The rich, local biodiversity around us is one that attempts to be identified in order to create a sense of self-sustenance purely on the basis of eating what grows on the land we inhabit. While we might be oblivious to some of the edible plants that we can spot growing freely, being able to spot and learn how to use them is of utmost importance.
Between the seasonal uncultivated greens that have begun to get their time in the spotlight and lesser-known food traditions becoming a thing of conversation, the edible weeds or uncultivated greens that we can spot growing around our neighbourhood is an untapped ecosystem. While we’re wired to be a socially-depended community when it comes to food, sustaining oneself with food that doesn’t follow the conventional means of sourcing is one avenue that remains to be explored.
However, a large aspect of this has to do with the lack of knowledge or awareness to identify plants that are eligible for human consumption – grows on the land that surrounds us, is available for free and also offers their unique flavours and nutrition to recipes that we cook on a daily basis. Below is a curated list of seven such edible weeds that are common but also unique in their own way.
Also known as wild purslane or kulfa in parts of India where this uncultivated green grows wildly, the Omega-3-rich leaves are often used in cooking, most recently in the fine-dining space. Meant to be used as a garnish, in salads or cooked lightly, luni bhaji has a mild grassy taste with an acidic undertone – which might be an acquired taste to some. Consuming this edible green is known to be excellent in combating cardiovascular diseases.
Image Credits: Aathirai Foods
The Indian nettle or kuppaimeni keerai has bright green, flat leaves is popularly known to treat skin conditions due to its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The edible leaves are cooked until wilted, with garlic and spices to make stir fries and chutney preparations. The vegetal taste of the leaves are mellowed by the usage of strong flavours, which are an ideal way to consume this weed that also helps to achieve glowing skin.
The tiny purple flowers and tender leaves of the Bengal dayflower plant lend themselves well to a plate of delicious pakodas. The extract from the flowers and leaves of this uncultivated edible plant is said to be effective in treating rashes of any kind on infants and adults. Externally applying the juice by crushing this plant is also known to treat diseases like leprosy or harsh burns.
Image Credits: GreenDNA
As surprising as it might be to most of us, the tender leaves of the slender amaranth or green amaranth, is in fact a wild edible green. Popularly used in Indian cooking across a variety of preparations like soups, dal, sabzi and pulaos, the green amaranth also has edible stems which are tender and cook quickly. The sweet, slightly nutty flavour of the leaves are perfect when cooked with minimal spices, coconut and red chillies.
Image Credits: Amazon India
Also known as asthma weed or dudhi, this edible weed is a common sight after the monsoon season ends. Also referred to as snake weed due to its appearance in the wild, this plant, when consumed in small quantities brewed as tea or cooked with lentils – is an excellent source of iron. Also known to reduce white discharge for women, the sap from this plant can also be applied to cure warts or pimples.
The three-heart-shaped leaflets of the yellow sorrel or ambuti plant is rich in oxalic acid – an organic nutritional compound found in most vegetables. The leaves of this uncultivated, hyperlocal weed can be consumed both – cooked and raw. Add a small handful to smoothies, salads, juices and soups for its mildly sour taste, similar to moringa leaves.
Image Credits: Britannica
A herbaceous wild plant whose flowers can be used to brew tea that treats gallstone issues, wild chicory is surprisingly edible in its leaves, which have a bitter taste. The mature leaves of the plant are cooked in stir fries with strong flavours whereas the tender leaves of the plant can be used in salads, once blanched momentarily. The leaves of the wild chicory plant are also used to enhance the bitterness of alcoholic brews like stout.