Chickweed (Stellaria media) is one of the best-tasting spring weeds. Chickweed grows in moist, shady areas from urban settings to mountain canyons, alongside streams and rivers in the spring, and is gone by summertime, when the soil dries out.
Bring along a good plant identification guide and look for the beautiful white, five petaled flowers. (They may look like they have 10 petals, because each petal has a deep cleft.) If you see something that looks like chickweed, but the flowers are orange, do not eat it. That is a toxic look-alike called Scarlet Pimpernel. Another toxic look-alike is young, common spurge, and it often grows in patches of chickweed. To tell the difference between the two, look for a line of white hairs on the stem, which chickweed is known for. Also, spurge grows on an erect stalk and doesn't sprawl along the ground like chickweed. One way to distinguish between the two is by breaking the stem. If you break the stem of spurge, you will see white sap, whereas chickweed does not have any.
Use scissors or a sharp knife to trim off handfuls of this delicate plant. If you pull it up with your hands you will likely pull up the entire plant with the root, preventing regrowth. The leaves and stems are edible, but sometimes the older stems can become coarse, and should be discarded for best results.
Chickweed is extremely versatile and can be used in salads, sandwiches, stir fries and even soups. Another use of chickweed is to create a pesto that you can use to top a flatbread, add to scrambled eggs or even pop on top of a rainbow bowl.
Once picked, chickweed wilts really easy. For this reason, after I forage chickweed I like to soak it in in cold water until I am ready to use the wild weed. When it's time, I simply strain the water and lightly pat it dry.
Take avocado toast to the next level with Emma's recipe: (If you don't have time or access to forage chickweed you can also use sprouts or microgreens.)
- 1 slice sourdough bread (or toast of choice), toasted
- 1/2 ripe avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and mashed
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- A small handful of chickweed (or sub microgreens or sprouts in place of foraged chickweed)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Drizzle olive oil in an even layer on freshly toasted bread.
2. Spread with mashed avocado, top with chickweed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Serve immediately.
Photos by Lauren Ross