Wild herbs – regional, seasonal & free!
Wild herbs are actually everything a consumer could wish for: they are regional, seasonal, 100% organic and free of charge. Here you can find tips for collecting and suitable recipes
Presumably, humans have always used and enjoyed edible wild herbs – whether as medicinal herbs or as food: in earlier times, chamomile & Co. were worth gold. In the age of industrialization and constantly available food, knowledge of the gifts from the fields and meadows has been somewhat forgotten – but interest in wild herbs and edible flowers such as daisies and dandelions is increasing. Rightly so, as you can see from the delicious and varied recipes
No weeds: wild herbs on the menu
Woodruff , sorrel and dandelion find enthusiastic buyers. Even as children, we made wreaths from daisies – and we didn’t know that the little white flowers can do much more than just be decorative. There are numerous other herbs that are less well known, but no less tasty and healthy: garlic mustard, hogweed and white goosefoot. Wild garlic is now one of the most famous wild herbs and has long since found its way into gourmet cuisine.
If you’ve got a taste for it now and want to search for wild herbs yourself, we’ve put together some information for you. Weeds shouldn’t necessarily end up in your basket.
Collecting wild herbs: what should be considered?
Of course, it’s not that easy and you should already have some prior knowledge. There are now numerous very good books and apps from which you can learn everything about edible wild herbs – and you should too. It is also a good start to take part in a guided wild herb hike: This is how you get to know good meeting places in your region.
The most important thing on your wild herb excursions: only collect what you can safely recognize.
You should use up your finds as quickly as possible, because the fresher and crunchier, the healthier and tastier the edible wild herbs are. What you cannot use should be preserved as quickly as possible: Dry your herbs on low heat in the oven, freeze them, make schnapps or oils out of them.
Overview of wild herbs
The shepherd’s purse in and as a salad
The shepherd’s purse loves full light, it occurs in the same places as the goosefoot family and loves humus and nutrient-rich soils. The plant often overwinters with a rosette of deeply pinnate leaves lying on the ground. As soon as the plant sprouts in spring, the rosette withers. On the stem, which is already branching on the ground and is no more than 30 cm in size, there are narrow, entire-edged leaves, the base of which encompasses the thin stem. The four-petalled, white flowers are very small, but bloom almost all year round. Typical are the heart-shaped fruits that sit with the tip on the stem and gave the plant its name. Its cabbage-like taste is also typical.
The shepherd’s purse is rich in vitamins, trace elements, essential oils, minerals, tannic acid, enzymes and flavonoids. Any part of the plant can be collected practically all year round. The leaves collected in winter and early spring are particularly tasty as a salad.
Wild herbs in the garden: Gundermann
If you have a piece of fruit tree meadow or a hedge in or around your garden, the Gundermann is certainly also represented. The Gundermann has heart-shaped leaves at the top and more kidney-shaped, stalked leaves at the bottom. As its second name “Gundelrebe” suggests, it is mainly a creeping plant and does not grow taller than 20 cm. The square, finely haired stems are mostly on the ground and drive roots at the nodes. It is persistent and green all year round. Its lip flowers are colored blue-violet. There are always six of you standing together like a whorl and looking in one direction. Flowering time is from March to May.
The Gundermann is small in stature. but very powerful. You can also tell its power from its aroma. The leaves are harvested from April to November, and even over winter. Because of their intense taste, they are particularly suitable as a spice. For salads as well as for soups and sauces. Because of its content of vitamins, minerals and essential oils, it stimulates the appetite and the digestion and is generally good for the metabolism. Its power is also shown in the healing effects: it has a cough-relieving, astringent and slightly diuretic effect. For our ancestors it was one of the most important wound healing agents that also allowed ulcerated wounds to heal.
The red clover: edible meadow
The red clover is a meadow dweller valued by the farmer and is often specially grown. Significantly, it is also called “meadow clover”. In addition to meadows, it is also found at the edge of the forest, in clearings, in bushes and in fields. The red clover is between 20 and 50 cm tall. It has a branched, often not quite upright stem, which is usually hairy and a little reddish in color. A noticeable characteristic is a whitish triangle on the leaves. The flowers are fragrant and have many-flowered, approx. 3 cm long heads. The flowers, which can be seen from May to September, have a purple-red color, less often they are pink to white. Similar to the red clover, the following types can be used: alfalfa, white clover or creeping clover, hop alfalfa, golden clover.
Vitamin C and E, carotene, essential oils and other valuable substances are contained in the plants. Leaves and young flower heads can be collected from April to October and used together with other herbs as salad and vegetables. The red clover is also good for drying or souring. It is particularly rich in protein. A hot infusion of the blooming herb works against coughs.
Chickweed: weeds by the wayside
The chickweed loves moist, light, organic, nitrogen-rich soil. The chickweed often forms pillow-like populations of weeds in fields, but also occurs in debris areas, on river banks, roadsides and in sparse pine forests.
The lying, knotty stalk of the chickweed is sometimes only a few centimeters high; only with a good supply of nutrients and water does it reach a height of up to 40 cm. It has a continuous hairline and opposite, ovate-pointed leaves, the lower stalked, the upper sessile. The mostly terminal flowers appear from February to November, with five small white petals incised to the base. Chickweed can be collected all year round, including under the snow. With young plants, take all the green parts of the plant that taste a bit like nuts, and use them primarily as a salad. Chickweed is also an excellent vegetable when cooked. With older plants, you should limit yourself to the shoot tips. It contains a lot of vitamin C and, above all, three times as much carotene as the carrot. Chickweed has a strengthening and draining effect on the organism and is still used externally against skin infections today. It has an expectorant effect and is therefore a good remedy for coughs, but also for kidney and bladder problems.
White dead nettle: edible wild herbs
The white dead nettle is at home in rubble sites, railway embankments, hedges, on fallow land, sometimes also in fields and meadows. It has an upright, square, nettle-like hairy stem that is 30-50 cm tall. The hair is not stinging hair, but completely harmless. The light green, hairy leaves with serrations on the edge are heart- to egg-shaped and sit opposite each other on short stems. The white flowers are lip-shaped flowers that sit whorled in the leaf axils around the stem. They appear already in April and accompany us into October.
All dead nettles are edible. The whole plant is collected from March to May, longer on mown meadows. It is tender while it is still in bloom. That can go until October. Although it has a distinctive scent when grated, it is mild when prepared and particularly suitable as a soup vegetable and for salad.