Wild Edibles in Spring
If you’re like me, the return of Spring finds you searching your property for every bit of wild edible Spring green you can devour. This typically means a lot of Spring salad made with fresh “weeds.” This is not a bad thing, in moderation, but it’s hard to think of moderation just out of winter!
I always think about our cow, Ruby, at this time of year. After being cooped up in the barn and small pasture all winter she was ready for the flush of new green grass she could see beyond the fence. When we let her out to graze we always kept an eye on her and limited the amount she ate the first few times. In her haste to get all the fresh green she could chew she didn’t have the wisdom of moderation and would easily end up with a belly ache.
Why Moderation Matters With Spring Greens
Spring greens are delicious and nutritious. They are also very cooling and they contain some self-defense mechanisms that are important to understand.
Spring is a transition season. Over one weekend we can see everything from temperatures in the 80s to snow. Many people put on shorts and sandals at the first sign of flowers and sun, then pay for it later with a Spring cold. Spring foraged greens that are eaten raw are cooling to the system at a time when we still need to keep our inner thermostat running warm. Too many cooling foods at a time of transition can open us up to illness, even as we benefit from the rich vitamins and minerals these greens contain.
Spring is a time of lush new growth. The plants are investing a lot of their resources into getting their green parts above the ground. In this first stage of growth they are very vulnerable. A hungry grazer that comes along and mows down all the members of a species in an area could affect their survival. Once these plants get taller they can afford to share a few of their leaves, but when they’re tiny, one bite can mean a situation where they can’t perform photosynthesis. For this reason, tiny Spring greens are often filled with chemicals that can irritate the digestion.
Edible Plants: What Can We Eat?
The answer is the same for both of the problems related to fresh Spring greens: VARIETY!
As you feast this Spring, make sure you are using a variety of foraged foods, and also varying your meal preparation methods.
Try a dinner with steamed nettles as a side dish followed by a lunch of a foraged greens salad. Steaming your greens will deactivate those defensive digestive chemicals and add warmth to your body. (Read more here about why greens should be steamed.) Better yet, keep in mind it’s still soup season. It’s a good idea to dig some of the Spring roots such as burdock and dandelion and add them in.
Below are lists of edible leaves and roots to start incorporating into meals in moderation this Spring:
Spring Leaves for Munching
- Chickweed (Stellaria media)
- Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
- Nettles (Urtica dioica)
- Plantain (Plantago spp.)
Roots Ready for Harvest
- Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
- Burdock (Arctium lappa)
- Evening Primrose (Oenethera biennis)
Need help identifying these plants?
If you’re not SURE of the plant’s identity, do not eat it. Searching the Internet for images of each plant is good, but be sure to use the scientific names we list above, and make sure your identification is 100% accurate. Again, if you’re not SURE of the plant’s identity, do not eat it!
To be more positive about your identification DIY Natural highly recommends the following books for identification of wild edibles:
- Nature’s Garden: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants
- The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants