Meet the ‘weed eaters’: Urban foragers on a mission to diversify your diet

Instead of bok choy, one woman opts for a weedy plant called amaranth. In fact, she has an entire list of edible weeds.
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 1:22 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:37 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gaye Chan is into what’s known as urban foraging. The University of Hawaii at Manoa professor picks plants we see as unsightly weeds and adds them to her daily diet.

“I started doing research on it and realized the things I had been yanking out for years, cursing them, are actually edible and delicious,” she said.

Instead of bok choy, Chan opts for the weedy plant called amaranth. In fact, she has an entire list of edible weeds that anyone can find for free and consume.

“They are already there likely in your yard, some of them, at least,” she said.

Chan and fellow UH professor Bundit Kanisthakhon are with a group called Eating in Public that teaches people how to choose wild plants and how to cook with them.

Kanisthakhon gets surprised reactions at his cooking demonstrations.

“They say, ‘We didn’t know that it can be eaten.’ That’s something that we can try to educate them more and more by tasting it,” he said.

Weed eating comes with a warning.

Chan said you have to know which plants are safe to eat. She urges people to forage only in areas free of weed and pest poisons, to thoroughly rinse what they gather, and to take only what they need.

“It’s really about looking at resources more holistically and responsibly,” she said.

Eating in Public believes some wild plants have an added bonus.

“A lot of these plants also have tremendous medicinal value, something that I’m just starting to do research on,” Chan said.

“I think it’s good for the system. At least it has a lot of fiber,” Kanisthakhon said.

You can’t beat the convenience.

“When we need some vegetables for dinner, I don’t have to go to the store. I just go outside and cut down some weeds and we’re all set.” Chan said.

To find out more about the dos and don’ts of weed eating, go to the Eating in Public website.