Chickweed can best be described as a ground cover that grows in a thick clump or mat consisting of leaves, stems, tiny buds, and flowers, all of which can be eaten. Chickweed is an annual that thrives in the cool, wet months, and can germinate throughout the year. It will generally appear in sunny areas of bare, moist, rich, soil. In summer, it’s mostly found in partly shaded places. It’s name comes from the fact that it is highly desirable by chickens that are often seen dining on this free-range food staple.
Chickweed is simple to identify with opposite pairs of small, teardrop shaped leaves with tiny white star-shaped flowers. The stem has a delicate almost hollow-like structure with a single line of hairs that run up one side. The flowers close at night and open in the morning and seem to respond to changes in air pressure as they stay closed during a low pressure system.
In common with most edible weeds, it is both edible and medicinal. It is very nutritious containing a high level of vitamin C as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten raw in the field or added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach but without the bitterness associated with many other edible weeds. It has been used to treat skin ailments, obesity, and as a diuretic. Be moderate in consumption as too much can cause adverse effects like diarrhea.
As usual, plants should be collected from pollution-free areas – not by roadsides or areas sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. It wouldn’t hurt to stay clear of your pet’s trail as well!
I haven’t tried chickweed yet since I can’t seem to find it in what I consider “sanitary” places. However, we have an abundance of day lilies around my home. I have learned that you can snip off the buds and simmer them in water with butter and salt for about 20 minutes and they are delicious. Very similar to asparagus tips, but milder. I have also deep fried the flowers. Not bad, but not a lot of taste either. The bulbs are very interesting but a bit tedious, because I prefer to peel them. As you can imagine that’s a lot of busy work for very little reward. But when prepared like the buds, they remind me of something between a turnip and sweet corn.
My dad and I have eaten this before, in our searches for edible plantings. We have a ton of it growing throughout our area in the spring and fall, and in a survival scenario would probably have a lot of chickweed salads, among other common edible plants we have found. In the spring I am thinking of making an article about how much wild edibles and game my Dad and I can collect in one day- depending on the month I am betting several buckets full, along with a stringer of fish and a couple squirrels.