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Foraging: a tale of two chickweeds.

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A very common yard edible, Stellara media is oft-recognized as the bane of many a gardener’s existence. This spreading green with tiny white flowers is easy to find when it first shows its head well before Spring rolls around. At its earliest, chickweed is crisp, juicy and mild in flavor with no bitterness. As other greens begin to grow, though, the first green of the season becomes leggy and disappointingly fibrous.

The solution?

Let it grow in your garden bed, in the shade of your cultivated plants. Like the greens we intentionally plant in gardens, many early wild greens benefit from reduced exposure to direct sun as the weather begins to warm.

As an example, here are two chickweed plants growing in my very small urban yard. The plant on the left (shown with some equally scraggly Henbit – a close relative of Red Dead Nettle) is one that I harvested from as soon as the snow melted. It’s on the sunny slope of my front yard.

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The chickweed on the right has been permitted to grow in a garden bed that gets full sun in the backyard, generously shaded by mature spinach plants. (Those spinach plants are beginning to be shaded themselves by pole beans.)

Allowing wild edibles to grow in your garden space ensures a variety of fresh greens on your plate all growing season long. Those wild greens may even pack more vitamins and minerals than the cultivated ones they’re pulled out to make space for. (Read about it in the New York Times!)

Try it. The next time you find chickweed invading your garden, snip off the tender two or three inches from the ends of the stems, flowers included, and add them to a fresh salad or cooked greens, or use them as a darling edible garnish. Or all three!

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