Let’s celebrate Earth Month in April and Earth Day on April 22nd by deepening our relationship with nature
Foraging is a magical pastime that has returned to the mainstream—and spring is the best time to start your foraging journey because everything from flowers and shoots, medicinal plants, fresh salad greens and mushrooms are popping up after winter. Not only do these wild foods make for a delicious snack, but at a time where not much food is growing in our gardens yet, they bring a nutritional boost to our diets.
When foraging in fields and ditches, first make sure that the area hasn’t been chemically sprayed before you harvest. There are also sustainability guides to foraging, which include reading on which plants are vulnerable, which are essential for certain species survival, and which are invasive (which means, take as much as you’d like). Remember to always forage with a guidebook or app until you know the difference between toxic lookalikes, and to forage with a buddy—both for the fun of it and for the safety.
What you can find to forage in spring
Chickweed: This is one of the first spring plants to appear and you’ll recognize it by its white star-shaped flowers and the single line of hairs down the stem. It will die back once it warms, so it’s best to forage in early spring and use it as a base for salads or smoothies. Avoid scarlet pimpernel, which is a toxic lookalike that you can tell apart by its reddish/orange flowers and no hair down the stem.
Dandelion: This bright and sunny weed gets a bad rap on our lawns, but it’s one of the most commonly foraged plants for its medicinal purposes, so don’t spray it away! Instead, harvest dandelion to use the leaves, flowers and roots. You can roast the root for tea, add the bitter flowers to salads, and make pesto with the leaves.Photo by Viridi Green on UnsplashGarlic mustard: This “invasive” weed often gets no love for taking over woodlands. It does grow in abundance, so if you’re a fan of roasted garlic flavour, you’ll be in for a treat. It’s a delicious superfood brought in from Europe and very common to find along the side of hiking trails. This is one of those plentiful plants that you can harvest to your heart’s desire and you won’t be able to tell you’ve taken any.
Stinging nettle: You’ll need to bring gloves for harvesting this superfood, but it will be worth it for all the vitamins and minerals. Stinging nettle is loaded with vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, calcium, and has medicinal properties too. Cooking it dispels the sting, so it works well in soups, stews, as a tea or fried up. If you do get stung (it’s normally a mild reaction, although it does last a good chunk of the day), find some plantain (another amazing spring weed), chew it, and spread the chewed plant on the affected area for immediate relief of the pain.
Wild violets: These purple blooms are a beautiful spring foraging treat and are often used in cakes, cookies and muffins. The violet leaves are edible, medicinal, and high in vitamin C, which will give you a boost after the low-energy winter months. Be mindful when harvesting this one as in some locations there are butterflies that rely on this violet for survival, so it’s important to be extra careful when harvesting (or not harvesting at all) if living within the habitat of the rare butterflies.
Yarrow: This medicinal wild food has been used for centuries to help with circulation. It was used on battlefields as a tincture or poultice to stop bleeding, but also internally as a treatment for blood clots, lowering blood pressure and for varicose veins. Yarrow is also amazing to take when fighting spring colds, and excellent to take at the beginning of a fever or flu to reduce body temperature. You may have also seen yarrow used in facial products as it’s a skin astringent and is commonly used in facial soaps and tonics. This superfood has small white flowers, which can be confused for Queen Anne’s Lace (also edible, although the difference is it smells of carrots).Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Eating seasonally from the earth is beneficial for our health and our spirits. It helps us to reconnect with the outside after a long season indoors, where we’re welcomed with an abundance of food. There are so many more wild foods found in spring, like tree saps, burdock, ramps and others that will fill your plate (and your heart) after a day spent connecting with Mama Earth.