It seems fitting that with the new year’s arrival, chickweed sprouts forth. This green weed stands out from the otherwise drab grays and browns of Texas Januaries. Small, tender, beautiful and filled with wonderfulness, it perfectly sums up the early days of the coming year. Of course, if you’re like 80 percent of the population, your top resolution is to be healthier. Chickweed will help with that resolution!
By itself, chickweed has a simple, mild “green” taste, but hidden inside its small leaves are vitamins A, C, assorted Bs, minerals, and other great compounds. Yet for all this greatness, chickweed isn’t a “showy” food served basking in its own glory. Chickweed is modest, but when it’s added to other foods, something magical occurs.
Add to a salad or sandwich, and the individual flavors become richer. Your kale smoothies become amazingly creamy. Soups become more savory. All those “healthy” foods whose flavors you thought were bland suddenly come alive in your mouth. Think of chickweed as the MSG of wild plants, but good rather than bad for you!
You’ve probably seen chickweed growing along the side of your house or against a fence. Though it likes cool weather, it also likes a bit of shelter. It grows as clusters of single, unbranched stems with somewhat diamond-shaped leaves. These leaves grow in pairs opposite each other with each set of leaves somewhat widely placed along the slender stem. Running up the stem from one set of leaves to the next is a single line of fine hairs, barely visible to the naked eye. Rather than running continuously in a line the length of the stem, these hairs switch sides as they pass each leaf cluster. Small, white flowers appear as the plant matures. Each flower has five petals, but they are so deeply cleft as to appear as 10 petals.
But like all good things, chickweed’s time passes with the season. It’ll be gone by April ... but if you’ve been eating it that long, you’ve probably managed to add other nutritious (and hopefully wild!) plants to your diet.
New Year’s is a time of rebirth of yourself and also of relationships. Promises are made to improve oneself. Chickweed offers guidance in achieving these promises. Adding it to your diet will certainly help you eat better, but also think on this: Chickweed makes everything it touches better without drawing attention to itself. There’s a lesson there, don’t you think?
Happy New Year!