Botanical Name: Stellaria media
It’s very easy to miss chickweed if you aren’t looking for it, with its tiny star like flowers and shade-loving miniature leaves.
The flowers are white with 5 very deeply split petals. If you look at the photo below, you can see the detail of the petals which can appear to be 10 instead of 5 at first glance.
Chickweed usually dies back as the weather gets warmer and drier, but will occasionally pop back up in the fall as the weather gets cooler and more moist. You will have a difficult time finding it anywhere it stays hot or is extremely dry, but if you live in a temperate area, keep your eye out for it! Chickweed likes to pop up and grow in a type of tangly mat which actually makes it easier to forage To gather you will just grab a chunk of it and, using sharp scissors or a knife, clip straight across.
The biggest identifying characteristic is the line of tiny hairs that runs down the stem. So if you find a small plant with white, star-like flowers without the line of hairs, you have a lookalike and not chickweed.
Chickweed is great in salads, on sandwiches and mixed in smoothies. You can sprinkle it on soups or use it as a spinach substitute in just about anything. It’s also a great herb for making pesto – simply replace the basil (or nettles) with chickweed.
Medicinally, my favorite chickweed preparation is infused oil. I allow the chickweed to dry for a couple of days, then steep it in oil (usually olive oil). It makes a wonderful, soothing oil that I can turn into lip balm, salve or lotion. It’s both moistening and nutritive, leading to my next favorite preparation: the Nourishing Herbal Infusion. The long steep of chickweed in water draws out the plethora of vitamins and minerals held in its cells.
If you have children, chickweed is a great herb to hunt for since it’s easy to positively identify by that line of hairs running down the stem.