Ever tried chickweed?

Answered on August 03, 2014
Created August 03, 2014 at 4:47 AM

I've read a few sources that state that in terms of mineral content such as calcium, magnesium etc. chickweed makes spinach a mineral rich supermarket vegetable look like a loser plus spinach has very high levels of oxalates and its my understanding that chickweed is lower in oxalate thus biovailability of hard to get nutrients such as magnesium is higher in chickweed? It would also be good to try it out and see what its like.

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2 Answers



on August 03, 2014
at 03:30 PM

Sure, and stellaria media is hardly the only nutritional powerhouse weed. There is dandelion, purslane, and nettles to name just three, and these are all better than spinach, kale or broccoli.

It does have its own counterindications, I have never tried it in pounds amounts, but maybe I should because it does not bother me at all. Two beds in my garden are completely overrun by it, and when it mats like that, it is easy to harvest. I usually eat it in spring salads, mixed with dandelion leaves and the shoots of overwintering chicory. In Michigan, it is best eaten between April and June. I have never tried it in Fall, though I will think about it. I eat dandelions in april and october, and nettles in May. I eat purslane with tomatoes (August).

Keep in mind that beta species such as spinach accumulate more Mg than other greens. If you want lots of Mg with a lower oxalate load, chard is always the best bet.


on August 03, 2014
at 02:31 PM

When approaching chickweed it is useful to consider that there are a number of species that are named chickweed in English. The most notable is common chickweed, Stellaria media. This species has several characteristics that make it unique. There are a number of species in the genus Stellaria, all of which are named some kind of chickweed. Out side of the genus Stellaria, there is also mouseear chickweed, Cerastium vulgatum [both of these genera, Cerastium and Stellaria, are in the carnation family, the Caryophyllaceae, and have opposite leaves, and five petaled flowers, and are fairly small in stature. Because the mouseear chickweed is fuzzy, it never caught on at the salad bar and is usually prepared as a boiled or steamed vegetable. Of all the species in the genus Stellaria,it is the common chickweed that I recommend as the most delicious and easy to determine. [When sifting the Internet for photos, you will be best served if you stick to the scientific names when searching. This no guarantee that each result will be correct, but at least you filter out some of the really nutty stuff.]

It grows it moist areas, usually of not full sunlight, during the earliest spring (often surviving the winter under snow and sending up new shoots as soon as it is warm enough to do so. It prospers all through spring, but usually sets its seeds, turns yellow and dies before the heat of summer. It can forge on though in places where it has enough shade and water. It then renews and starts from seed in the late summer/fall rains and the cycle begins again.

It has small (1/4 to 1.5 inch length) opposite leaves that have an acuminate sharp tip. The internode (the bare stretch between leaves) on the stem has a SINGLE, almost single-file row of fine white hairs connecting the nodes. NOT a symmetrical pair, but only one per internode of stem; this is rather unique. The flower is small (~1/8 - 3/16th inch) with white petals. The overall appearance is that there are 10 petals, but if you look closely, each of the five petals is slit almost to the bottom (like rabbit ears) giving the illusion of ten petals; also a characteristic of some other Stellaria. The habit of the plant is to spread across the ground, sometimes more than a foot in diameter, but usually very low to the ground.

The limiting factors of edibility are 1) really large plants, as one might find on a compost heap, can have stems so substantial, that they are fibrous and tough, and 2) after they flower, as they are setting their seeds, they loose vitality and gradually turn yellow, at which time they are no longer as excellent.

Everything young (stems, shoots, flowers, buds, and immature seed capsules) are edible, preferably as salad, but of course could be cooked if necessary (why?). Some have suggested that they taste like corn silk (whatever that tastes like) but it is one of my favorite food plants, wild or domestic. I don't think they mimic the nutritional character of spinach, but are, as noted in the original text above, far lower in soluble oxalates.

Thanks for reading.

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