Gardens, cultivated and waste ground.
Widespread and common throughout Europe.
A weak annual which tends to straggle and creep before it has reached any height.
It has lines of fine hairs down the stem.
Leaves: oval, bright green and soft.
Flowers: throughout the year, tiny white star-like flowers with five deeply divided petals.
Chickweed is generally regarded as a bane in gardens, but try using the chickweed instead of composting it. Those without gardens should be able to find some by any field edge, even in the winter months, but avoid areas that may have been sprayed with weedkiller.
The pale, soft green leaves of chickweed can be picked in almost any month of the year, except when there has been a hard frost. In fact they are often at their freshest in late autumm or early in the new year. They are one of the tenderest of wild greens, with a taste reminiscent of corn salad or mild lettuce.
The leaves are too small to be picked individually, so strip bunches of the whole plant; the stems are just as tender to eat as the leaves. Or choose the younger, greener sprigs more discriminately and cut with scissors.
(Avoid confusion with the stiff, hairy, mouse-ear chickweed, and the smooth, upright, red-stemmed petty spurge, which has a slight superficial resemblance to this chickweed.)
Wash the sprigs well, and put into a saucepan without any additional water. Add a knob of butter or a spoonful of oil, seasoning and some chopped spring onions.
Simmer gently for no more than 2 minutes (any longer and both taste and texture will go and the chickweed begin to resemble strands of green string), turning all the time. Finish off with a dash of lemon juice or a sprinkling of grated nutmeg.
Winter of Early Spring Salad
Mix young chickweed shoots with equal quantities of dandelion leaves, garlic mustard and hairy bittercreess (for a hint of pepperiness). Dress with a light, sharp saled dressing made from sunflower oil and lemon juice.