Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

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Stellaria media, while often disparaged as a weed, is in fact a tender and abundant wild edible. As one of the first tenacious greens to emerge from the snow as spring eases its way into the land, Chickweed is a nutritious food source early on in the growing season (sometimes called Chickenweed for its use as hen-feed). Its Latin name refers to the charming star shape of its flowers, which emerge from a lush mat of green. A particularly tasty use of this plant is in the form of pesto, or eaten raw as a salad green. While native to Europe, Stellaria media is now naturalized throughout North America as well as more globally. Being an avid self seeder, Chickweed is best planted in the corner of the garden or in an isolated patch to prevent rampant growth. Evidence of Chickweed use has been recorded as early as in British pre-neolithic dig sites, and was utilized in both ancient Greece and Ireland. Sailors would steep this plant in vinegar to preserve its abundance of vitamin C as a means of scurvy prevention in the absence of citrus. 

Traditionally used in salves or oils as a skin-soothing remedy, Chickweed has also long been associated with digestive aid and weight loss. This plant has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat skin diseases and dermatitis for centuries. Thought to manage spring-time colds, likely the effects of this plant result from its high concentration of vitamins in use as a food crop. 

Folklore indicates chickweed as a forecast of weather, with open flowers suggesting good conditions, and closing tightly in foul skies. Many view Stellaria media as a being of balance, given its preference for well-balanced soil conditions. Though Chickweed grows in dense clusters, each shoot has the proper space to flourish, promoting the equilibrium of maintaining individuality in a healthy community setting. As with many plants villainized as ‘weeds,’ when managed properly Chickweed is a delicious and healthful addition to a garden, particularly to invigorate one after a long absence of fresh greens.