Subscribe Donate

Topics

8 forms of capital active hope agroecology agroforestry alder buckthorn Amazon anxiety apples arthritis back yard beans Bec Hellouin beech tree bees beneficial berries biochar biodigester biodiversity blackberries blackthorn book review brain brassica cage budget build building campesino capital card deck Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens christmas circular clay pot cleansers cleansing milks climate change climate emergency climate grief climate solutions climbers climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation container cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology courgettes crafts crisis crop protection Cross Quarter Festival cultural emergence culture cut flowers cycles degraded design diary diversity DIY do it yourself dryland earth care Earth's energy ecoculture economics ecopoetry ecosystem ecosystem restoration camps ecosystems edges edible edible flowers education efficiency elder elderflowers elements elixir energy equinox ethics face mask fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs film firewood floristry flower essence flower garden flowers food food forest food garden footbath forage foraging forest garden forest gardening forests fruit fruit leather fruit trees fungi future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin Give Nature a voice Glennie Kindred global poverty glut grapes greenhouse grief groundcover grow grow food grow your own growing guilds habitat habits handcream harvest harvests hawthorn hazel hazelnut healing shrubs healing trees health healthy soil heart health hedgerow hedging herbal herbal remedies herbal teas herbalist herbs holistic holistic planned grazing home homeless homemade wine homestead hope Hugelkultur humanure hummus hungry gap IBC tanks Imbolc incense increase yields Indigenous inexpensive influence inspiration International Womens Day jam keyline kitchen garden lacto-fermentation Lammas land landscape landscapes life lifestyle limeflowers livelihood livestock living labs logs Looby Macnamara lotion low cost low-impact Lush Spring Prize macerations Manda Scott Mangwende Orphan Care Trust market garden market gardening marmalade marshmallow mass heater meadowsweet medicinal microbes microfarm Midwest Permaculture mimic mindset mitigation money Morag Gamble moringa Mother Earth mulch multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nature connection nitrogen no dig no waste no-dig novel November nutrition nuts observe oca October off-grid oil cleansing orchard orchards organic organic flowers organic gardening outdoor shower oven oxymel oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care peoplecare perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre permayouth pesto pests philippines pine tree pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators pollution polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating protection pruning prunings psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainforest rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regeneration regenerative regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter remedy renewable renewable energy resources restoration reuse revolution rhythms rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans sage salad salads salve Samhain schools Scotland scotts pine seasonal seasons seeds selfcare Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shade shamanism sheet mulching shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions sowing spiritual spring squash stacking functions stock-free straw straw bale summer sustainable Sweet Bay syntropic systems temperate terraces thistles thrutopia timber timber framing tincture tonic toolkit tools transformation trees upcycle urban urban gardening veg garden vegan veganic vermicomposting vinegar walnuts waste water water cleansing watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild edges wild food wild garlic wildflower wildlife wine recipes wings winter winter greens winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms yarrow year round year-round food yield young people youth zai pits zone 00 zoning

Topics

8 forms of capital active hope agroecology agroforestry alder buckthorn Amazon anxiety apples arthritis back yard beans Bec Hellouin beech tree bees beneficial berries biochar biodigester biodiversity blackberries blackthorn book review brain brassica cage budget build building campesino capital card deck Celtic festivals change changes chemical-free chickens christmas circular clay pot cleansers cleansing milks climate change climate emergency climate grief climate solutions climbers climbing cob comfrey community compost compost teas connection consciousness conservation container cooking coppice coppicing cordial cosmology courgettes crafts crisis crop protection Cross Quarter Festival cultural emergence culture cut flowers cycles degraded design diary diversity DIY do it yourself dryland earth care Earth's energy ecoculture economics ecopoetry ecosystem ecosystem restoration camps ecosystems edges edible edible flowers education efficiency elder elderflowers elements elixir energy equinox ethics face mask fair shares Fairtrade farming feedback feminine ferns figs film firewood floristry flower essence flower garden flowers food food forest food garden footbath forage foraging forest garden forest gardening forests fruit fruit leather fruit trees fungi future future care gardening garlic gift economy gin Give Nature a voice Glennie Kindred global poverty glut grapes greenhouse grief groundcover grow grow food grow your own growing guilds habitat habits handcream harvest harvests hawthorn hazel hazelnut healing shrubs healing trees health healthy soil heart health hedgerow hedging herbal herbal remedies herbal teas herbalist herbs holistic holistic planned grazing home homeless homemade wine homestead hope Hugelkultur humanure hummus hungry gap IBC tanks Imbolc incense increase yields Indigenous inexpensive influence inspiration International Womens Day jam keyline kitchen garden lacto-fermentation Lammas land landscape landscapes life lifestyle limeflowers livelihood livestock living labs logs Looby Macnamara lotion low cost low-impact Lush Spring Prize macerations Manda Scott Mangwende Orphan Care Trust market garden market gardening marmalade marshmallow mass heater meadowsweet medicinal microbes microfarm Midwest Permaculture mimic mindset mitigation money Morag Gamble moringa Mother Earth mulch multifunctional mushrooms native plants natural natural building natural fertiliser natural skincare natural swimming pool nature nature connection nitrogen no dig no waste no-dig novel November nutrition nuts observe oca October off-grid oil cleansing orchard orchards organic organic flowers organic gardening outdoor shower oven oxymel oyster pallets pasture-fed patterns people people care peoplecare perennials permaculture permaculture design permaculture magazine award permaculutre permayouth pesto pests philippines pine tree pips pizza oven plant profile plants pollinators pollution polyculture polycultures preserving principles propagating protection pruning prunings psycho-spiritual awareness psychospiritual transformation rainforest rainwater raspberries recipe recipes reduce reed beds regeneration regenerative regenerative agriculture relative location relative matter remedy renewable renewable energy resources restoration reuse revolution rhythms rootstock rootstocks roundhouse roundwood runner beans sage salad salads salve Samhain schools Scotland scotts pine seasonal seasons seeds selfcare Sepp Holzer september septic tanks sewage treatment shade shamanism sheet mulching shrubs skincare sloes slugs small solutions small-scale smallholding social justice soil health solar solutions sowing spiritual spring squash stacking functions stock-free straw straw bale summer sustainable Sweet Bay syntropic systems temperate terraces thistles thrutopia timber timber framing tincture tonic toolkit tools transformation trees upcycle urban urban gardening veg garden vegan veganic vermicomposting vinegar walnuts waste water water cleansing watering weeds wellbeing wetland wild edges wild food wild garlic wildflower wildlife wine recipes wings winter winter greens winter salads wood stove woodburner woodland woodland management woodlands worms yarrow year round year-round food yield young people youth zai pits zone 00 zoning

Foraging for wild food and medicinal plants – Chickweed Plant Profile

While much greenery dies back in winter, there is plenty of food to forage from hedgerows and even unexpected parts of your garden. Christopher helps you to identify and use Chickweed.

Winter is a challenging time when it comes to food growing, so why not take advantage of what nature provides for free? More often than not, our hardy wild plants will offer us nutritionally-high greens for the salad bowl or cooking pot (often far higher than from plants generally grown or bought), and provide us with safe, effective medicine!

Hardy winter greens 

When in the garden or plot at this time of year, the otherwise-ignored wild plants will grab our attention, and naturally so, because there is precious little other growth about. The simple aim of this article is for people to think thrice about ripping these gifts out of the ground and plonking them on the compost heap. For that would be a waste of the food and medicine on offer, as well your valuable time and energy. Not very permaculture!

One plant that you will almost certainly come across, is that most tenacious of cultivated weeds, little old chickweed. Yet not too many years ago, it would have been one of the plants that we turned to for food during the darker months.

Getting to know… Chickweed

Stellaria media – Caryophylaceae  family

Chickweed is one of about 120 species of annuals and perennials from a genus also containing stitchwort (Stellaria holostea). They belong to the same family as the tasty, sea campion (Silene maritima), and the valuable cosmetic plant, soapwort (Saponaria officinalis).

Chickweed, as will be observed right now in your garden or plot (unless meticulously managed), is a prolific species. There is no real need to go out foraging for this plant! As an ephemeral species, it requires only around 13 weeks to flower and set seed. In different places, throughout the whole of the year, you will continuously see this plant, often with the foliage appearing as a curved and domed, lime-green mat.

Chickweed loves moist soils and numerous sites, happily growing up to elevations of 900 metres. It has very slender, but tenacious roots. The somewhat brittle, round stems, can sometimes be red-tinged and are usually covered in small fine hairs. The growing stems quickly branch and spread, enabling the plant to form distinctive bright mounds of new growth almost anywhere, if conditions are favourable. In flower, this plant grows to around 30-40cm high.

The leaves are quite small, being oval-shaped with a cordate base, and typically growing to around 2.5cm long. They are in opposite pairs on the stems, carrying a prominent, often white, mid-vein. Chickweed’s flowers arise from the leaf axils, on slender-stemmed and initially pendulous buds, before their small but alluring, white pin-pricks of star-shaped flowers eventually bloom. These are notable for their sets of joined petals (usually five), and are typically 5-8mm in diameter.

Chickweed is exceptionally abundant in towns and country during the spring, autumn, and winter, especially the milder ones that we were getting used to, until recently. It will occasionally be found romping away in shadier spots during the summer, but it doesn’t enjoy hot sunshine.

What parts are used? Leaves and tops.

Harvest time: Available most of the year, although sometimes difficult to find in hot summers. When large or plentiful, harvest just the tops.

Medicinal attributes: Mucilage, minerals (magnesium, phosphorus, copper), flavonoid (rutin), vitamins C, B6, B12, D and A.

Medicinal actions: Demulcent, emollient.

Uses: This plant was one of the Victorian’s favourite salads, and I can’t blame them! The earthy succulence, and soft yet crisp textures, go really well in any salad. When we talk of foraging for alternatives to expensive, nitrate-soaked, plastic-packed salads – then this plant, which grows freely for us, screams out to be used!

Chickweed also has a long history of traditional uses as an emollient for the skin, helping cases of eczema, psoriasis, ulcers, boils, and abscesses. It can be administered through poultices, compresses, baths and through its consumption! Internally chickweed can be used for rheumatic and respiratory conditions, especially where excessive mucous is present.

The acclaimed Juliette de Bairacli Levy, observed that this plant was employed around the world. She also saw a resemblence between its uses and that of slippery elm: a prized, and also mucilage-rich, digestive and emollient plant. As such, Bairacli Levy rated chickweed as one of the most valuable weeds in the garden. Slippery elm does not grow wild in Britain and is an endangered plant due to the ravages of Dutch elm disease, so we may come to use and cherish chickweed more and more in a post-peak-oil society.