The time has come to ditch fancy, overpriced bags of salad from the supermarket and go foraging for leafy greens and weeds (no, really) in your garden, instead.
According to scientists duckweed (Lemna minuta) – an aquatic perennial packed with protein that can be found floating on the surface of ponds – is something of a magic plant.
Duckweed – which is also known as water lentils – has been described as “the world’s most complete food source”. When dried and ground down to make a powder, it forms the vegan-friendly, protein-heavy (68%) product Lentein.
So if you can find such a nutrient-rich superfood in your pond, what other green-goodness can we harvest from the garden?
Here are 10 more plants to dig up and cook with. They’ll save you from chopping up another limp iceberg lettuce, that’s for sure:
No, picking dandelions doesn’t make you wet the bed – that’s just an old wives’ tale. However, the sunshine yellow weeds are quite tasty, if a bit bitter. They also have more beta-carotene in them than carrots (so really, the rumour should be that they’ll give you night vision).
Nasty things if they catch your skin, but it can be quite therapeutic putting stinging nettles into boiling water to make tea and watching them lose all their fight. Just don’t pick and eat the leaves of plants that have already flowered – they’ve been linked with urinary tract infections.
Plantain (Plantago major)
No, not the plantain you get fried and served with jerk chicken, sadly (if only that did grow in British gardens!). This type of plantain comes in broad flat leaves and likes growing in the cracks between patio slabs. Shred the older leaves for tea, and use the younger ones in salads.
Wild garlic (Allium vineale)
Also known as garlic grass, this plant’s tall, green, hollow stems sway above pungent white roots (the bit you dig up and crunch on) – and don’t worry, their smell will give them away. Use in risottos, salads, stir-fried with chilli – basically, in anything you’d normally add garlic to!
Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
Often found in hedgerows, pop the pretty pink, spherical flowers in soups and chuck the leaves in salads. Some people even use them in crispy, battered fritters. If natural remedies are your thing, for centuries red clover has been used to treat cancer symptoms.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Whether it’s the wild or French variety that grows in your garden, you’re guaranteed to find a sprig of the stuff somewhere. Lemony, with a peppery hint like rocket, use it in pesto or raw in salad. Jamie Oliver makes a great sorrel and goats cheese risotto that’s worth a go, too.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
This stuff is inescapable – your plants will thank you for eating it, and so will your body, as it’s always been highly esteemed for its medicinal properties. Cook the leaves in butter as an alternative to spinach or kale.
Lamb’s lettuce (Valerianella locusta)
You can actually buy lamb’s lettuce in the supermarket, but why do that when you can mosey on outside and just grab a fresh handful? Fry it up with some crispy bacon and mix well with a creamy pasta sauce – or pair it with beetroot and watercress for a salad with bite.
Obviously, the best thing to do is combine your dandelion and burdock crops for a taste of the classic, fermented drink (it used to be used to make mead). Otherwise, being a member of the thistle family, it’s quite bitter, so boil, mash or bake the roots to soften.
These are almost too pretty to eat, but nasturtiums are hardy and grow all over the place. Use the red and orange petals to decorate cakes, use the seed pods if you’ve run out of capers, and of course use the leaves in everything (they’re excellent in omelettes).