Edible weeds are one of the key ingredients of the Mediterranean diet. Edible weeds contain valuable nutrients for the body, such as calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C. They also contain fibers, which is essential for the proper functioning of the intestine. They do not contain fats.
Edible weeds grow almost everywhere in Greece and this is a blessing.
Even a couple of kilometers outside the cities we can find areas from which we can gather edible weeds.
I used to remember my mother and her friends taking bags and knives with them on every excursion we made to collect edible weeds. Picking the weeds was something of a social event. They would walk in the countryside, talk, comment, laugh and suddenly bend down and cut an edible weed and put it in the bag. At the end they did their walk, their exercise and provided the family with a fresh and beneficial food. I also remember that we were asked to drink for strength, the juice from the weeds along with lemon juice.
When do we pick edible weeds?
The season for picking edible weeds is early or late spring and fall or winter. Different weeds are available in each season. In winter, they are usually picked after rain and in spring before they bloom.
Where do we pick edible weeds from?
We should collect edible weeds from as remote places as possible. Places away from human activities. We avoid picking edible weeds from places near roads, from cultivated fields, from places near industrial areas.
We try to find places where there is no pollution from exhaust fumes, pesticides, fertilizers.
What are the best times to pick the edible weeds?
The best time to collect leaves and shoots of edible weeds is in the afternoon. The best time to collect the flowers and fruits of edible weeds is in the afternoon.
How do we pick the edible weeds?
The ideal equipment for picking grasses is a sharp knife and a bag.
Although almost all of us nowadays use plastic bags, they are not the best choice. The greens placed inside a plastic bags do not “breath”, their is no moisture exchange with the environment and quickly loose their fresh appearance. Also, the weeds are not ventilated so they retain their moisture. Both conditions – temperature and humidity – are conducive to the growth of microorganisms and rapid rotting.
Ideally, it is best to use a cotton fabric pouch or apron.
You should not uproot the grasses or cut them off at the root. We should only cut off the leaves and sprouts and often not all of them to give the weeds a chance to re-grow.
If we uproot the plant we will have done a lot of damage. The root when clearing the grasses is usually discarded. But if we have taken care to leave it in the soil and only cut off the leaves or shoots, the plant will germinate again.
You should be aware that older greens (bigger leaves and thicker shoots) have more nutrients, but they are harder and take longer to cook.
You should choose weeds that appear to be healthy. Don’t pick edible weeds whose leaves are yellowed or visibly damaged. Since we don’t know the reason why the plant has this appearance, it is best to avoid it.
We don’t pick all the edible weeds we find
“Out of three leave one”
We should always leave untouched a few edible weeds to give nature a chance to reproduce. That way we’ll always find fresh edible weeds to pick.
We only gather as many weeds as we need for a day or two.
We don’t waste nature’s resources by picking far more edible weeds than we can consume while they are fresh.
Don’t forget that after picking, you have to clean them as well. In other words, you have to keep busy until the greens reach your plate.
Also keep in mind that greens do not keep in the refrigerator (boiled or raw) for many days.
So you should only pick as many edible greens as you can eat in one or two days.
How do we store edible weeds?
Don’t wash the greens before storing them!
As we said before, we avoid using plastic bags as much as possible.
But if we can’t do otherwise, then we put the bag in a shady place out of the sun. We also avoid storing it in enclosed unventilated areas such as the trunk of the car.
Ideally, you should boil and consume the edible weeds the same day you pick them.
But if you can’t do otherwise, store them at the bottom of the fridge in bags from which you have removed as much air as possible.