Eating radish leaves and pigweed

happyday(WI4a)July 12, 2008

Got tired of wasting my radish and turnip greens as mulch, so am going to boil some up and try them.

Also with the rains and heat, we are getting redroot pigweed like you wouldn't believe. It's like the Day of the Triffids out there. I have heard that they can be eaten and also that they can concentrate nitrates and kill livestock grazed on them.

Anyone have any personal experience with eating pigweed? It is an amaranth relative. I figure once you start having a use for it, it will stop growing in the garden all by itself.

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Yes, Ive eaten it in small quantities. Never heard that there is any danger in it. Radish greens are just like turnip greens . One of the early spring greens for me.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 7:10AM
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I guess once you find a use for pigweed, you'll be pulling it up and it won't go to seed anymore. I checked out a picture of it, and realize that yes, I do have it in my garden but pull it up and toss it on the compost heap all the time. Hope you can make use of yours, happyday.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 8:26AM
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I wanted to see a picture so I put pigweed into google images and the first picture came up and said this. It looks far too dangerous to eat.

Pigweed can be very toxic if eaten in large quantities. Horses are unlikely to eat this plant unless there is no other food available. This weed seems to grow everywhere--from pastures to vegetable gardens, roadsides to barnyards. It is still toxic if dried and baled into hay. Pigweed, and its relative lamb's quarters can cause kidney failure. Other symptoms of pigweed ingestion may include:
respiratory distress
lack of coordination
Resources: Indiana Plants Poisonous to Livestock and Pets Cooperative Extension Service, Purdue University

I do not eat wild mushrooms for the same reason. just too dangerous.

Here is a link that might be useful: too dangerous to eat

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 9:25AM
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Note "large quantities". Bolted lettuce is known to have killed people in times of famine. Poke weed is toxic, so is rhubarb in large quantity. I think that they may be talking about livestock primarily.

Both pigweed and lamb's quarter's are well known as being healthy greens to eat. In modest quantities.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 1:53PM
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Radish leaves are a little too prickly to eat raw; I throw them into stir fries. And I've eaten pigweed, goosefoot and later in the season, purslane.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 2:13PM
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I googled this before posting, and read that pigweed, named for the fact that it was once used to graze pigs on, can cause nitrate poisoning and death if grown in fields heavily fertilized, as it can concentrate nitrates in its tissues. Also it might have some oxalic acid. Missed that bit about lambs quarter also possibly being toxic. Did not know that. Had always heard it was a healthy green. Seems the important question here is, how much is too much.

Pnbrown, how does pigweed taste? Did you use only the leaves or the stems as well? How much did you eat, and did you feel any of the ill effects Dangould mentioned above?

Aulani, it's the old joke that once you have a use for a weed it becomes finicky about growing for you. I do try to pull it up before it goes to seed, but I have maybe 40 years of seeds in the soil from before I got here that come up with every tilling. I wonder what the sheer poundage of lurking weed seeds in the soil is. Might be a significant percentage of the total soil composition. Anybody else wonder this about their garden soil too?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 2:27PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

"If you suspect poisoning from any plant or substance call your veterinarian immediately." (from the Purdue site)

If you don't feel well after eating pigweed, call you vet right away.

BTW, pigweed isn't just in the amaranth family, it IS amaranth. Seeds of several varieties can be purchased if cultivated plants seem safer than wild ones. It is an important vegetable crop in some regions of the world, as is purslane.

Lamb's Quarters, the third most common weed in my garden is closely related to spinach and, when cooked, practically indistinguishable from spinach.

Radish greens are a nice addition to clear soups. So are the roots.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 2:31PM
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I don't particularly care for the taste of pigweed - or cultivated amaranth foliage, for that matter.

Jim, I think one could argue that pigweed isn't actually "amaranth", which typically means the range of domesticated varieties of south america. They get a lot bigger than I've ever seen a pigweed grow, and with tremendously larger seed-spikes. It's a bit like saying queen-anne's lace and garden carrot are the same?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 3:00PM
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shot(8 - GA)

The pigweed that grows in my garden are spiney and you best have some gloves on before attempting to pull them up.

Pat, you can graze the pigweed in my watermelon patch... just leave the melons alone! LoL


    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 3:25PM
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I ran the word Pigweed through Wikipedia and it says that Pigweed is a name for a collection of various plants / weeds used for feeding pigs so not a specific type of plant. It then lists 3 species groups, Amaranthus, Chenopodium and Portulaca species and with each species breaking down into the different plants where toxicology, use, history is listed for them.

Some of them are poisonous: others are not, so you could identify your particular type of pigweed and away you. Personally, I wouldn't feel confident in getting it correct and then not enjoy eating it as I'd worry about keeling over....

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 4:01PM
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Ahh, that explains the confusion then. Should have known, common names don't really mean a thing.

Thanks you, Mr. Shot, sir. You will have to promise me at least one ice-cold melon, though.......

    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 4:56PM
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jimster(z7a MA)

In lumping Amaranthus, Chenopodium and Portulaca together as pig weed, Wikipedia is the victim of the trouble with common names. I differentiate them as follows:

Amaranthus retroflexus = Amaranth or Redroot (my grandmother's name for it)

Chenopodium album = Lamb's Quarters

Portulaca oleracea = Purslane

Euell Gibbons, who was meticulous in his research and writing, gives a more comprehensive list of common names in "Stalking the Wild Asparagus".

The human race would not be in existence today if our ancestors had not eaten wild foods. It simply is not the case that wild foods are dangerous while cultivated foods are safe.

It is important to know the plant you are eating. Before eating a wild plant, it must be familiar as any of the foods you eat. Do you have any trouble identifying a stalk of celery or are you at the mercy of the supermarket to do that for you?

I have no trouble enjoying certain wild mushrooms. That is the result of extensive study. I take no chances with ID because I know that 5% of mushrooms are deadly. The deadly ones are not rare, common in fact, and some masquerade as safe ones. People do die from eating the wrong mushroom. But I don't need to know all mushrooms, I just need to be 100% sure of the ones I eat. This applies to herbaceous plants as well, although the herbaceous ones are easier to learn.

Pat, Queen Anne's Lace is Daucus carota, exactly the same species as the garden carrot. Knowing you a little, and knowing you are knowledgable about such things, I'm pretty sure you know that. And I understand your point. Queen Anne's Lace is a pretty poor variety of carrot for culinary purposes. There is not such a large difference in quality between some other wild and cultivated vegetables, however. My grandmother would not have served wild carrot but she did gather and cook redroot.

It's not only wild plants that have health issues. Cherries contain cyanide, spinach has oxalic acid, parsnips are carcinogenic, etc. But they also have many benefits. Most of us are willing to accept the trade offs.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2008 at 5:17PM
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It's surprising how many toxins there are in food.

Here is a link that might be useful: Natural toxic constituents in food

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 1:09AM
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Thanks for the clarification, Jim. I've also seen the amaranth type pigweed refered to as "red-rooted pigweed". I can't pretend to be any kind of expert - all I can see is that the grain amaranth I've been growing is about as superior to the red-rooted pigweed as carrot is to QAL. I wouldn't want to depend on pigweed for a grain source, that's for sure.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 7:52AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Wow, happyday, what you uncovered goes beyond what I would have expected! Surprising indeed. Thanks for helping to drive a point home.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 12:18PM
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Beans and grain, those staples that have brought humanity to the numbers that we are, also bring a lot of health problems. Books worth of problems. And then there is the consumption of meat raised on grain, a whole nother level......

I didn't know that about parsnips. Interesting. I don't like them in large quantity in any case.

I think this thread is a good reminder that we aren't designed to make very few food sources our whole diet. For most people over-eating a particular vegetable plant is highly unlikely, but an excessive grain and grain-derived diet coupled with the worst possible sorts of fats is a reality that is very difficult to avoid.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 12:36PM
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pnbrown - I'm embarassed to say that the year I was pregnant with our twins the garden got away from me in the late summer (they have a September birthday). My redroot pigweed was taller than I am (at 5'6"), and had very impressive seed spikes. So it isn't just in South America that it grows large. -smile-

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 12:45AM
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Interesting.......I guess I've never let them go quite like that!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 8:38AM
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BTW, as Jim posted, "red-root pigweed" is listed as "amaranthus retroflexus", while "amaranthus edulis" is an example of a grain amaranth. A UF ag-page that I found indicates that the common term "amaranth" includes the so-called "grain" cultivars as well as the native north american pigweed, and some cultivars that are grown for foliage.

So I stand corrected.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2008 at 8:48AM
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