Some may dismiss this beautiful and bountiful plant as a simple weed, but herbalists and wild food foragers cherish this yummy and nutrient-dense plant.
Think of chickweed as a wild and tasty lettuce or mild-tasting spinach. It can easily be eaten in salads, cooked up with eggs and even made into a chickweed pesto.
But chickweed is far superior to its cultivated counterparts!
Chickweed is easier to harvest than going to the store and buying greens, at least twice as tasty and assuredly way more nutritious! Chickweed is high in calcium, minerals, potassium, and magnesium.
Chickweed as Medicine
Besides being a nutrient-dense and delicious plant, chickweed can be used as a cooling poultice on hot conditions like sunburns, irritated eyes, or insect bites. The infused oil is often used to soothe the irritation of diaper rash and insect bites.
Chickweed can also get things moving in the body. You can use it internally and externally for relieving signs of stagnation such as benign cysts and swollen lymph glands.
Identification and Harvesting Tips
Chickweed is a low-growing plant with a delicate root system. In more temperate climates it grows during the winter to early spring and can be a perennial or an annual.
Its leaves have an oval shape and they grow in an opposite pattern.
The flowers have five petals that are deeply divided, giving the appearance of ten petals.
One of the best ways to identify chickweed is to look very closely at the stem of the plant. It will have little hairs growing up vertically along one side of the stem. Then, at a leaf junction, those little hairs will grow on another side of the stem.
Chickweed is best in the spring, although some climates produce a bountiful fall crop as well. To harvest chickweed I bring my scissors and simply snip the whole plant a couple inches from the soil.
Chickweed quickly loses its oomph after harvesting so this plant is best used fresh. If you don’t have access to fresh chickweed, try the following recipe with parsley instead.
Chickweed Pesto Recipe
Today’s chickweed pesto recipe is one of my favorite food staples. We like to have chickweed pesto as many times as possible during the season. We put it on our eggs in the morning and enjoy a dollop on top of meats and veggies throughout the day. It also makes a great sandwich spread. Got lots of chickweed? Freeze it in ice cube trays for later!
What you’ll need…
- 2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 cups freshly picked young chickweed leaves
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- dash of sea salt
- handful of walnuts (optional)
- tablespoon of lemon juice (optional)
- lemon zest (optional)
Place all the ingredients in a food processor.
Note: I prefer making this pesto in a food processor instead of a blender as the chickweed stems tend to get caught up in the blender blades. This easily overheats the blender and removing those stems can be tedious work. Yes, I speak from experience! If you only have a blender, simply chop up the chickweed really well before placing it in the blender.