New Ingredients Sprout From the Cracks

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chicory is best known to suburbanites as a destroyer of lawns and gardens. But when Linda Hezel, a former nurse practitioner, spotted the enormous weed growing inside one of her large raised garden beds, she chose not to uproot it.

Instead, she clipped off a leaf and popped it into her mouth.

Ms. Hezel, 61, runs Prairie Birthday Farm, a 15-acre, pesticide-free homestead about 20 miles from downtown Kansas City where she forages for — and even cultivates — nuisance species like bedstraw, chickweed, henbit, dandelion, wild bergamot, red clover, dead nettle, lambs-quarters, wood sorrel, purslane and plantain (the leafy variety, not the banana).

In the four years since she began nurturing weeds to extend her growing season and offset losses, she has become a key supplier to a band of enterprising chefs who are reshaping fine dining in Kansas City, long considered a steakhouse town. Their menus have expanded in turn, offering seasonal and regional dishes that go beyond what had previously been seen at restaurants in many parts of the heartland.



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