By Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society staff
Do you want to improve your food security, to help save the environment, or just to have some free food? Ever wondered what to do with those pesky weeds growing in your garden and in wild areas? Well what about eating these weeds or using them as a healing tea?
Several weed species, some of which are classified as invasive due to their detrimental impacts on people, the environment, or the economy, are actually edible and often quite delicious. Dishes range from delicious Himalayan blackberry tarts, to salads of chickweed, lambs quarter, and purslane (which is very high in omega-3), with crispy burdock chips.
A healthy tea to have with your weed feast can be made from mullein, a plant originally introduced to B.C. for its beautiful grey-green foliage and significant health benefits as a tea. Mullein grows like a weed (pun intended) and can be found on dry rough ground throughout most of B.C. Its large lower leaves have a soft fluffy appearance, that has lead to it being referred to by some as nature’s toilet paper, though it would be advisable to check any potential allergic reaction before use!
Drying the leaves and flowers of this plant is easy, just harvest from a suitable non-polluted site (not a roadside) and spread the plant material on newspaper in the sun. Plants flower throughout mid to late summer. The leaves and flowers will dry in a couple of days and then can be gently crushed and used. Steep 1 heaped teaspoon of dried leaves and flowers in 1 cup of boiling water for 8-10 minutes (add some mint if preferred) and strain through a paper filter. Tea made from mullein leaves is particularly helpful in supporting lung health and can be sweetened with honey if desired.
The Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) and the North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) are hosting an edible invasives workshop on September 11, 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. at the Revelstoke Workers Memorial. Come along to get specifics on how to ID plants, choosing a safe harvest location, a selection of free recipes, and partake of some edible invasive treats!
A cautionary note: any quick search of the internet will reveal many recipes using weeds and invasive plants, however, please remember that many of these plants spread very easily and should never be composted, or moved to new areas. There’s plenty of weeds out there already, lets not spread them around!
Please see the CSISS website for more information. The CSISS is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention, management, and reduction of invasive species in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. CSISS is thankful for the generous support of the Shuswap Watershed Council, Columbia Basin Trust, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, and the Province of British Columbia.