Updated: May 7
Have you ever thought about eating your lawn? Not the grass itself, but the other plants that sprout up that many consider to be unwanted weeds. Not only does a biodiverse lawn benefit the ecosystem, it also can benefit our own health as well. Many lawn weeds, including dandelions, broadleaf plantain, and more, are filled with vitamins and minerals that we need in our diets, and can be picked right from our own backyards. So what are some of these nutritious lawn plants? Let’s get into it!
Every part of a dandelion is edible. The flower, the stem, and leaves, and even the roots. Although the stem is not very pleasant to eat. The flowers are filled with polyphenol antioxidants that help protect both the plant and us against oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. The stem and leaves are bitter greens that can be added to salads for a boost of Vitamins A, C, K, E, folate, and some other B vitamins, along with the minerals iron, and calcium, which is used in the production of their cell walls. The roots are filled with a carbohydrate called inulin which is a soluble fiber that promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Some people have also used dried and roasted dandelion root as a coffee substitute!
Broadleaf plantain is another common lawn weed that could provide more benefits to us than we might initially think. Similar to dandelion, broadleaf plantain is filled with calcium from its cell walls, along with vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamin A is involved in cell development and repair, which plays an important role in our immune system as well as the regulation of proteins that come into contact with light in our retina cells. Vitamin K is involved in the blood clotting process. Vitamins A and K are fat soluble vitamins meaning they are absorbed along with the fats we consume in our meals. This is why adding salad dressing can improve the absorption of the nutrients from the plants we add to our salads, including broadleaf plantain.
Wood Sorrel is one of my favorite plants to find in my lawn because just one leaf is all you need for a citrusy burst of flavor in your mouth. These plants look a bit like clovers except for that they have heart shaped leaves while clover is more rounded. Wood Sorrel is filled with vitamin c and iron, which helps your blood to carry oxygen around the body. It also has vitamin A and is a good source of fiber to help you feel full longer. I don’t usually eat Wood Sorrel in enough quantity to provide much nutritional benefit though, they can be fun to just have a quick nibble as you're doing your yard work or gardening, or they can be added as a substitute to lemon on fish.
Garlic mustard is an invasive species in my area of the world, so just like with many invasives, eating them is a good solution to the problem they cause. This plant was named after their flavor. It is also in the Brassica family along with broccoli and kale. They are filled with fiber, beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin a, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. As with most lawn weeds, it's best to pick them when they’re young as they will be more tender. But it's most important with garlic mustard because as they get older they fill with cyanide. But that can be easily broken down in water by boiling them. They can then be cooked into soups or pesto.
Next time you see weeds in your lawn, I hope you won't see them as bad, but instead like a produce aisle at the supermarket with different foods scattered in your own backyards. These pesky weeds can improve our health through important vitamins and minerals they provide in their flowers, leaves, stems and roots. Remember that the use of pesticides and other chemicals in your lawns can make the plants unsafe to eat, so try not to use those to allow your next dinner to grow right outside your window. It's also best to avoid plants that are growing along the side of the road as they can pick up the oils and other runoff. If you’re ever unsure about identifying a plant, it's best to avoid it. But besides that, foraging can be a fun and beautiful way to foster a positive relationship with your environment.