Early Spring Edibles!
There are few experiences as empowering and deeply connecting as harvesting wild plants for food and medicine with loved ones. It is amazing to watch the lightbulb of realization go off when those pesky "weeds" outside our door are seen as delicious and nutritious foods that we didn't have to work to grow or purchase! Time and time again, we watch children who struggle to eat their vegetables come alive, harvesting and gobbling wild greens with amazement and excitement. Many of the plants growing in our yards and forests are edible, and some of the most common weeds were brought over by settlers for exactly this reason. And many of them are much more nutritious than farmed and store-bought vegetables because they are growing on their own, have to be hardy to survive, and are growing in conditions well suited for them, rather than being forced to grow in a garden bed, requiring fertilizers and insecticides to thrive in a human-controlled environment. Some of the wild edibles grow in a healthy forest ecosystem, but many also thrive at the edge of human disturbance. In the Greenwood, we have a little "Feral Garden". This spot used to be covered in trash from the previous land owner and Chines Privet that had marched in. As soon as those were removed, a lush blanket of edible and medicinal wild greens moved in and has been thriving ever since. We do nothing to maintain this feral garden, except pull privet every now and then to make more room for the edible greens, harvest with care, and give thanks every day for the wild abundance.
We have offered here a brief intro to some of the wild foods of early spring that are commonly available in our area, and are easy to identify and safely harvest.
These are some of our favorite plants and ways of preparing them, with links to some great articles to learn to identify them and learn more. We teach children never to harvest a wild plant unless they have the permission of an adult who knows the plant and can confirm identification. Children catch on very quickly and often learn to identify wild edibles more easily than adults! But there are also plants that look similar and an overconfident harvester might not notice the subtle differences when they are first learning. So we encourage you to do your own research as you explore and come up with your own list of plants for your family that after repeated practice in different environments you feel comfortable identifying, harvesting and incorporating into your meals and medicine.
Please also take care to notice both the conditions of the location where the plants growing and their numbers. If the plants are growing in an area that is sprayed with herbicide or there are other environmental pollutants (such as a conventionally landscaped lawn or near a road), avoid harvesting there. Also, only harvest if the plants are growing in abundance. Some plants require years and very specific conditions to flower and spread. Most of the plants listed here tend to grow prolifically and harvesting them can be beneficial for the ecosystem - especially those that are not native.
Eating wild edible foods is a journey of awareness and relationship, connecting us to the life ways of our ancestors, who ate only wild plants for millions of years, and without which we certainly wouldn't even be here! Each meeting with the plants presenting a new opportunity for learning and deeper understanding of our world. We hope that this exploration will enrich your lives as much as it has ours! Enjoy!
The young spring leaves on Beech trees are edible, abundant and delicious! We like to make a Beech leaf sauerkraut or add them to soups and salads! The trees work very hard to grow their leaves, and need them for photosynthesis, so take care not to harvest too much!
Black Locost Blossoms
We love to sprinkle these sweet flowers on salads and as a garnish for cooked dishes!