Plants we used to think of as mere weeds, as it turns out, are often not only edible, but actually good for you if you know what to do with them.
A plant at the back door of the Empire-Advance is just exactly that sort of plant.
Someone was aghast that I had extracted it from the sandy soil (yes, I pulled a weed), adamantly declaring it was milkweed – an important plant to monarch butterflies.
However, that is not the case. The wild flower (a more delicate term for a ‘weed’) that I extracted was a relative of the dandelion, and commonly called goats beard.
I had a difficult time positively identifying this hardy plant through internet searches, until the tell-tale fluffy seed ball appeared on some of the remaining plants.
On the internet, through Google images, I stumbled on Kathy Keeler’s website (awanderingbotanist.com). She says, “Yellow salsify, a plant I always called goat's beard… is from Europe and has spread all across North America. It was probably brought as a food. Salsify was widely eaten 200 years ago.”
Keeler is an award winning blogger and a widely travelled botanist who would be interesting for a horticultural society to have as a guest speaker!
Goats beard is a little bit ugly and it can take over a field if conditions are right. But it is appreciated by yellow goldfinches who eat the seeds of both dandelions and goats beard.
Now, if you want to dine on salsify root, try it raw (scrub well) or cook it like a carrot. It apparently tastes more like a parsnip though. And the greens are edible.