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!


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 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


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 is a versatile plant that can be enjoyed in various ways. The flowers are rich in phenolic compounds, known for their antioxidant properties. Traditionally, forsythia has been used in remedies for managing inflammation and various ailments. In this article, I will explore the benefits and uses of forsythia and guide you on how to make a tincture, tea, syrup, and salve with this beautiful plant.

garlic mustard weed

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard is an unassuming wild green with a pleasant peppery taste reminiscent of arugula. This wild plant, with its delicious flavor, is easy to identify and prepare, making it a perfect choice for those new to foraging. It’s also rich in vitamins A and C, and has traditionally been used for various purposes, including as 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.



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.



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 support 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 and a great source of iron, vitamins, and fiber. It’s valued for its traditional use in supporting the body during allergy season and in soothing minor irritations. Discover how to identify, prepare, and enjoy purple dead nettle in your meals and natural wellness routines.


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. Ramps are rich in vitamins A and C and have a garlicky-onion flavor that enhances any dish. Traditionally, they’ve been valued for their role in supporting overall health and well-being. Learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare this wonderful wild green.

Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) has been valued for thousands of years for its nutritional richness. Packed with iron, magnesium, and calcium, this plant can be a wonderful addition to your diet. When cooked, nettles lose their sting and can be used similarly to spinach, providing a rich, earthy flavor. Discover how to find, identify, harvest, and prepare them, and remember to wear gloves to protect your hands!

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 is a fantastic lichen to forage and have on hand as a tincture. It’s a helpful ally when you’re feeling under the weather, particularly during cough and cold season. Known for its beneficial properties, Usnea has been traditionally used to support respiratory health. It’s also valued for its role in wound care. Discover how to forage Usnea and create your own tincture to support wellness.

foraging violets - spring herbs


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


The Outdoor Apothecary website is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is the reader’s responsibility to ensure proper plant identification and usage.

Please be aware that some plants are poisonous or can have serious adverse health effects. We are not health professionals, medical doctors, or nutritionists. It is essential to consult with qualified professionals for verification of nutritional information, health benefits, and any potential risks associated with edible and medicinal plants mentioned on this website.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Comment

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