Local plants that “invade” your garden beds but if harvested could nurture your bodies.
If you are from Seattle or if you have traversed Discovery Park during spring time you probably have been stung by Stinging Nettles. These annoying weeds that irritate your skin and cause a stinging sensation aren’t weeds at all but really a local edible plant. Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are packed full of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron and can be high in protein.
Although they can be eaten raw I wouldn’t advise it as a certain technique is required and failure to do so correctly will leave your tongue stinging. The sting is best removed by cooking them. Nettles are great in pestos, soups, sauces or in smoothies like we do seasonally in our Really Green Smoothie. Their leaves can also be dried to make a allergy fighting tea.
Now that you know about nettles you maybe wondering what other “weeds” you’ve been missing out on. Here’s a few other local weeds you could be eating.
Lambs quarters (Chenopodium album) also known as Goosefoot, having nothing to do with hoofed or feathered creatures, is another wild plant that grows locally. Well, I guess you could say each leaf is in the shape of a goose’s foot. Lambs quarters contain high amounts vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and calcium. They taste similarly to spinach and can be used the same in most recipes. You may seem them pop up late spring early summer.
Berries, berries, berries. Thimbleberry, salmonberry and blackberries are a few of the many local edible berries. Salmonberries (Rubus spectabilis, named so for their salmon coloring, bear fruit mid spring to early summer. Thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), not meant for transport, can be eaten as you pick or expect to use them for jam as they fall apart quickly. We have multiple types of blackberries in the region including; Himalaya, Evergreen, and Dewberry. Look for blackberries mid to late summer. All these berries are packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants play a large role in degenerative disease prevention such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few. As with any foraging id advise to know the area. Often roadside berries are sprayed with harsh chemicals that you do not want to be ingesting.
Wrongful plant identification can lead to some nasty stomach issues and even death so don’t ingest unless you are 100% sure you have identified the right plant. A safer beginners route with some of the less easily identifiable plants maybe to purchase these from a local forager first. We often purchase our wild edibles from Foraged and Found Edibles who you can find at the Queen Anne, University District, Ballard and West Seattle farmers markets.
There are so many PNW plants that are not only edible but delicious and nutrient dense. Next time your “weeding” your garden you might think twice about what you pull and what you keep.
Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe, West Seattle
Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest by Eugene N. Kohloff
The Foragers Harvest by Samuel Thayer