forage forsythia

14 Amazing Edible and Medicinal Plants to Forage in the Spring

The Outdoor Apothecary is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Early spring brings warmer temperatures and often a mixed bag of weather. Some days are sunny, but most of the time rain is in the forecast. However, that’s not going to stop you from getting out to forage the great food and medicine that nature has to offer this time of year. So, pack your basket and head outside for a bit of foraging fun and enjoy the season!

forage

One thing I’ve learned during this pandemic is that I actually like the slower pace of life. I have never minded being home, in fact I’m a big homebody, but I have found that I really enjoy not having as many obligations. I like having more time to enjoy my home and family. I hope you are also enjoying and making the best of this slower pace as well.

I have noticed that the situation we are in has sparked an interest in many people to explore simple living, herbalism, gardening, and a more sustainable, natural lifestyle.

I have always loved these things and it does my heart good to see others embracing this lifestyle. I firmly believe that a life closer to nature can be such a benefit for our health and for mental wellness.

One way we can further embrace this lifestyle is to start eating closer to the way our ancestors did. Search out and learn about the wild foods available where you live. I truly believe that there is magic in these wild plants and valuable medicine as well, that we’ve only just begun to understand.

Foraging & Wildcrafting your own food and medicine is so important, for a few reasons.

First, is that by learning to identify, forage, and harvest our own food makes us self reliant in a way that not much else could.

Let’s not forget the incredible health benefits that come from consuming wild plants. These plants, thriving in their natural habitats, are often packed with a higher concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to their cultivated counterparts. 

Moreover, wild plants are free from the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides found in conventional agriculture. This means when we forage, we’re not only getting more nutrients but also avoiding potentially harmful chemicals. It’s a win-win for our health and the environment.

Incorporating these wild edibles into our diet can offer a broader spectrum of nutrients, some of which are rare or less abundant in cultivated varieties. This diversity in our diet is not just beneficial; it’s essential for our body’s complex system. It’s like tapping into a rich, ancient source of nutrition that has been sustaining humans for millennia. Isn’t it fascinating how reconnecting with these wild foods can bring us closer to our roots and improve our health simultaneously?

Also, getting out in nature is just plain good for us and has been scientifically proven to have significant health benefits, both for the body and mind. Foraging can also be good exercise if it involves any amount of walking.

Lastly, wildcrafting your own food and medicine connects us to nature more deeply and helps us to become attuned to the rhythms of the seasons, something that our ancestors likely understood very well, but we seem to have lost. Finding and preparing your own food helps us to reclaim some of that lost ancestral wisdom…how amazing is that!

I’m sure there are more, but those are what really stand out to me, and why I keep doing it!

What to Forage in Spring

Spring is a great time to get started with foraging. Many of the plants that grow well in spring are easy to identify and delicious to eat. It’s also the time when many medicinal plants start to grow again after their winter nap. My spring foraging list includes some of my favorite wild edibles, as well as a few medicinal plants that are just starting to come out in the late winter or early spring (depending on your location).

This list of what to forage in spring will help you get started on your spring foraging adventure! You may find yourself picking up a few new tricks of the trade or even discovering a new favorite seasonal vegetable or medicinal herb.

chickweed identification

Chickweed

Chickweed is a common weed that we can easily overlook in our yards. The good news is that it’s an edible and medicinal plant with many health benefits! It’s a fantastic source of vitamins A, D, and C, and traditionally, it’s been used to soothe skin conditions and aid digestion. Chickweed can be eaten raw in salads, cooked like spinach, or added to smoothies, offering a slightly nutty flavor. Read more to learn chickweed identification, health benefits, poisonous look-alikes…and more!

dandelion jelly

Dandelion

This common weed is not only nutritious but it has been used for centuries in herbal medicine to treat a variety of ailments. Dandelion has been used for thousands of years to help the body get rid of toxins. Modern research confirms that dandelion increases bile production and stimulates digestion. This aids in the detoxification process. Additionally, dandelion leaves are rich in potassium, making them a great natural diuretic, and dandelion root is often used to support liver health.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Foraging for Fiddlehead Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) is a great adventure and shouldn’t be missed! These young fern fronds are not only delicious but also rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as iron and fiber. However, it’s crucial to cook them properly to avoid any potential health risks. How to safely identify, forage, harvest, and prepare fiddlehead ferns.

Forsythia

Forsythia can be eaten and used for medicine. The flowers are high in phenolic compounds, which have antioxidant properties. In traditional medicine, forsythia has been used to treat inflammation and various infections. In this article, I will show you the benefits and uses for forsythia as well as how make a tincture, tea, syrup, and salve using this lovely plant.

garlic mustard weed

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. It’s also rich in vitamins A and C, and has medicinal properties that include being a natural antiseptic.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

Often seen as an invasive nuisance, Japanese knotweed actually harbors edible and medicinal qualities. Its young shoots, reminiscent of tart rhubarb, are delicious and can be used in various recipes. These shoots are best when tender, typically at 6-10 inches tall. Medicinally, the roots are particularly valuable, containing resveratrol, an antioxidant also found in grapes, known for supporting heart health and reducing inflammation. This plant is a perfect example of finding value and health benefits in the most unexpected places.

lilacs

Lilac

The first thing most people think about when lilacs come to mind is the scent. Lilac blooms are so fragrant, that you’ll smell them before you see them. I enjoy using lilacs in my home decor, but I’ve found an even better use for them: in food! Edible lilacs are a spring treat that can’t be beat. The flowers are not only edible, but also offer a subtle floral flavor to dishes and can be used to make fragrant syrups and infusions. Try them in one of these amazing recipes.

milkweed

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. Milkweed also contains cardiac glycosides which are believed to support heart health, though they should be consumed in moderation.

Pine Needles

Pine needle tea is not only delicious but also packed with vitamin C. It’s one of the herbs easily foraged any time of the year. Beyond vitamin C, pine needles contain several antioxidants, which can help combat colds and boost overall immune health. Try this super simple recipe for pine needle tea.

Purple Dead Nettle

Purple dead nettle is a highly nutritious wild edible herb that also has many medicinal properties. It’s a great source of iron, vitamins, and fiber. Medicinally, it’s known for its anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties, making it beneficial for allergies and inflammation. Learn how to identify, prepare and use purple dead nettle.

Ramps

One of the first things I look forward to in early spring is foraging for ramps. They’re nutritious, delicious, and versatile as to their culinary uses. Ramps are rich in vitamins A and C and have a garlicky-onion flavor that enhances any dish. Medicinally, they’ve been used to boost immune health and are known for their antibacterial properties. Learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare.

Stinging Nettles

The health benefits of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) have been appreciated for thousands of years. This plant is a powerhouse of nutrients, including iron, magnesium, and calcium, and has been used traditionally to treat allergies and reduce inflammation. When cooked, nettles lose their sting and can be used similarly to spinach, offering a rich, earthy flavor. Learn about how to find, identify, harvest, and prepare them. Don’t forget to wear gloves!

trout lily uses

Trout Lily

There are many yellow trout lily uses. From being an ancestral food source to having many medicinal properties. The leaves and bulb are edible, with a slightly sweet and cucumber-like flavor. Medicinally, it’s been used by Native Americans for a variety of ailments, including skin diseases and fever. Learn more about this little talked-about plant that in my opinion deserves more attention.

Usnea

Usnea is a great medicinal plant to forage and to have on hand as a tincture. Perfect for when you feel a cough or cold coming on. This lichen is known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, making it a go-to remedy for respiratory infections. It’s also been used in wound healing due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Learn how to forage Usnea and make a medicinal tincture.

foraging violets

Violets

Violets tend to grow plentifully, in fact, are often considered invasive, which is good for us foragers and wildcrafters. This allows us to forage violets til our hearts content! Violets are not only beautiful, but are rich in vitamins A and C. Medicinally, they have been used for their soothing properties to relieve coughs and sore throats. The flowers and leaves are both edible, adding a sweet flavor and vibrant color to salads and desserts. Learn how to forage and how to use this delicious and medicinal plant.

Ethical Considerations of Foraging & Wildcrafting

Wild foraging isn’t just going out into the woods and picking whatever you find. There are several other considerations that should factor into your decision-making process before you even think about heading out to forage something:

  • Is what you’re looking for in-season?
  • Is it located in an ethically harvested area?
  • Is it abundant enough that harvesting it won’t harm the population? (For anything annual or short-lived)
  • What effect will removing this plant have on the ecosystem around it?

There’s lots more to consider, so if you are new to the concept of wildcrafting, here is an article on ethical wildcrafting to get you started: 9 Basic Principles of Ethical Wildcrafting for Beginners

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.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top