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14 Amazing Edible and Medicinal Plants to Forage in the Spring

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!

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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.

Also, wild plants are typically more nutritional, with higher nutrients and minerals than conventional plants.

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! 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.

Fiddlehead Ferns

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.

Forsythia

Forsythia can be eaten and used for medicine. 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.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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 its culinary uses. Learn how to identify, harvest, and prepare,

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.

trout lily uses

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.

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. 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! 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

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