Chickweed is available most of the year but I love to gather it in early Spring. It is a tiny sprawling plant with white star-like flowers that can be easily overlooked. Chickweed is a low growing, sprawling annual. You will find it growing in clumps alongside grassy areas, hedgerows and amongst other weeds in damp soil. It measures about 3 to 12 inches (7-30 cm) tall. It has tiny oval shaped opposite leaves with a pointed tip. Both the leaves and stems have tiny soft hairs. The star-shaped white flowers have 5 petals that are deeply indented giving the appearance of having 10 petals, hence the Latin name Stellaria, which means star.
Food and medicine
Chickweed is a nutritious wild food and gentle medicine. It was traditionally used as a pot green in much the same way as spinach. Add young leaves, stalks and flowers to salads, or infuse in olive oil for salad dressings. Add a small handful to juices and smoothies. It makes a good pesto ingredient as it has a slightly salty taste. Try it as a tea or in a light nutritious broth. It is rich in chlorophyll, vitamins A and C, and minerals such as iron, copper, magnesium, selenium, GLA, thiamine and calcium.
Chickweed is high in saponins that help to cleanse the lymphatic system and soothe inflammation. It’s saponins also help to emulsify fat, which is why it earned a reputation as a slimmer’s herb.
Pick tender shoots, or just cut the top 2 inches and leave the roots intact. The saponins in chickweed make the stems stretch, discard any tough stringy stems, although mostly this is a tender plant.
Be careful when foraging for wild food and be sure you have correctly identified a plant before consuming it. You can refrigerate it as you would any leafy green.
I also use it to make salves for eczema and any itchy skin conditions. You can add a couple of handfuls to a bath to soothe itchiness. Chickweed is a diuretic so an infusion is good if you are suffering with water retention. It is also soothing for sore throats and makes a great spring tonic however you take it. It is cleansing for the blood and lymphatic system.