The Hobart

How To Identify Useful Local Weeds

by Sarah Aitken
How To Identify Useful Local Weeds

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them,” so said Eyeore, in a rare moment of positivity. As much as we despise their invasive natures, some weeds – when foraged and prepared correctly – can be useful, nutritious and even delicious.

Sarah Aitken spoke with local permaculture educator Hannah Moloney about making the most of the weeds in our own backyards.

If you have a toddler in your life you’ll likely know the joy of finding and blowing a perfectly spherical dandelion seed head, but have you ever eaten the leaves or petals? They can bring vibrancy to a salad, or the leaves – high in Vitamin A, K, calcium and iron – can be cooked like spinach.

“I love using the leaves in a smoothie!”  Hannah said, “or I put a small amount in salads (they’re incredibly nutritious) and the roots can be made into a dandelion tea once you roast and grind them up.”

Some even claim it’s a delicious substitute for coffee, or the entire plant can be soaked and turned into a ‘fertiliser tea’, a real boost for your garden.


“The elder tree can be seen all around Hobart and beyond,” said Hannah. “People will harvest the berries to make jams, sauces, wines, juices and the flowers to make more wine and Champagne, and teas. It also has a whole bunch of medicinal properties.”

Now is the time to forage for the last of the season’s elderberries – tiny glossy black-red berries that grow in large bunches on leafy green trees, often along creeks.

A bunch of elder

Declared a Weed of National Significance and detested by environmentalists and landowners alike, blackberries are notoriously difficult to get rid of. The good news is, their berries are high in Vitamin C, folate, and their anthocyanins might work as an anti-inflammatory, an anti-oxidant and to assist with brain function as we age. The berries can be eaten raw, made into a delicious jam, or added to baked goods. The leaves can also be fermented and used as a tea. Punnets of the berries go for $4/125g in the shops yet they are truly abundant, for free, in Tasmania throughout late summer and spring.


Once you learn to identify wild fennel’s pretty yellow flowers dancing on the ends of their narrow stalks you’ll see them everywhere – particularly on the side of busy roads. Their fronds and stalks can be cooked up, but Hannah prefers their seeds. “It pops up in our garden and we’ll harvest the seed heads to use in cooking and fermenting (it’s a nice flavour in kimchi or sauerkraut).”

Sadly, unlike their farmed variety, wild fennel plants do not grow a bulb to roast.

Other local weeds worth foraging include hawthorn, rosehip, purslane, chickweed and stinging nettle.


NOTE: Please do thorough research on any plant you intend to forage for consumption, and never eat anything you cannot identify beyond doubt. If you’re foraging beyond your own yard

“Make sure they haven’t been sprayed by local authorities or landowners. If you’re not sure, best to not eat them,” Hannah said.

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July 2022

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