Chickweed

Hi there, I’m Chickweed, and I’m about the most mellow, friendly weed you’ll ever meet.

My official name is Stellaria media, which translates to “little star in the midst”. I belong to the Caryophyllaceae Family, more commonly known as the Pink Family or Carnation Family since Caryophyllaceae is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘carnation.’

I’m called Chickweed because the chicks love me…chickens that is.

Sometimes I like to stand up against the trees. Who doesn’t? It’s mid-February in this picture, but I was around for awhile before that. I like to sprout in the winter and I thrive in late winter and early spring here in Texas. I can hang around in summer, but only if I have a nice cool and moist spot to live.

Here I am with the clan. Aren’t we a pretty bunch? A few of our Henbit friends got in the picture with us. Henbit got its name because the chicks like it too, so we have a lot in common.

I’m edible, and not just my leaves. I don’t have a non-edible part on me. You can eat my leaves, flowers, stems and seeds. I have a pleasantly mellow taste so I can be eaten fresh out of the ground, you can put me in your salads, on sandwiches, or you can cook me. Cooked, I taste a bit like spinach. I’m high in nutrition: vitamins C, A, B, D, and several minerals, and Gamma-linolenic acid. A word of warning though: I have a small amount of saponins so you don’t want to overdo it or you might get a belly-ache. You also want to be sure you are identifying me correctly. I have a cousin called “Mouse-ear Chickweed”, who needs to be cooked before eaten in order to prevent issues with digestion. You also want to avoid mixing me up with another cousin named Drymaria Cordata. Both of these cousins can be easily distinguished from me if you get to know them a bit. Look for pictures and descriptions by foraging experts so you don’t get us mixed up. A similar-looking poisonous plant that you want to avoid entirely is the Scarlet Pimpernel. Its leaves grow in the same manner, but its stem is square and its leaves are spotted underneath, whereas I have a smooth round stem which has a barely noticeable line of hairs on one side, and no spots on my leaves.

Here I am in bloom. I’m under a zoom lens here because my flower is difficult to see otherwise. In case you can’t tell, I have 5 deeply-cleft petals, and 5 sepals that form a star.

Here I’m getting a bit on in age and going to seed. When I’m ready to go to seed, I begin getting taller while my upper leaves get smaller. I’m still edible at this point, but people tend to enjoy me more when I’m younger. Isn’t that just the way of this world? This picture was taken on March 24. North Texas is getting hotter sooner this year and the rain is getting less frequent, so I didn’t stick around much longer after this photo was taken.

So long until next year!

Resources:

Merriwether’s Guide to Foraging Texas Website

Plants For A Future Database Website

Green Deane’s Eat The Weeds Website

Book: “Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods From Dirt To Plate” by John Kallas

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