Friday, March 30, 2012

Early Spring Edible Plants~What's Available Today?

The season is upon us!  If you live in the Northeast, go gather now!  Don't wait for the usual timetable.  Here's a list of what we've seen that's green and ready for harvest.  If you're new to foraging, these would make a great set of first plants to get to know this year.  Click the links below to find some of our favorite previous posts. 
  1. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)--A few days ago I enjoyed my first BNT (bacon, nettles, and tomato sandwich) of  the season.  My favorite wild green.  They can be gathered bare-handed without stings.  I'll share my method in an upcoming post. 
  2. Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)--We've missed this one two years running now.  But not this year.  If you have experience with this green, tell us what you do with it. 
  3. Trout lily (Erythronium spp.)--Many of these are even past the stage I like them for greens.  (The bulbs are better anyway.)   
The earlier the better with most of these.  They can be gathered as soon as the ground has thawed.  Get them now before they bolt. 
  1. Parsnip  (Pastina sativa)--Try frying with potatoes
  2. Evening Primrose  (Oenothera biennis)
  3. Burdock  (Arctium spp.)--Always better than I expect it to be considering that the leaves are so bitter you could use then as Novocaine.  (That last bit was hyperbole--but, man, they are bitter.)
  4. Cattail  (Typha latifolia)--Technically, this is not a root but a rhizome.  The water up our way is still chilly, but we loved our cattail-flour latkes
  5. Wild leek (Allium tricoccum)--Already unfurled, this weekend will be prime time for finding colonies of ramps.  Click here for a recipe.  (wild leeks, rice, and hazelnuts--yum)  . . . and more
Marsh marigold aka cowslip (Caltha palustris) is probably up already, but we haven't check our spots. 


  1. It's interesting to see what you guys have compared to what we have in the Northwest. We're getting stinging nettles and dandelion flowers (for wine) right now, and some folks are getting fiddleheads too. Mushrooms shouldn't be far off, but it has been an odd weather year, so who knows.

    Last year our favorite find was the hawthorn berry. The jam it made was amazing! This year we're going to try to score some Ash berries too. Free food tastes better! ;)

  2. No fiddleheads for us yet, Michelle--at least not that I've seen. I've located a good source for hawthorn berries, but haven't tried them yet. They would be perfect for jam, I imagine. I bet they're super-high in pectin. By ash berries,I am guessing that you mean mountain ashes (Pyrus sp.)?