It’s a well known fact that most gardeners hate weeds, but they shouldn’t.

Yes, weeds take over our yards, make our gardens look messy and strangle our petunias, but did you know that there are edible weeds growing in your backyard, with incredible health benefits?

Dandelion

The dandelion is a lawn weed that is found in most backyards. It’s probably growing in yours right now. Most parts of the dandelion are actually edible and very good for you, too. The leaves are great whole, in salads or cooked in a stir fry, and the root can be roasted or dried. Dried ground dandelion root is a good substitute for tea or coffee (you can buy dandelion tea from your local supermarket).

Benefits

Dandelion is believed to contain liver cleansing properties and is very good for digestion. The leaves contain more vitamin A than carrots and as much iron as spinach. They also contain vitamin B, calcium, magnesium and lecithin. When used as tea or coffee, the root is believed to reduce cholesterol and uric acid levels. It also contains anti-viral properties.

Beware

The Dandelion root, works as a mild laxative…. you’ve been warned.

Prickly Pear

The prickly pear is a vigorously growing cactus, and like any cactus it thrives in drought tolerant areas. You may have seen these growing on the side of the road, especially out towards Gatton. Chances are many of you with large back yards or acreage have one. The prickly pear plant produces purple oval-shaped fruits and when peeled they can be eaten as is or cooked and used in jams.

Benefits

Naturopaths believe the prickly pear lowers blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. It also contains a wide range of amino-acids.

Beware

The prickly pear plant and its fruit are covered in fine stinging nettles; do not touch the plant or fruit with your bare hands. Make sure you cut all the skin and nettles off the fruit before you eat them. Trust me, I found this out the hard way.

Purslane

Purslane is often found in moist and shady areas around the garden. The leaves are great in salads and stir-fry’s.

Benefits

Purslane is said to contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetables. It also contains Vitamin A, C and some B-complex vitamins, as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Beware

People with known oxalate urinary tract stones are advised to avoid eating purslane, because it contains oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract.

Nasturtium

The nasturtium plant self-seeds regularly, so they tend to pop up where they’re not wanted. You may have some growing in your back or front yard. The leaves are edible as well as the flowers. The leaves are a great substitute for rocket, as they have a peppery flavour.

Benefits

Nasturtium has incredible antibiotic properties; it has been known to help with easing cold and flu symptoms like a sore throat. Apparently, in South America the juice from the nasturtium flower is used as a hair growth supplement.

Beware

People suffering from any kidney ailment or gastrointestinal ulcers should never consume nasturtium. Nasturtium also contains a type of mustard oil which can cause skin irritation.

NOTE: There are plenty of poisonous and toxic weeds out there, many of which can cause illness and death. Please do not eat any plants or weeds featured in this article, unless you are certain you can identify them.

Have you got edible weeds growing in your backyard?