On the first day of the Plant Evolution and Systematics class I took my Junior year at Sewanee, I distinctly remember Dr. Jon Evans telling us that a weed was “a plant for which we just have not yet found a use.” This saying stuck with me, and as I read more and more about the medicinal properties and edibility of elements of our flora, the category of “weed” gets smaller and smaller. After stumbling across this NPR story today, that category got even smaller.
For the longest time, nettles were just a pest, a stinging nuisance to be avoided at all costs, but from now on, I will view them with new (and hungry eyes) imagining the way they may be used in my next culinary endeavor.
On the Domain we have a number of species of nettle. In yards and disturbed places, especially ones with wet conditions, you can find the Asian Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica ssp. dioica); Among our native species, typically found in wet or disturbed areas in the coves, are the Canadian Wood-Nettle (Laportea canadensis) and the Pennsylvania Pellitory (Parietaria pensylvanica).
Just another not about an edible weed:
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is also an edible “weed.” This species is highly invasive, and so to pull it would be to do the ecosystem as much of a service as your taste buds! But you should get going soon–once the plant bolts the taste suffers severely.
You can find a few more good “weed” recipes here.
Happy foraging and happy cooking!