Spring is in full swing over here in Suffolk. It’s really nice, I have to say! One of the things I look forward to the most when the ground thaws is the beginning of the foraging season. So far, we have only been on one official foraging walk, and it was to collect stinging nettles. But I have seen a lot of good things in my back yard lately. Yesterday, I decided to just go take some photos of the wild edibles there, so I could show you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see some familiar plants and find some food or medicine in your own back yard! There are actually a lot more edibles out there than these– but these are the ones popping up right now, many of them “weeds.”
The leaves and stems can be eaten either raw or cooked, and have a very mild flavor. The flowers are aromatic and tart– lovely for garnishing desserts with. I’d also like to make some violet honey with them this year.Lesser Celandine
This plant is best eaten before it flowers, and should be cooked first because it contains protaonemonin, which is a toxic compound that is destroyed by heat. It was popular in the past for providing vitamin C to otherwise scurvy-prone people.
This plant wants to live! It’s growing between our patio bricks, and I do believe I’ve tried to remove it a number of times. Now that it’s in flower, I’m happy to see it and try not to step on it. I love the flavor of primrose flowers, and they do have a rosey smell and taste. Some people make wine with primroses!Annual Honesty (or Lunaria Annua)
Part of the mustard family, the flowers, young leaves and seed pods can be eaten. The seeds can be turned into a mustard substitute, too– but this plant is usually ornamental. They have a cabbage-y flavor, so the flowers will be great in salads and to decorate your dinner plates.Field Garlic
At first I thought these were wild onions, but I am pretty sure now they are field garlic. In any case, they have the flavor of both garlic and onion. They are pungent and so tasty. The bulbs stay quite small, you have to gather a few at a time to use them. This year, I think I will chop this bunch and make an herbed salt. Yum! Lungwort
This has been popular as an herbal remedy for… You guessed it– lung problems. The leaves are said to be good cooked like spinach, and I can vouch for the fresh flavor of the pretty flowers. These were the first to bloom in my garden, and I am forever thankful to them for so much cheerful color at the end of winter.Daisies
The greens and petals can be eaten and have medicinal purposes, as well. The flavor is a little bitter, but that didn’t keep the little girls at Amelia’s flower party last year from gobbling them up.Lemon Balm
Both the leaves and flowers may be eaten raw, and the leaves are also good cooked. I like to make infusions with them. Lemon balm (also known as Melissa) is a very popular herb– I like to drink the tea when I am feeling stressed or wired, as it’s a good nerve calmer.Garlic Mustard
It’s considered an invasive weed, but all parts of this plant are edible: flowers, leaves, roots and seeds. The leaves are best eaten in cooler weather– they get bitter in the summer heat. Flowers can be chopped and added to salads. The roots can be harvested in early spring and in late fall, when there are no flowers, and you can pound them to make a spicy mustard!Elderflowers
These are just in the bud stage, but I can almost smell them already! Heavenly. Last year, I used them for elderflower champagne and elderflower soda. I also have tasted a really nice elderflower beer from a local brewery. You can hang bunches upside down and dry them for tea.Dandelion
This is one of the most well-known edible “weeds.” As I mentioned in this post, I have used the flowers, buds, leaves and roots– both for food and medicine. I am looking forward to the harvest again this year!Purple Dead Nettle
The flowers are really nice, and are great for garnishing desserts. The tender leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Although it has “nettle” in the name, they do not sting. Here is a list of some of the medicinal uses.Stinging Nettles
You already know I love this super nutritious, useful and medicinal plant. Now is a great time to harvest stinging nettles and use them in a whole bunch of different ways, including making nettles beer.Ground Elder
This is by far the most prevalent plant in my back yard, and tends to strike fear in the heart of every gardener. This culinary plant is extremely invasive, and will take over everything if you let it. One of my best methods for controlling it is to eat it. The flavor is very herbacious– it tastes like celery and parsley, and I think it’s really delicious! I love to add it to salads and blend it into herbal marinades for meat. I intend to find a lot more ways to use it this year, and hopefully share those recipes with you.So, did you see any plants you recognize from your own back yard? Which ones have you eaten before?
Common Sense Caution: Don’t go around eating plants you are not familiar with. Do some research first to make sure you know what it is. Google image search is your friend! I have a good collection of foraging books to help me spot edibles and avoid toxic plants. Here are a few I recommend: Food for Free, Foraging and Feasting, Thrifty Forager, The Forager’s Harvest.
If you are interested in more foraging posts and ideas, you can check out my foraging board on Pinterest. And please come along on our foraging walk in the woods.
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