Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

weed a term applied to unwanted and troublesome plants. The classic definition is ‘a plant in the wrong place’. This was amended by Celia Thaxter (1894) to read: ‘a plant which has an innate disposition to get into the wrong place.’

What is a weed to some people may be a prized edible to others. The point was emphasized by Patience Gray (1986) when she entitled a book on food and cookery in certain Mediterranean regions Honey from a Weed, echoing a verse by William Cowper. The dandelion is one of very many examples. There is also reasonable confusion with wild foods as described by, among many others, Euell Gibbons (1962), Phillips (1983), and Mabey (1972), though Vivien Weise (2004) confines her recipes to the more evidently rank and troublesome plants in our gardens.