Field Bindweed

Scientific Name

Convolvulus arvensis

Family

Convolvulaceae

Habitat and Distribution

Cultivated land, dunes, hedgerows, roadsides, short turf, wasteland.

Flowers

May, July, August, and September

Safety Note

WARNING: Very experimental; tread cautiously.

Just because a plant was used as food in the past does not mean it is safe to eat. Borage and comfrey are classic examples of this. When you see a warning on these plant profiles like this, it is for a reason, consume at your own risk.

Bindweed contains several alkaloids, including pseudotropine and lesser amounts of tropine, tropinone, and meso-cuscohygrine.

Recently a scientist from a French university contacted me. She wrote

Here is an article about the distribution of ergot-alkaloids in different plant parts of several Ipomoea species, comparing untreated with fungicide-treated seeds to try to figure out how much was due to the plant (answer = probably some) and how much to the fungus (answer = more).

Admittedly I have found nothing on Convolvulus, but I suspect this means that nobody has looked, not that there is none.

The toxicity of Morning Glories was (in part at least) due to ergot-like producing micro-organisms that grow endophytically.

Because of this, since infection rates with these microbes can vary over time and space, but that some are very very toxic and disturbing, it may be best to avoid morning glories entirely.”

Edible Parts

Rhizomes, young shoots, young rosettes, young leaves, seeds.

Edible Uses

In Croatia, the leaves are boiled and eaten as a vegetable.

In China, tender young rhizomes with a few young leaves are gathered from sorghum fields in early spring, mixed with cracked wheat and ground beans and made into a thin gruel. They are used in very small amounts as too much will cause diarrhoea.

In Spain, in the regions of South Eastern Albacete and South Central Jaen, the flowers are sucked for their honey-like nectar. They are not eaten. In Palencia, the leaves are boiled before being added to salad.

In Turkey, they cook the leaves in with other vegetables.

In Ladakh, the leaves are eaten raw as well as cooked. The seeds are boiled in onion and tomato and then fried in oil before being eaten. Tender young leaves and shoots are boiled and washed extremely well with water before being mixed with curd in a dish called tangthour.

In Poland, at the end of the 19th century, young shoots were gathered and boiled, then fried with butter, cream, flour or eggs.

References

Couplan, F. & Coppens, Y. (2009) Le Régal végétal: plantes sauvages comestibles. Paris: Sang de la Terre.

Hu, S. (2005) Food plants of China. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Jain, S. K. (2016) Indian ethnobotany emerging trends. India: Scientific Publishers.

Kizilarslan, Ç. (2012) An ethnobotanical study of the useful and edible plants of Izmit. Marmara Pharmaceutical Journal. [Online] 3 (16), 194–200.

Luczaj, L. et al. (2013) Wild food plants used in the villages of the lake Vrana nature park (northern Dalmatia, Croatia). Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae. 82 (4).

Muthaiah, P. et al. (2010) Phytofoods of Nubra valley, Ladakh – The cold desert. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. 9303–308.

Pascual, J. & Herrero, B. (2017) Wild food plants gathered in the upper Pisuerga river basin, Palencia, Spain. Botany Letters. [Online] 1641–10.

Tardío, J. et al. (2006) Ethnobotanical review of wild edible plants in Spain. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society. [Online] 152 (1), 27–71.

Comment

  1. Ace! I’m a gardener and consequently dig much of this up ~ nice to know it has a use. I shall definitely try sucking the honey from the next flowers I find! 🙂

  2. A very knowledgeable and experienced Japanese-American forager, who knew Japanese and American edibles plants and mushrooms very well, told me that people in Japan dip the flowers of this plant in batter and deep-fry them, and have been doing so for centuries. This was 20 years ago, and I haven’t run into her since, but I consider her to be a reliable source of info.

  3. Hi Robin, I’ve been eating the young shoots of this plant for years- my Italian grandmother calls it ‘wild asparagus’ as it looks very similar. We boil it twice- once with vinegar, salt and a little sugar to counteract the bitterness, drain it and then boil it again in salted water. We then preserve it in olive oil. I’ve done extensive research on the internet and various social media sites and there is absolutely no literature that I can come across about the culinary uses of it! No one in my family who has eaten it over a long period of time has ever encountered any health issues and it is one of my favourite wild edibles, I just wondered whether there’s a chance that it’s just a completely misunderstood plant? Have you ever tried using it yourself?

    • Hi Francesca – Common names are not good to use, hence why using the botanical name means we are both talking the correct plant. It is my understanding that in Italy “wild asparagus” is usually Asparagus acutifolius. And please don’t try and get reliable information from social media! I’ve given up wasting my breath trying to point out the misinformation that abounds. There are even people deliberately giving false information, that could actually get someone killed. Sounds dramatic right? But I kid you not.

  4. It is definitely bindweed, hedge (Calystegia sepium) rather than field that we have been eating for years, I have a couple jars of it in my fridge as we speak! But from your response I feel that there may be some controversy surrounding the plant and I really don’t know enough about it to be advocating its use, I guess I can take my own risks but obviously I don’t want to harm anyone else. It’s sad that people are trying to sabotage the foraging community as amongst the false information, there is quite a lot of useful information that just isn’t in books. I’ve used your website for years and hence why I wanted the opinion of a reputable forager. The strange thing is that my parents swear that they saw it for sale in Lakelands about 10 years ago marketed as ‘wild asparagus’ in olive oil, selling for around £7 a jar. It seems as though it’s completely shrouded in mystery!

    • Some of the Indigenous Peoples of Australia would harvest blushing bindweed roots and crush them for flour to make dough with. I haven’t tried it myself, but it might be worth a go.

  5. My husband and I went for a drive to look for wild roses for our garden and I came across this plant and instantly fell in love. I haven’t tried eating it. We’re trying to root a small cutting as the actual roots were impossible to get to. I’ve read that it’s extremely aggressive, so I’m thinking about going a ways into our woods to plant it as opposed to putting it in the garden. But a raised bed of it might be nice and easier to control. I love most weeds. It’s sad that people aren’t being educated about the uses and benefits of FREE foods and medicinals. Is there a photo out there of a plant someone is eating from? That would put me more at ease.

  6. I have about 3 kg of fat white bindweed roots and am trying to find out if they are edible or should only be used in small quantities as medicinal and for what treatment- So its diuretic and laxative? And could be cooked twice and preserved in oil for adding to a meal? Is it worth it?

  7. I am constantly battling against bindweed in my garden but really would love to be able to use it rather than discard it, especially when I collect a big bucketful of plump roots…
    I’ve read the above comments and really feel I should be able to do something culinary/therapeutic with it, and would love someone to just guide me so I can go ahead and concoct creatively.
    Re the wild asparagus, I grew up in the countryside in the South of France and we used to pick these for Mum to make into a delicious omelette – we always found them at the base of olive trees: lovely thin, tall, tender asparagus 🙂

  8. Hi Robin,

    Thanks for this great resource. We have fields of bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and I won’t compost it or even take it to green waste – it’s such an invasive plant and every bit of root needs to be discarded. It strangles out our vegetables. I’ll take Japanese Knotweed any day of the week over this stuff1 (That one is a hugely useful and delicious plant – despite bad rap in UK).

    We grow for herbalists, but they’ve never heard of it used in therapeutic practice and don’t need it for tincturing.

    Have you personally eaten it? Is it safe to eat / toxic at all? We’d be willing to find any use for it other than the landfill. thanks!

    • I have lots of bindweed on my allotment. This year I’m going to try using it to make liquid plant feed by soaking it in water.

      Hopefully the water will eventually kill the bindweed roots so I can compost them and I can use the strained liquid to feed my tomatoes. Bindweed is deep rooting so perhaps contains valuable minerals for plant growth (much like comfrey or dock).

      This is an experiment – I have no idea how long it will take for the bindweed roots to perish underwater! I might also try putting some in my wormery to see if the worms can consume it and turn it into usable compost.

  9. Weeding this morning and love this website resource. I can tell you this plant grows EXTREMELY well during spring in Northern CA, USA and we would appreciate a redemptive use for it.

  10. I don’t understand why some commenters say that it resembles asparagus shoots. It looks nothing like asparagus! The shoots are tiny stems with tiny bindweed leaves. Are they talking about a different plant entirely? The asparagus comparison sounds more like hablitzia tamnoides (caucasian spinach), which does have green heart shaped leaves, but that’s about it for similarities. The Internet can be a very confusing place.

  11. Hello Robin, I came across your Instagram account which lled me here.

    This plant looks a lot like ‘kangkung’ that is widely consumed in South East Asian countries. The species name is Ipomoea aquatica. Same family, Convolvulaceae. I am wondering if it taste as equally delicious as ‘kangkung’. I have read some comments above and I’m thinking I will try to forage this plant here in Czech Republic in the coming spring. They are abundant. Just out of curiosity.

    Akidah.

  12. I’m in agreement that this is really just a nuisance plant!! The flowers are pretty, but it is so invasive and chokes out everything around it. It grows literally overnight and I spend much of my time pulling this stuff out of my perennial gardens all season– to no lasting avail. As fast as I pull it, it grows. I was hoping to find a good use for it, as I have loads of it, but I guess not. I live in the Northeast of the U.S. and it definitely thrives here.

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