It’s well known that spring showers bring spring flowers ... but let’s not forget about all the wonderful edible finds that come alongside those flowers. Many people spend time and money trying to rid their yards and gardens of ‘pesky’ weeds, however, many of those weeds are indeed edible – and can easily be made into a wild gourmet dish that you can showcase on your food table!
Foraging Rule #1: Never eat any wild food unless you are 100% sure of its identity.
Get a field guide or resource book to help you with this, spend some time really getting to know the plants you wish to eat. Make sure these plants are in a low pollution / spray free area. Start small – eat small amounts of any wild food to begin – wait for a day or two and then proceed. Seek out an expert in the field to help train you in your foraging.
Here’s a look at some of the most common finds you can forage in your backyard:
Pineapple Weed (Wild / False Chamomile)
You'll see this little guy poking up from your gravel paths and driveway, or near the foundation of your house early in the spring. It’s very resilient and thrives in dry locations. It’s a low growing plant with fine, feathery foliage that smells like pineapple when crushed. The small cone shaped flowers are compact and yellowy green in colour.
We like to toss both the flowers and leaves into a ‘wild salad’ (the flowers can be bitter, so best to pick them when they are most yellow). The flowers can also be used in tea, and is said to have some medicinal qualities (anti-inflammatory and sedative for insomnia and anxiety relief).
These delicious green plants can be easy to identify by touch – if it stings, you’ve likely found the right plant (but we don’t recommend this method and it’s rather unpleasant). All parts of the plant are edible, we most enjoy using the tender top leaves and flowers.
This is a most delicious and versatile wild edible – you can even buy seeds locally – check out Annapolis Seeds to buy online www.annapolisseeds.com . We forage this plant in all seasons as it grows and grows and grows (quite difficult to eradicate and control, so be warned this plant loves to spread).
Harvest the plant wearing proper gloves to protect your hands and arms, give it a rinse to wash, then steam the greens as you would spinach. The sting will deactivate after about 4-5 minutes of cooking. Once steamed you can use the nettles in everything from pesto to cupcakes (yes, really!). We love www.growforagecookferment.com for the Nettle & Lemon Cake recipe along with the abundant wild food ideas that they share!
You should eat this plant, not just because it’s abundant in growth, but more because of its abundant health properties (apparently 6 X the vitamin C, 12 X more calcium and 83 X more iron than spinach - WOW).
The plant is commonly used as topical treatments for a variety of skin conditions (burns, rashes, psoriasis); while eating the plant increases the ability to absorb nutrients, especially minerals. Chickweed is loaded with nutrition as it contains vitamins A, D, B complex, C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zine, manganese, sodium, copper, iron and silica. A powerhouse!
Chickweed typically blooms early in spring, it has small white, rather delicate star shaped flowers. The plant grows in loose, large clusters, is low growing often sprawled along the ground. You’ll likely find this growing right in your lawn, garden or in nearby pastures.
Pick and eat the leaves of the plant raw or cooked, add to an omelette, a salad or green up your grilled cheese!
These are but a few wild plants that are growing in your backyard and ready to eat this spring. Choosing the wild and your backyard as a food source is a great option for you and your family. Follow safe foraging practices (see notes above), get outside and eat wild!
Want to find out more about spring foraging? Join us for our Cooking with Fire and Spring Forage April 24 in our backyard in Port Williams. You can book your spot here.