Perhaps the most sinister activity undertaken by Homewood Kitchen Gardens is our nefarious plot to make our customers eat weeds.
A weed, of course, is just a plant in the wrong place at the wrong time. Transplant a weed from my garden to yours and it may transform miraculously from unwanted garden guest to prized VIP. But in the meantime, it’s in my garden, not yours, and it has to go. Since I don’t use herbicides, that means pulling it. If I’m lucky, it also means dinner.
There is a primeval satisfaction to eliminating weeds by eating them – and a subversive pleasure in getting other people to eat them too. At the risk of undoing three years of stealthy weed-pushing on unsuspecting H-F innocents, however, let me introduce you to a few of my favorite edible pests.
Garlic Mustard: Imported to eastern America as a culinary herb by European settlers, garlic mustard is a highly invasive plant threatening our native woodland flora. It’s also a good source of vitamins (including A, C, and E) and essential minerals. I find it best as a cooking rather than salad green; try sautéing the leaves in olive oil & balsamic vinegar, with a little sweetness like raisins or citrus thrown in to offset the mustardy bitterness. The roots can be ground and mixed with vinegar to produce a horseradish-like sauce.
The garlic mustard (and cookbooks!) sold at HKG’s stall at the farmers market have been harvested from Irons Oaks Environmental Center and all proceeds are donated back to Irons Oaks.
Purslane: This is a wonder weed! It’s packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in brain development and may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, such as breast cancer. Since purslane is already growing through your backyard, you can get your omega-3s for a fraction of the price of walnuts or flaxseed, and without the disgusting aftertaste of cod liver oil. The flavor is mild and slightly lemony; add raw leaves to a salad or use them as a flavor additive and natural thickener in soups and stews.
Wood sorrel: You want to call it clover or shamrock, but it’s not. Wood sorrel has three heart-shaped leaves joined at a central crease, whereas clover’s leaves are round or oval. Unlike many species considered to be weeds, wood sorrel is a native American plant. Sorrel leaves have a delicious lemony tangy taste and make a lovely garnish for salads and soups. The flowers are edible, too.