Monday, 16 July 2012

Chickweed is a common edible plant

Chickweed in flower

Chickweed (Stellaria media)  is a very common weed found growing in many places in the world, but whilst it is despised by gardeners, it is actually a delicious and nourishing edible wild plant. So instead of throwing it away or into the compost heap why not try saving some to use in the kitchen?
Chickweed is very common in the UK and many parts of Europe and likes to grow in cultivated ground and in damp soil. It self-seeds itself and easily forms large masses of its tiny green foliage. It is often found growing along paths and even in the cracks in concrete and paving stones.

Chickweed description

Chickweed is a fragile and straggling plant. It has small bright green leaves, and minute white, star-like flowers, with five deeply divided petals. It flowers throughout the year and often grows well in the autumn and winter months.
Chickweed forms mats of its green foliage and its branched stems reach about 40 cm in length, though they are mainly to be seen creeping over the ground.
It is an annual plant but quickly re-establishes itself from seed if it has died down due to dry conditions. Chickweed is native to the UK and Europe but is naturalised throughout the world. It likes to grow in nay reasonably moist soil in sun or partial shade.
The plant's Latin name Stellaria comes from "Stella", meaning a star, and referring to the shape of its flowers. It was called its English name of Chickweed because it was once much-used as a food for hens and other birds.

Chickweed's uses

Chickweed is a surprisingly enjoyable edible wild plant to eat. It is good in salads but also cooked as greens or added to soups.
Chickweed is also a medicinal herb with a number of uses in herbal medicine. Taken as an infusion it is a treatment for rheumatism. It can also be made into a poultice or an ointment and used as a remedy for eczema, skin irritation and other skin diseases.
Chickweed is rich in the minerals potassium and calcium, as well as being a source of vitamins A, B and C.
It is used in homeopathy to treat rheumatism, arthritis and bronchitis.

Chickweed recipes

The following recipe is taken from Richard Mabey's classic book for foragers -  Food For Free.
"Wash the sprigs well, and put in a saucepan without any additional water. Add a knob of butter, seasoning, and some chopped spring onions. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, turning all the time."
Mabey  goes on to say that a dash of lemon juice or a sprinkling of grated nutmeg completes the dish, and that Chickweed cooked like this is very good served with rich meat.
Another recipe from Jessica Houdret's The Ultimate Book of Herbs & HerbGardening is as follows:
Chickweed and parsley dip
25g/1oz fresh chickweed, 25g/10z flat-leaved parsley, 225g fomage frais, 1 tbs mayonnaise, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Rinse and pick over the chickweed, and chop it finely with the parsley. Put in a bowl with the other ingredients and mix well.
Serve as a dip with raw vegetables such as carrots, cucumber and red or green peppers.

Find out more about edible and medicinal plants that can be foraged for here.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

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