An Edible Lawn

All, From the Field

A surprising finding for some people is that there is a virtual supermarket living in your lawn.

For centuries, Europeans collected food and herbs from lawn areas.

Folklore tells us that at the shift in 18th century England, wealthy landowners chose not to eat the “commoner food” found in lawns, and shifted their lawn preferences to low cut, grassy monocultures, much like we see in suburbia today.

There has been a recent interest in rekindling the use of these plants, so here is a list of five common ones found in lawns below. Always be sure to get a positive identification before trying your newfound edibles.

(Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Photo by Adam McCosham

One might consider dandelion the king of edible lawn plants, and for good reason: just about every part of the plant is edible. The flower and leaves are edible raw, while the root can be roasted into a coffee substitute.

Leaves can be sautéed or eaten raw. Try to stick to young leaves, because they get bitter as they age. The flowers can be sprinkled into pancake batter, or better yet, dipped into batter and fried like mushrooms.

The dandelion is also nutritious: The vitamin and minerals found in the leaves read much like that of a multivitamin.

White Clover
(Trifolium repens)

White Clover (Trifolium repens)
Great Ashby District Park, Stevenage. Photo by AnemoneProjectors (talk) – Flickr

Although not the choicest of wild edibles, the flower heads (the whiter the better!) can be used as a tea.

The flower heads can also be eaten raw; sprinkled onto ice cream can add an extra flavor to bland ice cream. In the past, a flour was made from the flowers. But these days, it is sometimes easier to dehydrate the flowers, grind them into a powder in a blender and use them to supplement the flour used in breads, pancakes and muffins.

Common Blue Violet
(Viola sororia)

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)
Photo by Adam McCosham

Violet leaves, which are rich in vitamins A and C, can be eaten raw. Some even like to add the leaves to ice cream.

Additionally, they make a good addition to other salad mixtures. The flowers can be candied by dipping them in water, brushing them with a lightly beaten egg white, coated in sugar, then dried.

Common Plantain
(Plantago major)

Common Plantain (Plantago major)
Photo by Adam McCosham

This plant packs a double punch of being edible and medicinal.

Pick young leaves and boil for 10 minutes. Serve with butter. In addition, you can make a quick first aid poultice by chewing the fresh leaves you to place on wasp stings and bruises.

Wood Sorrel
(Oxalis spp.)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.)
Photo by Adam McCosham

I like to describe the wood sorrel as nature’s sweet tart. The sour flavor of the leaves often wins over the taste buds of curious kids, who often like to go for a second helping.

You can also make a lemony flavored drink by steeping the leaves for 10-15 minutes, chill and sweeten to taste. Like many wild edibles, beware of possible health side effects. Wood sorrel contains oxalic acid, so eating large quantities at once can affect those prone to kidney stones.

This is a nice list to get you started, but there are many more edibles found around the yard. With a little knowledge and a little effort, you might even be able to cut your grocery bill.

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Adam McCosham
Conservation & Parks Manager, Shawnee Lookout