Wait – is Shepherd’s needle edible???
Yep. Though that fact isn’t widely known. In fact, most people probably don’t even know the name of this common Florida weed.
Never heard of Shepherd’s Needle? That probably doesn’t stop it from invading your yard, spreading hundreds of seedlings across tilled ground and sending its seeds hitchhiking on your socks.
Shepherd’s Needle, Latin name Bidens alba, is an amazing weed that looks like a little daisy. The plants grow 2-4′ or so and will spread from springtime until the frosts knock them back to the ground.
However, like many weeds, this plant is a resource in disguise. Even if you can’t manage to grow spinach, cauliflower or a bean without holes in it, you can grow this thing (though most people fight to KEEP it from growing) – and the leaves are edible. It’s easy to find growing along roadsides, in fields and any place there’s a sunny spot and some disturbed ground.
Behind my house is a three acre lot that gets bush-hogged a couple times a year. There the Shepherd’s Needle plants proliferate like… well… weeds. And that’s a good thing, since not only are the leaves edible – the blossoms are a solid nectar source for bees for about half the year. They also draw in lots of butterflies, moths and other pollinators. I intentionally leave patches growing in unused areas of my yard, just for the life they bring in.
Though you couldn’t subsist on them alone, the leaves are reportedly high in nutrients. They also stir-fry quite well and are good in salads and omelets. By themselves, they’re a bit grassy-tasting, but mixed with other greens or sauteed, they’re delicious. Just watch your socks when you pick them.
Next time you find some growing in your yard – and provided they’re not too near your garden beds – leave a few. The bees will thank you. And your palate might not mind either. In terms of a survival green, it’s hard to beat one that’s healthy, easy-to-find, prolific and basically unknown.
And a look at Bidens alba by Green Deane at www.eattheweeds.com.
Name: Shepherd’s needle
Latin Name: Bidens alba
Type: Herbaceous perennial/annual
Nitrogen Fixer: No
Exposure: Full sun/part shade
Part Used: Leaves
Method of preparation: Leaves raw, cooked, dried, sauteed.
Storability: Poor fresh. Easy to dry.
Ease of growing: Way too easy.
Nutrition: Very good
Availability: Very high