Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Edible Weed Roundup: Bidens alba, Spanish Needles or Common Beggarticks
The best kind of Roundup is a harvest of edible greens...even if they're the sort, like this plant, also touted by some folks as being one of the worst annual weeds. I guess beauty (and worth??) is in the eye of the beholder! The Bidens alba, and its nearly identical brother, the Bidens pilosa, are some of the hardiest naturally-occurring forbs...yes, WEEDS to some. But I prefer to think of them as the superheroes of the natural world!
We walked past these for years in our area, unaware of their edible benefits. The Bidens alba/Spanish Needle is a modest wildflower with small white flowers, and quite the bee and butterfly attractor. The only precautions I can find as far as edibility are photosensitivity (don't eat it if you're going to have skin exposed to the sun soon after) and to avoid eating it if you're in an area where opals are mined....the video (below) from Green Dean's site explains why. It goes by other names, most of which indicate the brittle seeds that stick to the coats of animals (like my dog) or pant legs, like so many little needles.
It grows right alongside our cultivated plants and most any place its friendly presence so desires, but doesn't seem to be a drain on its neighbors' fertility. It is unobtrusive and in our philosophy of "benign neglect" we've allowed them to flourish side-by-side with anything else we've planted. We love a diversity of plants, and this one, though hardy, is hardly invasive. We feel a natural mix of plants ensures a diversity of pollinators, insect "trap" plants, soil enhancers, and so on.
I recently learned that this plant is higly edible, very nutritious, wonderful as a nectar plant for bees, and prolific enough to even be grown as a crop, if one so desired. As it is, we have so many everywhere throughout our property, I think we have enough to harvest as a potherb during warm weather. This is welcome news! We LOVE edible greens, especially the carefree sort!
Here's where I first learned of the Biden alba, at one of my favorite sites, Green Dean's Eat The Weeds
And here is his short video on identification and information about the Spanish Needles plants:
This plant like to tuck itself along the edges of our porch and just about anywhere, and it's easy to identify.
We like our garden spiders to deal with the insect population, rather than spraying chemicals.
Have you ever tried eating a Bidens? This will be our first batch to taste...I'll report back to tell you how palatable they are.
What "weeds" do you love to eat?