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T'is the season that lets any foragers heart rejoice. Having eagerly watched and waited for so long for any early signs of new life to emerge, our patience is finally being rewarded. There are few things in life more satisfying than taking to the fields in search for edible treasures, (or even just for fun) in these early days of spring, when the air is still crisp, yet teasing with rays of sunshine and warmth. And yes, there are lots of goodies out there just now that will conjure up a taste of spring on our dinner table.
In the last issue we mentioned Nettles, Dandelion and Chickweed as likely candidates for early spring greens. These are still out and probably better and more succulent by now. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Nettles (Urtica dioica) are good to pick until they flower. In fact, when collecting any leaves, they are almost always best before flowering. Dandelion roots can also be picked now, though they are sweeter in autumn. Young Cleavers (Galium aparine) are ready for the picking now and can be added to that spring greens soup. Due to their sticky nature it is best to avoid putting them in salads, but when putting them into hot water this quality immediately disappears. Various mustards and cresses are also still available (see last issue). They are great blood cleansing herbs which stimulate the metabolism and the liver.
Burdock, (Arctium lappa), with its elephant-earlike leaves is hard to miss and well worth looking out for, though it is a little hard to dig for. The roots are tasty and extremely healthful, being one of the best blood cleansing herbs available. Also worth digging for are Evening Primrose roots(Oenothera erythrosepala) and Elecampane (Inula helenium) roots. However, consider the fact that digging up roots usually means the end for the plant. If you are planning on eating roots of wild species consider planting them in your garden rather than further depleting wild stocks.
Special treats of this season are Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) and Asparagus shoots (Asparagus ssp.). Make the most of them while you can, their season does not last long. Both can be prepared as Asparagus, steamed or added to fillings for pies, casseroles and quiches. Young leaves of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfare), and Plantain (Plantago lanceolata) are all good in soups, fillings or as greens, they tend to be better cooked than raw. Coltsfoot leaves and flowers with narrow leaved Plantain leaves also make a wonderful cough tea. Coltsfoot leaves are even recommended as a smoking herb for bronchitis.
Various types of Wild Garlic (Allium ssp.) or leeks can be found throughout the spring. Sometimes they can be difficult to spot before they start flowering, but once one develops a nose for them they will make their presence known.
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) both come out early and their sour taste makes a nice addition to a salad blend, though its best not to overdo it, the leaves contain oxalic acid which can be damaging to the kidneys if eaten in excessive amounts. People with kidney problems should avoid these herbs.
While out in the woods keep an eye out for Morels (Morchella esculenta). These tasty mushrooms appear early in the spring, often on burnt ground and near oak trees and pines on chalky soil. They can be added to any stir-fry or filling for pies, omelettes or quiches, stuffed and baked or dried for later use.
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This Article was originally published in the Sacred Earth Newletter. The Newsletter is a FREE service containing articles, news and reviews on all things herbal and/or ethnobotanical, with an approximate publication cylce of 6 - 8 weeks. If you wish to subscribe, please use the subscription box to submit your e-mail address.
Please note that although all the references to edible and medicinal herbs are tried and tested, their efficacy cannot be guaranteed and has not been approved by the FDA. Furthermore, everybody responds differently to various plants, and adverse reactions cannot be ruled out. Historical information regarding poisonous plants is included for educational purposes only and should not be tried out at home. Everybody uses herbs at their own risk and thus must make themselves fully aware of their potential power. Any information given here is educational and should not replace a visit to the doctor should this be necessary. Neither Sacred Earth nor Kat Morgenstern accepts responsibility for anybody's home experimentation. Links to external sites are included as pointers to further resources - we do not endorse them or are in any way responsible for their content, nor do we thus verify that their content is accurate.