Also known as starweed, mouse ear, satinflower, tongue grass.
This is quite a common weed. It crops up in my beds and lawns around mid to late autumn ie the cool season. It's a tender, delicate prostrate little annual growing about 4cm tall.
Photo from Weed Foragers:
Info adapted from the Weed Forager handbook:
Loved by chickens, which has lead to it's name. High in protein, iron Vitamins A and C and anti-oxidants.
Can be used raw in salads or sandwiches. Can be cooked or used to make pesto. The stem can be fibrous so try to harvest the top portion only (use scissors).
Contains saponins (natural soaps) which can lower cholesterol but can be toxic in extreme doses.
Can be made into a poultice by crushing to deal with skin complaints or an ointment by simmering with olive oil, straining off the oil and combining with beeswax.
A common lookalike that you don't want to eat is Petty Spurge Euphorbia peplus
From Plants for a Future:
The leaves contain saponins. Although toxic, these substances are very poorly absorbed by the body and so tend to pass through without causing harm. They are also broken down by thorough cooking. Saponins are found in many plants, including several that are often used for food, such as certain beans. It is advisable not to eat large quantities of food that contain saponins.
Widespread throughout the world with many different species, our winter here in Brisbane is when Chickweed comes into it's own.
I love that my grass (won't call it lawn) blooms with this delicate edible weed a this time of the year so I can add it to stews, casseroles or salads.
Credited with many health benefits, including being an anti-histamine, it's also full of minerals. Apparently the Mouse Eared is the only one that has to be cooked.
There are some reasonably close look-alikes, but three things separates chickweed from poisonous pretenders. First, it does NOT have milky sap. Next, it has one line of hairs on its stem, that changes sides with each pair of leaves. Lastly, if you bend the stem, rotate each end counter each other, and pull gently the outer part of the stem will separated but the elastic inner part will not and you will have a stretched inner part between the two stem ends.
Photographed this morning in my garden:
The quick way to tell the difference between Chickweed and Petit Spurge is Chickweed does not have a milky sap.
Good one! The spurge is taller growing and hairy too. Almost posted a pic with this info but people looking quickly might think it was the edible one!
I'm tempted to say, 'if it's got milky sap - don't eat it'. But then Lettuces have milky sap as do Figs just for two examples. If I can figure out how to do it, putting a black or red frame around the look-alike-toxic plant might be useful. It's a lovely photo above yet doesn't convey what the plant looks like when it's growing wild in the garden. Those flowers are so tiny they can be easily missed when the plant is down 'there' and your eyes are up 'here'. ;-)
It's such a low growing little herb there aren't many pics showing the height. The one above is the best I can find but looks very unappetising.
Yes, this is the challenge when taking photos. To me the plant in real life looks delicate and quite small-leaved yet the photos give a different impression. I'll have some trials and see what comes out - sometimes just adding a ruler or a coin gives some idea of scale especially with such a small delicate plant.
We have a really good crop of this growing at the moment in the shady patch next to the house. We get the other inedible weed too, it doesn't spread/sprawl like chickweed does.