I hope you’re enjoying this warmer weather and have been getting outside in nature… it’s so good for the soul! Today I’m sharing how easy it is to adopt a more ancestral diet and 12 easy wild edible plants to find for yourself.
I’m sure I mentioned before that Spring is my very favorite time of year. As the days get warmer, I’m able to spend more time outdoors (my happy place). I’ve been taking some long walks and have foraged for some delicious wild foods such as ramps, dandelions, violets, chickweed, forsythia, yellow trout lily, and purple dead nettle. Some of these I used for food and some for medicine…and some for BOTH!
I love knowing that many of these same plants made up the diets of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and continued long after established agriculture began. Our ancient ancestors seemed to know the healing properties of these foods. In fact, far from a recent food ‘trend’, wild foods once constituted a kind of “medicinal cuisine” enjoyed by our ancestors around the world, and as herbalists have long known, many wild foods are so chock full of healing nutrition they are a veritable medicine.
While many of these plants still graced our grandparent’s dinner plates, filled their pantries and medicine cabinets just a few generations ago, today they’re either forgotten or classified as weeds and something to be eradicated. I believe it’s no coincidence that modern chronic diseases have run rampant as wild foods disappeared from our diet. We can take back our health by adopting an ancestral diet and eating foods found closer to home.
So what exactly is an ancestral diet?
Now you might be wondering what exactly IS an ancestral diet? It’s actually quite simple. The concept of the ancestral diet is about avoiding modern, processed, industrialized foodstuffs.
These days, most people eat a diet full of highly processed foods filled with preservatives. But these foods aren’t real; they are heavily processed products made with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Eating ancestrally means avoiding these processed goods and focusing on real food – food that is as close to its natural state as possible. Ancestral food doesn’t have ingredients – it is the ingredients!
Some people get confused and think that an ancestral diet means you have to mimic exactly what our ancestors ate, but this is a false belief. To eat ancestrally, you simple eat food in its most natural state that our ancestors would have had reasonable access to. Below are a few examples:
- grass-fed, wild animals
- wild seafood
- pastured chicken and eggs
- organic fruits and vegetables
- wild edible plants
- healthy, traditional fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, lard, butter, etc.
- grass-fed, full-fat raw dairy
- fermented foods
It’s easy to see why an ancestral diet has become popular recently: it’s a lifestyle that appeals to people who are concerned about the impact of the foods they eat on their health and who want to know more about where their food comes from.
Looking to your own backyard
One way to embrace an ancestral diet is to look to your backyard and nearby wild spaces. Yep, you heard me right, there are often nutritious foods to be found right in your own backyard or nearby growing wild in the form of wild edible plants and weeds.
These are wild plants that are not cultivated for food and yet can be used as food. They often grow vigorously just about everywhere, including in backyards, forests, and fields, so they’re readily available no matter where you live. Many are also extremely nutritious and therefore great additions to an ancestral diet.
If you have not used spring flowers or weeds for food or medicine, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to take back some of that early ancestral knowledge? To learn more about ancestral eating and how to adopt a more ancestral diet and what it really means, check out this article Wild Edible Foods and Ancestral Eating. You might be surprised to find out how easy it is to do it even in our modern times.
Here are some easy spring foods that you might want to consider gathering for food, medicine, or to start a more ancestral diet.
Wild edible plants and weeds are a great choice for anyone who wants an easy way to incorporate more whole foods into their diet while saving money. They’re free and quite simple to find if you know what you’re looking for. Each one I’ve written about on my blog so If you want to read more, simply click on the links.
- Mullein – The health benefits of mullein are many and varied. Mullein is a valuable herb for treating respiratory illness, coughs and congestion and can be taken as tea. For earache, it can be applied to the inner ear as an oil or even used as a poultice for healing.
- Dandelion– There are so many health benefits of dandelion, from its amazing vitamin content to its skin healing. There are few weeds that can rival it. A couple of my favorite things to make with it are dandelion salve which is wonderful for hard-working hands, and dandelion root tincture which can be used to support overall health and wellbeing as well as for liver, kidney, digestive, and gallbladder support.
- Purple dead nettle– Purple dead nettle is a highly nutritious wild edible herb that also has many medicinal properties. I like to use it in this basic salve containing just 2 (or 3) ingredients. It can be used on itchy, dry, irritated, chapped, or sore skin.
- Chickweed – Aside from its edible and culinary uses, chickweed has many medicinal benefits, like this chickweed tea.
- Forsythia – In addition to their cheery presence, there are a surprising number of other uses for forsythia. Their flowers and young leaves can be eaten and their fruit is used for medicine. In fact, I use it for medicinal tea, forsythia syrup, forsythia Infused Oil, and forsythia salve.
- Violets– These are a delicious culinary treat and add an elegant touch to cakes, cookies, and baked goods. They are also healing herbs with anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and diuretic properties. A few easy preparations are violet simple syrup and violet honey.
- Ramps – One of the first things I look forward to in early spring is foraging for ramps. They’re nutritious, delicious, and versatile in their culinary uses. Learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare.
- Yellow Trout Lily – There are many yellow trout lily uses. From being an ancestral food source to having many medicinal properties. Learn more about this little talked-about plant that in my opinion deserves more attention.
- Fiddleheads – Foraging for Fiddlehead Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is a great adventure and shouldn’t be missed! How to safely identify, forage, harvest, and prepare fiddlehead ferns.
- Garlic Mustard – Garlic Mustard is an unassuming wild green with a pleasant peppery taste that is reminiscent of arugula. This wild plant with delicious flavor is easy to identify and prepare, so it’s the perfect plant to start your foray into foraging.
- Stinging Nettles – The health benefits of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) have been appreciated for thousands of years. Learn about how to find, identify, harvest, and prepare them.
- Milkweed -One of my favorite wild spring edibles is milkweed. You heard that right…milkweed is edible and delicious! When cooked up, they taste and have a similar texture to asparagus, and yes, you can harvest them sustainably without any harm to the Monarchs.
Many of these wild plants are also crucial for the survival of certain pollinators, butterflies, or bumblebees, so leave plenty for them and consider growing and/or spreading native plants around if you can.
If you’re looking for a way to eat sustainably, eating what’s indigenous to your region is the best way to go. And if you’re interested in eating a more ancestral diet, eating some of these spring foods that have been around since the beginning of time can be a great first step towards making your diet healthier and more sustainable. The fact that they’re free and often easy to find only sweetens the deal.
Disclaimer: outdoorapothecary.com is informational in nature and is not to be regarded as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. While we strive to be 100% accurate, it is solely up to the reader to ensure proper plant identification.
Some wild plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, nor are we nutritionists. It is up to the reader to verify nutritional information and health benefits with qualified professionals for all edible plants listed in this website. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the guidance of your qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition.