Meet the Herbs

Who here loves Weeds?

big patch of chickweed

Weeds = the common plants that grow abundantly with no help at all from the gardener. I adore them!

Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of my all-time favorite plants. It likes cooler temperatures, so it’s one of the first herbs I see pop up in the Spring (always a cause for celebration!).

Chickweed is succulent and low-growing, sprawls like a ground cover and spreads quickly where it’s happy, engulfing entire garden beds, landing it the “weed” label. My dad curses it every year as he rips it out of his garden. Telling him Chickweed is an “indicator plant”, indicating healthy soil because it only grows where the soil is rich, didn’t change his feelings at all.

A favorite too of Chickens, Mourning Doves, Sparrows, and other birds, they relish the young greens and seed which is said to be how Chickweed got its name. Caged birds like Budgies and Parrots also enjoy eating Chickweed and it’s more nutritious than lettuce!

It’s high in minerals (especially calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorus and potassium), and vitamins (especially C, A—from carotenes—and B’s, such as folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine).

Chickweed can be chopped and tossed on a salad, or can be steamed, boiled, or fried. Raw, the flavor is kindof sweet/weedy/green, but cooked it’s more like spinach. It’s great in soups and can even be baked in bread. But what do I make with it every Spring?

(Skin soothing balms of course and… ) PESTO!

Chickweed Pesto:

  • 2 cups fresh Chickweed
  • ½ cup fresh Basil (or Parsley, Cilantro, Arugula, Garlic Mustard, whatever green you’ve got)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp sunflower seeds, pine nuts or almonds
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup olive oil

My method isn’t too fancy. I add the seeds/nuts to the blender first and chop them up, then add and chop the garlic, then add the greens, salt and oil and blend it until it’s smooth.

The leaves contain saponins and although toxic, these substances tend not to be well absorbed by the body and pass through without causing harm. Even so, some caution is advised. Don’t eat large quantities raw and avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding. Saponins are broken down by thorough cooking.