Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Can You Eat that Weed?

What's your take on foraging? I've been reading about it and can't decide if it is silly or a worthwhile way to add new foods to my diet. Do you think it is healthy to eat foraged greens?

Answer (Published 8/17/2012)

Foraging - searching for food that grows naturally in wild or neglected spaces - does seem to be a growing trend. Based on what I've read, the emphasis appears to be on finding edible weeds such as chickweed, mallow, prickly lettuce, and dandelion, plus many other weeds that used to be pulled out of gardens and discarded. Foraging in New York City has become so popular that there's a $250 fine for those caught in the act in protected areas or while carrying purloined plants out of a park. In the past, foragers in parks were considered a rarity, but in 2011, the New York Times reported that they are now "an eclectic bunch, including downtown hipsters, recent immigrants, vegans and people who do not believe in paying for food." 

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet Source - Want to promote overall health and help minimize the risk of inflammatory diseases? Join Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging, your online guide to the anti-inflammatory diet. Start your 14-day free trial now for access to shopping and eating guides, hundreds of recipes, an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid and more!

Foraging requires some know-how. You just can't pull up assorted weeds and toss them into your salad. You need to know what plants are edible, what they should taste like, whether or not a weeded area has been sprayed with an herbicide, and whether or not it is a spot where dogs habitually urinate. You also have to learn beforehand which plants belong on your plate and which ones can be dangerous, even deadly. For example, poison hemlock and wild carrot look similar; you might enjoy munching on one, but consuming the other could kill you. There are a number of books and websites on foraging that provide information on what plants are edible, what they taste like, which part of the plant can be eaten, the best time of year to harvest, and which ones to avoid.

New York City now has a restaurant that features foraged food. While this type of dining spot is new to New York, Chef Douglas Monsalud of Foragers City Table notes that Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., had a staff forager as long ago as the 1970s and that today a number of Bay Area restaurants have followed suit.

If you have a garden, you may want to take a second look at some of the weeds you usually pull and toss. To find out whether any are worth eating, you can post a photo on the website Meadows and More for identification by a professional plant expert. This site also has information about what is best for foraging at various times of the year, nutritional content of commonly foraged plants and recipes to prepare them.

Many plants maligned as weeds can add new tastes and flavors to our plates. Even better, you may enjoy a nutrient bonanza. A National Public Radio report on foraging quoted wild greens expert John Kallas, Ph.D. as saying they are generally more nutritious than the spinach and lettuce found in supermarkets. He noted that one weed, mustard garlic, has the highest levels of micronutrients (including vitamin A, beta carotene, zinc, manganese and fiber) of any leafy green analyzed.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here