Weeds can often be the bane of existence for gardeners. But with the right attitude, you can begin to see weeds as a boon rather than a curse. Many weeds may pop up in the wrong places, but can be useful nonetheless. A surprising number of common weeds in the UK can actually provide an additional edible yield. Here are just five of the most common edible weeds that you may encounter in and around your polytunnel:
Nettles may not seem the most friendly of plants, and can often leave gardeners stung and sore. But as long as you take care when removing them, nettles can be a wonderful weed to have in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden. Nettles are actually a sign that the ground is rich in nutrients and extremely fertile – good news for your growing efforts. What is more, nettles are extremely good for your health, and they taste great too! Nettles can be wilted down (at which point they lose their sting) and used in a wide range of recipes much as you would use spinach. They have a pleasant, subtly sweet taste when used in cooking.
Dandelions are extremely common in the UK, and are another extremely useful weed. Dandelion's deep roots make them difficult to get rid of entirely – but you should not want to eradicate these altogether from your garden. The leaves of young dandelions make an excellent, bitter addition to mixed salads, while the flowers can be used to make sweet fritters. You can even use the roots, it is said, as a coffee substitute.
Not to be confused with the banana-like tropical fruit, plantain the weed is another common sight in UK gardens and may pop up in or around a polytunnel. Large plantain leaves are also an edible treat. These can be cooked up in moderation a range of recipes wherever other greens would be used.
Another common weed in UK gardens is chickweed. Chickweed spreads quickly, but you can halt its spread by picking it for use in spring salads. The leaves and stems have a crisp quality and a mild taste not dissimilar to gem lettuces. It is not only chickens who will enjoy eating this weed.
Some weeds are more problematic than others due to their ability to regrow from the smallest of root segments. Ground elder is one of these problem herbs and it can be very difficult to get rid of it entirely from an area. You can turn a problem into an opportunity, however, by eating some of the young shoots. The young stems and leaves have a very mild celery-like flavour and can be used in moderation in stir fries and other lightly cooked recipes.