Chickweed is often one of the first signs of life in spring. As soon as the ground thaws, every living creature looks to it for a shot of green energy, a relief from the long winter of foraging on seeds, bark, dried berries and frozen pine needles. In particular, newborn chicks are said scarf it down as soon as their mothers bring foraged bits to the nest.
It grows in almost every corner of the globe, from the equator to the arctic, but only in places that have been disturbed by humans — the true measure of what it means to be a weed. It is fine food for humans, as well, tasting as sweet and succulent as baby lettuce greens, but growing without any of the effort. It is a soft, gentle plant and is known for its peculiar habit of 'sleeping' at night, meaning the leaves curl in on themselves, perhaps an adaptation for germinating while evening temperatures are still quite cold.
People have foraged chickweed from the fields and forests around their villages for millennia, and in some place they still do. It is one of the seven herbs of nanakusa no sekku, a Japanese tradition of eating rice porridge infused with the first plants to emerge from the ground in spring. It is considered an elixir of longevity and thought to ensure good health in the coming year.