Edible Weeds – Winter Wonders!
Wonderful Winter Weeds!
by Doris Pozzi (Author of the awesome Edible Weeds book)
A prevalent misconception is that winter isn’t a good time for foraging. Foraging for edible weeds is a Spring thing, isn’t it? Definitely not! Nature provides us with an abundance of winter weeds, just as other edibles might be dwindling. Not only that, winter weeds are perfectly suited to both the dinner table and the medicine cabinet.
Here are two of the best winter wonder weeds!
Mallow – one of winter’s winners.
This green has been used as a vegetable in the Middle East for thousands of years. Every year, for example, Jerusalem’s Jewish families gather for a nature outing to celebrate Independence Day. As part of a special tradition, they forage for wild mallow with which they later cook a simple green soup – known throughout the Middle East as Malokhia , reminiscent of the staple that sustained them during the siege of the city in 1948. First mentioned in the Bible in Job 6:6, malva nicaeensis, or bull mallow, grows in the Middle East with the first winter rains in October. Like the dandelion, mallow is a very hardy plant that flourishes almost anywhere.
The Australian variety of mallow is Malva sylvestris, which looks very, very similar to the mallow which grows in the Middle East. Fortunately, Malokhia can also be made with this mallow too. So, not only can mallow be added to soups and stews, if you have enough of it, you can make the thick, green, unctious soup, Malokhia. If you just have a little mallow of course you can simply add some to another dish. It is particularly useful in this regard because it has mucilage, a component which is a natural thickener. As well as being a natural thickener, the mucilage in mallow is beneficial to the whole digestive system, coating and protecting it.
This soothing nature of mallow means that its leaves can be used to make a herbal tea that is a good remedy for sore throats. Simply shred a few mallow teas and put them in a tea infuser – or a re-useable teabag – , place in a cup and pour over boiling water. Five to ten minutes later you have a wonderful home remedy. Mallow is mellow in flavour, almost flavourless, so you won’t have to worry about it having a nasty ‘herbal tea’ taste! Add a little honey to further benefit the throat or add a little of any other herbal tea you like, like peppermint or chamomile, for some additional flavour.
Other weeds make good herbal teas too like lemon balm, which calms anxiety, or nettle which is full of iron. This is a good tonic for the system in winter when our systems can become weak and therefore prone to winter illnesses. Nettle of course, is also famous as a winter soup. In the UK, Nettle Soup is a favourite with foragers.
The dried leaves of mullein make an excellent tea or infusion for the lungs – whether it’s to treat an infection or a more chronic condition like asthma.
Chickweed is high in proteins, minerals and Vitamin C. As a herbal tea it helps to liquify and remove mucus from the respiratory tract.
Onion Weed – Allium Triquetrum
Perhaps the most maligned ‘weed’ in certain areas, ‘onion weed’ as it is commonly called, or three-cornered leek as it is known in the UK, is actually one of winter’s wonder weeds. The only weed which truly tastes (and smells) like an allium, it grows abundantly over winter, providing a key ingredient for Potato and Three Cornered Leek Soup. At this time of the year there is no need to spend money on expensive leeks for the more traditional Potato and Leek Soup. It’s weedy ‘cousin’ is superior by far! Not only is it one of the most economical soups one could make over winter, it is delicious and incredibly simple to make.
Onion weed can also be added to other soups particularly Jerusalem artichoke, pumpkin, or broccoli. Some finely chopped stems and the little white flowers make a pretty garnish for soups, too.
Potato and Onion Weed Soup
1 kg potatoes (not waxy ones)
150 gm onion weed – roughly chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
Generous pinch each – salt, pepper and chilli powder
Method: Boil potatoes until just soft. Put potatoes, onion weed and stock into food processor and blend until smooth. Simmer gently, stirring, for about ten minutes to allow the flavours to combine. Add the salt, pepper and chilli powder. Garnish with onion weed flowers if available.
So, in winter, remember the abundance of nutritious and health-giving ‘weeds’ that nature provides. Not only will they provide delicious and economical meals, they can help to soothe those niggling winter ailments. Happy ‘weeding’!
This blog was contributed by Doris Pozzi (Author of the awesome Edible Weeds book)