Edible Weeds & No Care Food Plants
Edible plants requiring little to no maintenance.
I often get asked, what the easiest fruit and veg is to grow. Perhaps you have less than ideal soil, little time to garden or are just starting out on your food growing journey. Whatever the reason, I’ve put a list together of edibles that require little to no care but still produce for the kitchen.
Yes, weeds. Those really tough plants that you can’t get rid of (despite best efforts). Weeds get a bad rap when you consider what they do. They can populate areas where nothing else will grow, pulling nutrients up from deep in the soil then returning those nutrients back to the soil when they die back and decompose. Nonetheless, I understand that having them taking up valuable space in your garden beds is less than ideal. Instead, make the most of the weeds growing in your yard and add them to your dinner plate.
Many of the common weeds found in our yards are not only safe to eat, but are highly nutritious and delicious. Just remember, not all weeds are edible so take the time to do some research so you know what you are eating is safe. Invest in a good book or use a good online resource and of course don’t eat anything unless you’re sure it hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals first.
Common edible weeds
- Dandelions: use the yellow petals and young leaves in salads.
- Chickweed: cook like spinach or use raw as a salad green.
- Clover: leaves taste of spinach with a spicy finish. Stalks taste like mild asparagus. Eat fresh or cooked.
- Mallow: best cooked and eaten like spinach but can also be eaten as a salad green.
- Native violets: violet leaves and their flowers are edible.
- Oxalis: mild non-sour lemon flavour. Add leaves & flowers to salads, distinct heart shaped leaves. Avoid high amounts.
- Pulsane: crunchy, slightly tart, lemony, semi succulent. Use cooked or in salads. AKA: pigweed. Avoid high amounts.
- Wild brassica: eat the young leaves and flowers fresh. Older leaves are best cooked.
Dead easy herbs & spices
Herbs are wonderful to grow in the garden. They’re dead easy requiring little to no maintenance, attract beneficial insects and are a much nicer alternative to the dried out, wilted herbs available in the shops. Keep them well watered during their first summer than you can pretty much forget about them. Did you know their flowers are also edible.
I’m talking about those drought hardy (usually Mediterranean) herbs that produce year after year without the need to resow seed. Think… rosemary, oregano, thyme (lots of varieties) and mints (including lemon balm).
Self seeding / propagating herbs
- Arugular / Wild rocket: like shop bought rocket only spicier.
- Basil: protect while young then leave to its own devices. Let it go to seed and you’ll have basil next summer.
- Borage: very pretty, edible blue flowers. Young leaves are also edible (taste like cucumber) but can be spiky.
- Chives: regular onion flavoured chives and garlic chives for a mild garlic flavour.
- Coriander: doesn’t have a long season but it self-seeds for more plants. Planting in part shade makes it crop longer.
- Mint: all mints grow easily in damp conditions. Watch it doesn’t get out of hand
- Nasturtiums: similar taste to rocket with a hint of mustard.
- Parsley: lasts 2 years and self seeds. Flowers are a favourite of lady beetles and lacewings.
Bulbs & rhizomes
Garlic: Plant individual cloves 5cm deep, in their papery skin from late March to early May. Harvest around November when half the foliage has died back. Garlic stores well for about 6 months in a cool dark place. Keep your biggest cloves for replanting next season. Growing garlic guide.
Ginger: Plant about 5cm deep from September to October. Ginger will grow through the Summer and be ready to dug up late Autumn/early Winter. Leave some in the ground and you won’t have to plant the following year. Store excess clean and dry ginger in the freezer and grate as required.
Low maintenance fruit
Cane berries: Raspberries, blackberries, youngberries, boysenberries – As long as you cut last years fruiting canes back to ground level in Winter and keep in a contained bed (they are very vigorous) they will give you fruit for years to come with no other maintenance.
Citrus: Lemons, oranges, limes, mandarins. Citrus do experience some pest and disease problems but are usually tough enough to get through it with little to no human intervention, whilst still producing lots of fruit.
- Asparagus: harvest from 3rd year for next 15-20 years
- Rhubarb: harvest from 2nd year for next 15-20 years
- Perpetual spinach: harvest from first season
Silverbeet: when harvesting, leave plant in the ground and pick outer leaves as required and it will keep producing all year. 2 plants enough for a family.