Is Lady’s Thumb Edible?

If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. This is a general safety rule that applies to everything and it’s especially true when it comes to plants. Some plants are perfectly safe to eat, while others seem safe but are in fact poisonous, and will make you sick. So, with that in mind, which one is lady’s thumb?

Is lady’s thumb edible? Yes, every part of Lady’s Thumb is edible, and has a flavor that’s similar to lettuce. It’s best eaten from mid-spring to late fall, and can be eaten either cooked or raw.

lady's thumb leaf in hand close-up
lady’s thumb leaf in hand close-up

What is Lady’s Thumb?

Originally from Europe, Lady’s Thumb is an annual, competitive summer weed with football-shaped leaves and pink, purple, or white flowers.

The plant can be identified by a ‘smudge’ on the leaves ,which looks like a partial thumbprint – hence the name. All parts of this plant (stems, leaves, and flowers) are edible, and can be eaten either cooked or raw.

It’s easily identified and is found throughout much of the USA and Mexico, as well as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Mature plants can stand between 8 and 40 inches (20 and 100 cm high), and can have leaves up to 6 inches (15 cm) long.

Apart from being edible, you can use it to alleviate poison ivy and stomach cramps/pain and, if you rub it on horses, it acts as a natural insect repellent.

Where is it Found?

So, where do you typically find Lady’s Thumb? Well, a few common places to find this weed are:

  • Rice fields
  • Barley fields
  • Grain fields
  • Shady areas
  • Pastures
  • Areas with seasonal floods
  • Areas of moist soil
  • Vegetable patches/fields

Culinary Uses for Lady’s Thumb

Lady’s Thumb can be used to enhance the flavor of a salad, or as edible salad garnish. Usually, plants like Lady’s Thumb are very, for lack of a better description, loud. They have strong, pronounced flavors that can be a bit overwhelming at times.

Lady’s Thumb, however, is very mildly flavored and so it doesn’t have that overwhelming quality. This makes it ideal for enhancing flavors in food.

The leaves can be either whole or chopped, and thrown into your salads to add an extra layer of flavor to it. You can cook them or eat them raw – depending on personal preference – and the flowers can be used as edible salad garnish.

Now I’m Hungry

All this talk of salads has got me ravenous! I hope you guys enjoyed the article and that you found it informative. It should be obvious, but please don’t randomly eat a plant that you think is edible – make sure you know what it is before you eat it.

As always, I’d like to say thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you for the next one very soon.

1 thought on “Is Lady’s Thumb Edible?”

  1. There are so many varieties of “Smartweed AKA Lady’s Thumb.” There seems to be at least one harmful variety that is very, very peppery. Back home on the farm in NW IL we had the plant commonly referred to as “Pigweed.” Looks very similar to what you show. It grew, of course, in our “pig pasture.” I do not know if the pigs ate it, but it never stopped them from fighting for the “hog slop” I hauled them daily. By the end of summer the pasture had a very pretty pink hue from all the blossoms. You or Greg Seebregts seem to have a very mild variety. I am interested in buying or trading seeds from your variety. I have an unusual edible weed in my Liberty (Kansas city), MO garden that is seeding out at this time called Patience Dock. It is a very mild variety of the Dock family. It is prevalent in the eastern states, I have read. I use it as a soup green, and a gravy green for “green gravy.” But most often use it for “sandwich lettuce.” It stays fresh for a couple of weeks in our fridge after harvest, so it is “convenient.” The only thing I criticize is that it is not crisp like Romaigne or head lettuce. It is rather limp or soft-leaved – even at harvest. But it does not detract from its year round use and flavor. Yes, year round. It is very dark green – which signals me that it is nutrient rich. The roots are perennial and go deeply. You will want to control it’s spread by cutting off the seed heads as I do. Letting one plant go to dry seed head so I have seeds to share with everyone/anyone. The seed stalks look like Rhubarb stalks. It is easy to find info on-line about Patience Dock.. One other thing as I think of it – is that the ribs in the leaves which I personally eat sparingly are a good complement or substitute for Asparagus, which I have in abundance. The leaves are soft and “sweet/mild” all season, even as the plant matures through the year. There is no sulfur smell to my urine after eating it, unlike asparagus. I consider it a surprisingly well-kept secret as a very edible garden plant.


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