Weeds (actually wild greens) once denounced by many gardeners is now considered gourmet. Dandelions, lambsquarters and nettles are cropping up in recipes for dishes, soups and sides, restaurant menus and at farmer markets.
Wild greens were commonly eaten by people in rural areas, but have now caught the attention of chefs and individuals looking out for locally grown produce.
These edible greens are tasty, low in calories, diet foods for weight loss, rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals and packed with vitamins and other nutrients, depending on the type of plant. They also have the natural systems to grow strong in any kind of an environment.
Wild greens are multifaceted — they can be sautéed in olive oil, taste great in soups and casseroles and delicious when tossed raw into salads and piled on sandwiches. Nutritionists caution against the overpowering flavour of these greens. Hence it is recommended to use them sparingly until their reaction on various foods is known completely.
Registered dietitians caution against getting yourself involved in picking edible greens on your own, unless you are versatile at it, as some lookalikes can be harmful or could have been treated with pesticides. The best option is to purchase them at a supermarket or at a farmer’s place. To get in touch with a registered dietitian please visit www.firsteatright.com.
Given here are few common edible plants and ways to add them to a healthy diet.
Dandelion weeds are a cook’s pride and an owners distaste. Again here, you can consume the roots, stems, leaves and even flowers of this common weed. Dandelion enthusiasts even batter and fry the flowers to make fritters or dry roast and grind the roots for a coffee substitute. These weeds can also be used in salads and serve as an ingredient for making wine. Each cup of cooked dandelion supplies us with 150 milligrams of calcium, almost 15% of our daily needs, and is an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
Dietitians love this weed for the minimum calories contained in each cup. One cup of cooked amaranth consists of 3 milligrams of iron, 275 milligrams of calcium, 850 milligrams of potassium and almost 3 grams of protein — all this just for 28 calories. Leaves and stem of amaranth can be eaten raw or can be cooked.
Handle nettles with care as the raw leaves, which cannot be consumed as such, can sting your skin. A cup of cooked nettles boasts of 6 grams of fibre, 430 milligrams of calcium, is a good source of magnesium and contains some iron and potassium.
This super-hardy weed can be grown anywhere and everywhere possible, right from the garden to the gravel driveway, and is an owner’s displeasure. Whatever it is, this weed is packed with vitamins A and C, is an excellent source of potassium and contains a little magnesium, calcium, folate and iron — all for just 20 calories in one cup of cooked purslane. The entire plant, including its leaves, stems and flowers, is edible and tastes similar to spinach or watercress.
Sour, lemony sorrel is rich in vitamins C and A, is a good source of iron and contains potassium and magnesium as well. The young leaves are best suited for salad and the older, large leaves can be used for soups and stews.
A word of caution: Wild greens have ample vitamin K in them. If you are used to consuming anticoagulant medication (blood-thinning drug) please take care to eat moderate amounts of foods rich in vitamin K. Too much can lead to rapid blood clot. Consult your doctor or an RDN for further clarification.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.