12 Common Weeds You Can Harvest and Eat

Forage for Free Food in Your Own Backyard

Got weeds? Then, you have dinner! Take a closer look at the weeds growing in your yard and you'll find that many of them are edible, delicious and nutritious. 

Harvesting plants that many of people consider 'weeds' is a perfect way to enhance your family meals without spending any money. The plants are right there in your own backyard and this is a great use for something that is generally considered a nuisance. 

Get rid of weeds and save money at the same time... what more could a resourceful person want?

Weed Harvesting Tips

Before you step out back to pick weeds for dinner, there are a few things that you should know.

  1. Only harvest weeds that you can positively identify and know to be edible. The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, by the Department of the Army is a good reference, if you aren't sure.
  2. Avoid picking weeds close to roadways. They will have absorbed exhaust fumes and runoff from the road.
  3. Avoid harvesting weeds in areas that may have been contaminated by animal feces.
  4. Do not pick weeds from yards that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides.
  5. Only eat the parts of plants that you know to be edible. Many edible plants have non-edible – and sometimes poisonous – parts.

Blackberries

Two people holding blackberries in cupped hands
Paul Plews/Cultura/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Fruit, leaves and roots

When to Harvest: Late summer

Uses: Eat fruit fresh or use in jams, syrups and baked goods. Use leaves or root bark to make tea. More

Burdock

Close Up Of Burdock Plant
Doree Morse/EyeEm/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Roots and stalks

When to Harvest: Spring through fall

Uses: Use young stalks in place of artichoke hearts. Use cooked roots in soups and casseroles.

Cattails

Close-Up Of Cattails Growing Outdoors
Tony Matthews /EyeEm/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Shoots, flower heads and pollen

When to Harvest: Late spring

Uses: Eat peeled shoots raw and in salads, add them to stir-fry, or enjoy them cooked. Boil young female flowerheads and eat them like corn. Use pollen in place of flour.

Chicory

Close-Up Of Blue Flower Blooming Outdoors
Alexander Burenko /EyeEm/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Flowers, leaves and roots

When to Harvest: Spring through fall, but leaves and blossoms are best when harvested young.

Uses: Use in the same manner that you would use dandelions.

Dandelions

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) meadow
Martin Ruegner/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Flowers, leaves and roots

When to Harvest: Spring through fall, but leaves and blossoms are best when harvested young.

Uses: Add leaves and flowers raw to salads. Saute the leaves. Make dandelion wine or jelly out of the blossoms. Use the roots to make a coffee substitute. More

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed
David T. Grewcock/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Edible Part: Young shoots

When to Harvest: Early spring before the plant gets woody.

Uses: Use shoots in place of rhubarb. Steam it. Add it to soups, use it to make jam, or try it in baked desserts.

Lamb's Quarters

Agriculture - Weeds, Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium album) aka. White Goosefoot
Carroll & Carroll /Design Pics/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Leaves and stems

When to Harvest: Mid-spring to late fall

Uses: Add raw to salads. Saute and serve as a vegetable. Use in place of spinach.

Plantain

Plantago major (broadleaf plantain, or greater plantain)
Cristobal Alvarado Minic/Moment Open/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Leaves and seeds

When to Harvest: Spring through fall

Uses: Add young leaves to salads. Saute older leaves. Eat seeds raw or roasted.

Purslane

golden purslane. september. close up of gold and green plant.
Jo Whitworth/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Leaves, stem, flowers and seeds

When to Harvest: Summer

Uses: Add raw to salads or toss in soups. Boil it or sautee it.

Red Clover

Red Clover Blooming On Field
David Taylor /EyeEm/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Flowers

When to Harvest: Late spring through summer

Uses: Add raw to salads. Steep for tea. Toss in soups.

Stinging Nettle

A man holding a fresh handful of stinging nettles.
Mint Images/Mint Images RF/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Young stems and leaves (after boiling)

When to Harvest: Spring

Uses: Leaves must be boiled to destroy stinging hairs. Use in soups, pasta dishes or other cooked dishes. Steep for tea.

Wild Violet

Close-Up Of Flowers In Field
Florin Prundus /EyeEm/Getty Images

Edible Parts: Flowers and leaves

When to Harvest: Spring

Uses: Add to salads. Use atop baked goods as decoration.