If you think everything in your yard that isn't grass must be a nuisance, you're missing out—on a free lunch. Those pesky weeds invading your lush green patch of paradise are actually valuable foods, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and protein, sometimes even more nutritious than what you'll find at the grocery store. Things like dandelions and clovers are commonly found in American lawns, and if you pick them early, you'll get an incredibly sweet, nutritious addition to your next meal.
Here are some suggestions for finding free munchies in your backyard. Just remember to ID them with a credible source if you’re not plant-savvy—there's even an app for that! If you've got a smart phone, download the Wild Edibles app created by Steve Brill, a botanist known for giving edible-plant tours of New York City's Central Park. Also, wash your harvest thoroughly before consuming, and steer clear of areas that may have been treated with chemicals or pesticides.
Perhaps the most familiar lawn weed of them all, the dandelion may also be the weed that’s most known to be edible. In fact, the reason it exists in the U.S. is that European settlers introduced it as a salad green. You can buy dandelion greens at some specialty food markets, but odds are, there are some growing, for free, a whole lot closer to you. They have a slightly bitter taste when they mature, so harvest the tender leaves that appear in early spring and in late fall, when they're sweetest. The flowers are edible too and have a mildly bittersweet flavor. And eat them up! Dandelions have more beta-carotene than carrots.