Welcome to Learn with the Seasons:
Your guide to Foraging for and Using Edible & Therapeutic Herbs.
This lesson is about Chickweed (Stellaria media).
This lesson contains:
An identification video to help you to recognise chickweed.
An herbal data sheet containing details of how to use chickweed as a wild edible food and/or therapeutic herb.
Photographs of chickweed to help you to identify it (don’t mistake it for Scarlet Pimpernel which has orange flowers!!).
A video demostrating how to make chickweed pesto.
A video showing how to use chickweed as a soothing poultice for the skin.
A photograph of a beautiful foraged salad that includes chickweed.
You can read the recipes and plant information on-screen or print off the pdfs documents.
♣ Click on the TABS below left to view the identification videos and photos.
Chickweed grows like a weed. It springs up in vegetable patches and in polytunnels, usually anywhere that you are trying to cultivate other plants.
Safety: chickweed has tiny white flowers. Don’t confuse it with Scarlet Pimpernel which can look similar but has tiny bright orange flowers.
Chickweed Growing Around a Covered Vegetable Patch
Chickweed growing in a polytunnel
Close-up of Chickweed
Close-up of Chickweed
Close-up of Chickweed with its distinctive white flower
Chickweed growing in a polytunnel
Chickweed growing around lettuce in a polytunnel
Chickweed growing among tomato plants
Close-up of Chickweed with white flower and my hand for scale
Chickweed not flowering yet, growing in among buttercups
Close-up of Chickweed with flower
Chickweed growing through polytunnel
*** NOT CHICKWEED!***
Here is a plant that is NOT chickweed but looks similar.
Can you spot the differences?
It is about the same size as chickweed and grows in similar habitats (e.g. in vegetable patches) but slow down, look carefully and spend time noticing the differences between:
the shape & details of the leaves
the shape of the stem
the colour of the flower
REMEMBER: Rule 1 of working with herbs that you collect yourself. Always confirm plant ID and use the Latin name. If you are not 100% certain that you have the correct plant then DON’T use it.
PLANT DATA SHEET
(info & guidelines about using this plant as a wild food and/or herbal medicine)
♣ Read this on-screen or click the link to download the print version.
♣ Click on the TABS to move between these options.
Latin Name: Stellaria media
English Name: Chickweed Irish Name: Fuilig
German Name: Vogelmiere French Name: Stellaire Spanish Name: Pamplina
What kind of plant is this?: This little green plant creeps through vegetable patches. It’s often found growing amongst lettuce. If you’ve got a polytunnel then don’t weed it for a wee while and you should have lots and lots of chickweed. Use it: it’s great stuff, especially when fresh.
Parts used: Everything above the ground (i.e. stems and leaves) when they are fresh, young and green.
Edible: Yes, cooked or raw. When fresh and raw, chickweed is rich in vitamin C.
How and when to harvest chickweed: Spring-Autumn when it is fresh and green.
Safety: Chickweed is a very safe plant to use. Don’t mis-identify it. It has small white flowers. Don’t mistake it for Scarlet Pimpernel which can look simliar but has bright orange flowers.
Precautions: None known.
What are the benefits to me of consuming chickweed? : Chickweed is an excellent source of vitamin C. It grows freely and is at its best when raw so it is easy to add in to meals or to munch as a snack: just break some off, wash it and eat it.
Using Chickweed as a Food
Nutritional Content: Fresh chickweed is rich in vitamin C and A.
Suitable for juicing?: No, I don’t recommend that you use this plant in juices. Juices are very concentrated extracts and I think that chickweed is too strong to consume in this way.
Quantities: Please stick to the amounts and dosages given on the recipes.
Chickweed Infusion (tea)
Chickweed tea is reportedly the least effective way to consume chickweed. Eating it raw, making tincture, poultices etc. are all usually more effective. If you want to consume chickweed as an infusion then add 2 tsp dried or 4 tsp fresh chickweed to 1 cup boiled water. Infuse for 5 mins. Strain. Drink 3 cups (at least 500ml) daily for a minimum of 6 weeks.
Using Chickweed in Salad
Fresh chickweed is so juicy and tasty it really is a great base for a salad. Take a few handfuls of it, wash it and put it in a bowl. Add other wild leaves such as sorrel and dandelions. And/or try adding some edible flowers e.g. calendula, rose, borage etc. Or simply use chickweed leaves as a substitute for lettuce in a traditional salad.
You really can’t go wrong with this dish. The chickweed has a really light, refreshing flavour and it works very well combined with fresh basil. See the video demonstration on this lesson. Add fresh, washed chickweed to a food processor, add the same quantity of basil and whizz. Add grated hard cheese, pine nuts and olive oil. Add garlic to taste if desired. Whizz again. You could also vary this dish by using hazel nuts. Delicious on pasta, baked potatoes or in a salad dressing.
It is also possible to: Cook chickweed leaves as a side vegetable or to chop chickweed and make a spicy pakora.
Using Chickweed as a Remedy: Therapeutic properties
Traditionally in herbal medicine chickweed has been used for the following:
- Chickweed is a lovely cooling herb that can help to take the heat out of the body.
- It can help to relieve itching (when taken internally and/or applied externally).
- It can help to reduce inflammation because it is cooling.
- It is used to treat chronic skin conditions such as eczema. It can also be useful to treat boils and other skin eruptions.
- Chickweed has a reputation as a slimming herb and can help to break down fat.
- Chickweed can help to ease gout and rheumatism.
- Chickweed is great to relieve itching and cool down inflammation. Try applying the cream to hot, itchy rashes such as eczema or psoriasis. Sometimes it can even help to soothe sunburn. I recommend that you apply chickweed tea to the skin (make up a fresh batch each day) or buy professionally-made chickweed cream because you need a nice, light cream to ease itching and heat. It is hard to make a cream like this at home. Ointments are easy to make at home but are too heavy for itchy, hot rashes.
- Chickweed poultice (see video demo): this can also be used to apply to hot, itchy skin and/or to cool down inflamed areas. This is a great way to use chickweed if you have a plentiful supply or the fresh herb. It also makes a soothing eye pack to cool down itchy, hot, irritated eyes. Or try applying it to hot arthritic joints to relieve the pain and swelling.
- Chickweed can be applied to soothe bites, stings and burns.
- If you don’t have time to make a chickweed ointment or poultice then simply add chickweed to the bath. Put fresh chickweed in to an old sock or pair of tights. Tie this over the tap and run the bath water through it.
Qualified Herbalists may sometimes use Chickweed
- To treat ovarian cysts: When taken for a long time (usually about 1 year) on its own or in a prescription with other herbs, chickweed can often help to dissolve ovarian cysts.
- Varicose ulcers: chickweed can be useful to help to relieve varicose ulcers. Usually a poultice of the fresh herb is applied.
Infusion: Add 2 tsp dried or 4 tsp fresh chickweed to 1 cup boiled water. Infuse for 5 mins. Strain. Drink 3 cups daily.
Tincture: Take 5 ml 3 times daily.
Dosages for Children
Chickweed is a very safe herb to use for children. The dosage will vary depending on the health and age of your child and the reason that you are giving the child this herb. He/she can drink weak chickweed infusion from 2 years onwards. Culinary amounts of chickweed are also fine.
In Ireland chickweed is well known as a famine food and there are numerous accounts of people eating it during times of food shortages (including during the Siege of Derry). In Ireland warm poultices of chickweed were applied to reduce inflammation, mumps, sprains etc.
Other uses: As a food for poultry.
There are excellent suggestions for including chickweed in edible recipes in Healing Wise by Susun Weed.
For more medicinal information about chickweed see Hedgerow Medicine by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal.
RECIPE & EXTRACT VIDEOS & PHOTO LESSONS
♣ Click on the TABS below left to view the recipe & remedy-making videos and photos.
Foraged Summer Salad
A beautiful salad made entirely from foraged plants that feature in the High Summer edition of the online course.
Ingredients: Rose petals (red bits), borage flowers (the blue bits), calendula petals (the orange bits), red clover flowers (the pale pink bits), chickweed (the green bits), sorrel (more of the green bits) and honeysuckle flowers (the large, cream-coloured bits).
DID YOU ENJOY THIS HERB LESSON?
This lesson is from my home herbal remedy & wild food course:
‘Learn with the Seasons’