edible wild plants
I love Spring – all my favorite plants come up and I can get busy foraging – in between rain storms! – and start things tincturing, drying, infusing, and so on. Below is a great article on Spring plants you can use now.
Edible Plants To Forage In Early Spring
If you are like me, when winter begins to fade, my enthusiasm for early spring harvesting is high.
I cover myself well to avoid the mischief of ticks and insects, grab my basket, put a knife in it and a pair of kitchen scissors. Wearing a pair of gardening gloves off I go, searching for a foraging feast!
First I focus on procuring greens (and edible flowers). Then I march on to collect tubers, and lastly, I try to find items with different flavors to complete the meal.
Violets (Viola Spp.)
Violet flowers grow from the Mississippi up to the Canadian border in the Northern US.
The familiar blue or purple violet has serrated, heart-shaped leaves.
They are found along the fringes of the lawn or beneath trees in shady areas.
You may not have to look further for this herb than your backyard – how convenient!
Violets are high in vitamins C, A, and E. You can gather the leaves and the flowers in spring to add to your salad. The leaves can also go into the recipe in this article for Wild Greens stir fry.
Only forage this plant when it is in bloom. Otherwise, you may confuse the greens with other leaves that are not edible.
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetoscella)
Sheep Sorrel is a lettuce substitute.
Located throughout the United States, it has thick, pointed succulent leaves with a tapered tip, fashioned into pointed basal lobes.
You will find it in wastelands, wooded margins, and gardens in the spring.
Chop a cup or so and put it into a salad. Sheep Sorrel is high in oxalic acid so don’t consume more than a cup per day.
Nettle (Urtica Dioica)
Nettles thrive in the sun to part shade.
They prefer damp, wooded areas with rich soil or moist beds near water.
Young, springtime nettle leaves are consumed right from the plant after removing the sticker.
Related: How to Cook Spring Nettles
If you gather enough of them, you can add them to a salad like spinach.
Nettles are a superfood containing minerals, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, silica, vitamins C, B vitamins, and chlorophyll.
You must remove the stickers from the leaves and stems before consumption and always wear gloves when harvesting this herb. Please do not consume more than two tablespoons of this herb daily.
Nettles are a strong detoxifying herb. Detoxifying too quickly or without drinking enough water may cause a headache or nausea.
Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense)
Start gathering Red Clover flowers and leaves in early spring.
The plants grow close to the ground, with three leaflets that have a pale green stripe up the center.
The flower head is a rose-purple globe with tiny petals.
You will find it in sunny, open fields and meadows or sunny spots in your lawn or garden.
Incredibly rich in nutrients, Red Clover contains calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.
Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium Purpureum)
Another variety of nettle that is easy to find in the spring is Purple Dead Nettle.
It grows in the early to mid spring.
You will find these common clumps of heart-shaped edible leaves, serrated around the edges in part sun to shade fields, meadows and gardens.
In a circular fashion, the light green to purplish leaves the flowers grow, then there is a stem space and then a row of singular pink to purplish tubular flowers.
Use the leaves, flowers or stems in salads, soups, stews, casseroles or egg dishes. Purple Dead Nettle is not quite as strong as other nettle varieties but it is still a good idea to follow the contraindications.
How To Make Wild Greens Stir Fry
– 1 cups of finely chopped nettle leaves
– 1 cup of mixed wild greens
– 1 cup of finely chopped green cabbage
– 3 chopped edible mushrooms
– 1 clove of diced wild garlic
– 1 tablespoon of grated ginger root
– 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
-1 tablespoon lemon juice (add ¼ teaspoon of lemon zest if desired)
Sauté the mushrooms first for 15 minutes. Add the garlic, and ginger and cook for five minutes. Add the chopped greens at the end and toss for another five minutes.
Chickweed (Stellaria Media)
Chickweed can grow in your lawn during the early days of spring.
It thrives in mild climates yet can grow year-round.
Chickweed has a shallow root system and spreads rapidly. The stem is prostrate with multiple branches.
It is straggly, usually four to six inches long, and its leaves are small, opposite, oval, and flat with hairy petals. Its flowers are very white and small with a deep cleft, plus two parted petals.
You can think of Chickweed as wild lettuce. Parts used include leaves, flowers, and stems. Pick, wash and consume the aerial parts directly like lettuce and add them to sandwiches and salads.
How To Make Chickweed Stew
- Pick your favorite poultry, rabbit, or beef.
- Stew the meat as normal until it is tender.
- One-half hour before the meat is done add four chopped cups of Chickweed, one chopped potato, and two chopped carrots. Mix the ingredients and cover with water.
- Continue to stew for one-half hour. Cool and serve.
Fiddlehead Fern (Atherium Filix-femina)
Throughout the temperate Northern hemisphere you’ll find fiddleheads, curled up in damp, shaded forest areas waiting to give you their benefits.
They store nutrients copper, vitamins B3, C and A plus Manganese. They enhance immunity, decrease inflammation, and help build bone strength.
Pick the curl before it has matured and the leaves begin to show. Wash them well, the stems and heads are hairy, and sauté them (or eat them raw if you desire a very unique taste.
I recommend finding some Red Clover flowers and adding them to your sautéed fiddleheads. It makes an attractive and healthy combination.
Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale)
Any northeastern landscape without Dandelion seems unimaginable.
You find it on lawns, between cracks in the driveway, and in rocky areas with poor quality soil.
It is a highly nutritional herb, rich in vitamins A, C, B1, potassium, and minerals.
You can make an entire dinner with this plant! Pick the leaves and eat them fresh after washing, or put them in a salad.
Fry the flowers after you dip them in pancake batter to make a fritter. Last but not least, steep one tablespoon of the fresh roasted root in a quart of water, strain, and drink as a coffee substitute.
Contraindications: This is a diuretic. Take note that it can cause loose stools in the process of detoxification or diarrhea if it is overused.
Wild Asparagus (Asparagus Officianalis)
The light green spikes emerge in the early spring along roadsides and fence rows.
The easiest time to spot the plant is when the tall feathery adult plants rise up to three feet tall and have small, red berries attached. Parts used however are the spring spikes.
Consume just as you would regular asparagus. I like to chop mine up and put it into a quiche. Another option is to make an asparagus tortilla.
Wild Asparagus Tacos
- Cook the tortilla for less than a minute on either side.
- Add some shredded cheese (optional).
- Take it out of the pan and add some chopped wild greens.
- Lightly poach the asparagus spears until they are soft and an even brighter green.
- Roll them up in the tortilla.
Groundnuts (Apios Americana)
Groundnuts grow throughout the entire US except for southern California and lower Florida.
They climb, like a pea vine and have multiple tubers along the length of the root.
The leaves are compound, and feather-like.
You will find them on the edges of streams, bogs and thickets. Parts used include the seeds and tubers.
Related: How To Harvest These Seeds For SHTF
The younger tubers that are not so thick skinned taste the best. Cook them in the same way as a lentil bean or a potato. These tubers also make a perfect potato substitute and contain an astonishing 15 percent protein. You can peel and roast them along with your wild garlic.
Do not eat them raw. Raw groundnuts interfere with protein metabolism. Always cook groundnuts.
Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus Tuberosus)
Another tuber you can harvest during the spring is Jerusalem Artichoke.
The edible tubers are at the end of dried stalks leftover from last winter. You might have noticed the yellow daisies growing last summer, up to 20 feet high. Pull the stalk gently and you may find one or two tubers.
Underneath however, if you dig the tubers are in clusters and are quite plentiful. You can roast or cream them just like a normal potato.
You must wash these extremely well. I wash mine after soaking them and at the end I scrub them all over with a toothbrush.
Spicebush (Lindera Benzoin)
Look for this shrub in the early spring in rich woodlands and along streams.
It may grow up to fifteen feet tall with multiple spreading branches.
The key is the smell. The smooth branches give off a spicy odor when you scratch them with your fingernail.
Leaves are light green, smooth and small and pointed. Parts used include the bark, twigs and the berries.
Collect a handful of short twigs. Cut and tie them together and drop them into any stew to add a flavor similar to allspice. Dry and grind the berries into a powder to add to your spice breads or pumpkin pie just like allspice.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria Petiolata)
Garlic Mustard is very easy to find and is one of the first herbs of spring.
It grows prolifically in lowland woody areas in either shade or part sun.
The long sturdy stems rise upwards with triangular to heart-shaped, serrated, edible leaves that are soft to touch.
The greens grow for three weeks before tiny clusters of white flowers emerge from the juncture of the stem and leaf. Parts used include the aerial parts, leaves, stems (the young and tender ones), and flowers.
This herb is an excellent source of Vitamin C. It contains 190 mg of Vitamin C per 100 grams. Like Chickweed, you can spice up a salad or sandwich with them.
This herb should not be used by those with thyroid conditions because it makes iodine levels slightly fluctuate. For most, however, it is perfectly healthy.
How To Make Garlic Mustard Pesto
- Combine a cup of chopped garlic mustard leaves with one tablespoon of chopped onion, ¼ cup of parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup olive oil.
- Blend well in your mixer. Add a little water if required.
- Use as a sandwich spread or with any pasta or grain.
Wild Garlic (Allium Sativum)
Wild garlic and onion generally grow in the eastern half of the U.S..
Long narrow pencil-like stalk bulbs grow in clusters beneath the dirt attached to the stalks.
You can consume wild garlic in the same ways you would consume a regular bulb of garlic.
Wild garlic is delicious roasted. Cover it with olive oil and roast on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper and close the oven door. Leave the garlic in the over until the heat dissipates, then serve.
Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus Ostreatus)
Following an early spring rainstorm, as the temperature rises, search for decaying aspen trees.
The Oyster mushroom grows in a light to golden yellow, white or golden bunch on a dead beech or aspen tree.
It fans out layer by layer feeding off of the aspen tree.
The gills are whitish to yellowish and mature caps grow up to fifteen inches. In the spring they will be much smaller.
You must know exactly which mushroom you are harvesting. Check with a couple of trusted sources before consuming. Also, wild mushrooms should be cooked for twenty-five minutes before eating.
The next time the sun comes out, prepare for an adventure outdoors and a forager’s feast with these recipes! I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.
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Copyright © 2022 Ask a Prepper
I’m so in awe of my gorgeous neighborhood! We have edibles growing all over and I never knew this until I became an herbalist! Even during a pandemic we can go out and harvest (ethically and responsibly!) these growing plants to supplement and sustain us.
My only caveats in the following article, please don’t harvest plants that are within fifty (50) feet of the roadbed. These can contain contaminants that can’t be washed off, and see my note about Elderberry at the end.
15 Common Wild Plants You Never Thought Were Edible
If ever in a situation where you are lost or stranded in the woods or when SHTF, then you will be looking for alternative food sources. There are several things around you that you can eat, but you may have never considered. Wild plants are one such example. These can provide you with the needed nutrients and such, to keep you and your family from starving.
When foraging for these wild edibles it is important to remember that some of these plants will require some basic work before consuming, such as stripping down roots to get to the starchy substance in the middle, or even some grinding of some plant parts before consumption.
Ramps can be foraged for in the spring. They are kind of a mix between onion and garlic in flavor. The roots grow just below the soil and they grow in patches together.
When digging ramps, it is ideal to conserve the patch by cutting off the root ball with a sharp knife and taking the plant only; this is so you can come back to the same patch next spring. Every part of the ramp is edible and can be eaten raw or used in recipes.
There are different types of clover that grow in your yard, such as red clover and white clover. This is distinctive based on the color of the flower. Simple really. And not just livestock or wild rabbits can eat clover. The whole plant is edible and is best eaten while fresh or completely dried out.
Clover is very healthy for you as it helps ward off colds, reduce respiratory problems, and it is even said that it can purify blood and help ward off cancer. You can grind the leaves to make flour, but it’s a long process. The flower is the best part to eat. When preserving, you can dry the plant and flower head separately. Use a dehydrator, screen in a drying room, or very low temperatures in the oven. Once the plant is dried, you can store it in jars for use over the winter too.
Purslane is identified by the smooth reddish stems and leaves, that are opposite of each other. The flower is yellow with five regular parts and it opens any time of the year at the center of the leaf cluster. Purslane is a ground cover and has a deep root system. The stem, leaves, and flower buds are edible. You can eat it raw in a salad, use in a stir fry, or cooked in soups and other recipes. Purslane has a slightly sour taste. Raw purslane is 93% water.
The daisy is a childhood favorite of mine. I used to pick it for my mom and grandmas. I didn’t know you could eat them back then. The flower petals can be used as a garnish or in salads, and the leaves can be used on sandwiches or in salads. It is not recommended that you eat the yellow center of the daisy, as this is the pollen section of the flower.
If you have seen a body of water you have probably seen a cattail. The lower leaves can be used in salads, while the stem can be eaten raw or boiled. The cattail itself (the brown cigar shape at the top) can be roasted.
The yellow pollen that appears in midsummer can used as a thickener, and in bread and pancake mixes. The roots contain a lot of starches and can be dried and then pounded into flour, or you can strip it off and chew on it to get the starches and then spit out the tough part. Here are 10 delicious recipes you can make using cattails.
#6. Lamb’s Quarters
This wild edible looks dusty from a distance due to the white coating on the leaves. The plant produces little green flowers that are grouped together in clusters on the stem and upper branches. When eating lamb’s quarter, you can consume the leaves, shoots, seeds, and flowers. This plant does contain oxalic acid, but when cooked the acid goes away. You can blanch and freeze the leaves for later use. Lamb’s quarter is also good for salads and soups. It can also be sautéed or steamed, as well as a valuable addition to smoothies and juices.
#7. Milk Thistle
Milk Thistle is good for medicinal purposes but also for eating. You can eat the leaves and flowers as vegetables in a salad. The seeds can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or dried to eat as a snack. The plant has large bright purple flowers, and the leaves have white markings. When broken, a milky sap comes out.
#8. Wild Asparagus
Wild asparagus is edible. It is basically a plant that got transplanted from a seed head which traveled, and from there it started growing in the wild. You will find it along roads and in fields.
Look for the asparagus in the late spring to harvest it. If it gets too big, it is going to seed again. And you can return the next spring for a new harvest. Prepare the wild asparagus grilled or baked and seasoned. To store any extra wild asparagus, you can blanch it and freeze it, or seal in vacuum bags.
This plant can grow from 24 to 30 inches in height. It is topped with golden flowers that grow in clusters. The leaves taper to a point and have small teeth on the edge. The bottom of the leaf is kind of hairy and rough on the top, with three veins that run parallel along the length of the leaf. Goldenrod can be preserved in about any form, from drying to pickling. Dried flowers and leaves can be added to any meal for a nice flavor. They can also be used for tea. The roots can be harvested when young and dried, and used for soups and batter mixes. Leaves and flowers can be used in salads and soups. The stalk is tough but edible, especially if harvested young. It can be baked in the oven and made into a crispy snack.
Chickweed is best eaten fresh, but you can also eat it raw. The stem, leaves, flowers, and seed pods can be consumed. You can eat it raw in salads, or you can steam or sauté it. Simply take scissors and cut the amount that you desire.
Chickweed has little white flowers with five double lobes. The leaves are pointed and oval shaped. They grow in pairs across from each other. The leaves grow far apart on the length of the stem. There is a hairy type line that runs up the stem between the leaves.
#11. Stinging Nettles
The stinging nettle gets its name by the fact that it has little hairs or spines that irritate your skin, and can even leave welts due to a toxin in them. It is recommended that you only pick the top five to six leaves from the plant, when it is young and before the flowers start to form. To prep the nettles, simply soak them in cold salted water and then drain and dry them. You can freeze them for later use or use them immediately. Stinging nettles can be used as a replacement for spinach, and once cooked they lose their stinging ability.
Related: How to Cook Spring Nettles
#12. Queen Anne’s Lace
Queen Anne’s lace is also known as wild carrots. This plant has a large flat white flower, with a red or dark center. The stalk is hairy and the root resembles a carrot. It is best to eat the root in the first year, as in the second year it becomes more tough. The green tops are also edible, as you can boil them in soups and stews, or as greenery to dishes. If the stem is not fuzzy or hairy, then it is not Queen Anne’s lace and could be poisonous.
Sorrel is a plant that consists of leafy greens. It has an intense lemony flavor, that becomes more bitter as the leaves age and grow. The smaller leaves can be eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches. The larger leaves should be cooked to help get rid of the bitterness. There are three types of sorrel: red veined, broad leaf, and french. The red veined is self-explanatory, with a slender tapered leaf with red veins throughout it. The broad leaf has slender arrow shaped leaves. The french sorrel has small bell-shaped leaves.
Watercress has a peppery green flavor that goes great with other neutral greens. It can be found all year round in the stores, but it is best in the spring. It is a water grown leafy vegetable, hence the name. If watercress becomes wilted, simply shake it back with cold water, or wrap it in a damp paper towel and place it in a plastic bag.
You can use watercress by washing it and patting it dry, and then use it raw on sandwiches or in salads, sautéed or steamed.
We all have picked blackberries and raspberries, but there are other berries growing in your backyard that are perfectly safe and healthy to eat. Elderberries are ready for harvest in the fall. They grow on shrubs and are a purple to black berry that grows in clusters.
The elderberries must be ripe before consuming, and need to be cooked. This is what kills the astringent poison that they hold. Elderberries are great in syrups, wines, and in cobblers, pies and puddings.
There are many other plants and wild edibles that you can forage for. I am sure most of you can name at least two others that are not here. What other edibles can you name?
Article from The Lost Herbs, www.thelostherbs.com
Note on Elderberries: I use elderberries all the time in teas, tinctures, and syrups Generally in dry form though. Even when raw they do not need to be cooked prior to consumption – it is the seeds that sometimes cause problems. “Elderberries and elderflowers are generally safe for everyone. The raw seeds can make some people nauseous if they eat too many of them. Cooking them diminishes this effect. I have heard from a couple of people that the commercially bought elderberry powder can cause vomiting (presumably due to the seeds in the powdered product). Herbmentor.com Herbal Info: Elder” If you are concerned about raw elderberries, then please follow your instincts and cook them first.