With a such a mild winter in our our part of the world, southeastern US, chickweed (Caryophillaceae) has had an opportunity to come out of winter very strong and in abundance. It is personally one of my favorites to eat. It is mild tasting without any rather strong taste attributes such as sourness or bitterness. You can watch a video of us finding this species here:
You can also find it in abundance when you find it. To help identify this species you will notice a very distinctive row of white hairs on the stem. There are smooth-edged flowers that resemble a spade or shovel head. It will have very small white flowers that grow at the very tip of the plants. It will appear as if there are 10 petals, however it is actually 5 petals with really deep cut, or split down the middle of them.
Chickweed is a GREAT source of nutrtion, along with it being very palatable, this makes it a go-to resource for plant material as food. It has vitamins, A, C, and D, as well as containing folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine. It also contains the minerals of calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorous, and sodium.
As with any and all edible plant species, you need to make sure there are no poisonous look alikes. Chickweed is one of those plants that have two such look-alikes and those are Scarlet Pimpernel and Spotted Spurge.
The easiest way to harvest the plant is to simply grab it and pull up the entire above ground plant. It is easy to pull up therefore in a survival situation, it doesn’t take much caloric expenditure to harvest quite a bit of it. This is one of those plants that I like to utilize as a base for salads. It is much like dandelion (see our other blog post on dandelions) in that alot of folks consider it a nuisance in their yard. It can grow so abundantly to form a mat across portions of a yard. As I often say, I would rather have an edible and tasty plant like chickweed and dandelions in my yard than fescue or other such grass. Although grass is an edible plant, it not all that tasty.
So there is another one to add to your natural salad. It is nutritious, healthy, abundant and…..the price is certainly right.