is great for my digestion…….