Foraging has become a somewhat addictive pastime for me since lockdown began as I connect more deeply to seasonal cycles. Not only is it super fun but also highly empowering as you learn to resource yourself with delicious free food AND nutritious free medicine at the same time!
It’s like finding the keys to mother natures very own pharmacy and pantry, hidden in plain sight all along! This highly practical tool is a fast track route to becoming self-sufficient, a valuable attribute in uncertain times. In addition to learning about foraging, I have also enjoyed learning about the folklore, symbolism and energetic properties of plants such as those harnessed in flower essences. And interestingly enough, the plants seem to call me at the precise moment I need them most. Each time I’m attracted to a certain plant, I investigate its properties only to learn that it helps with the very ailments I’m experiencing at the time! When we attune to nature on a deeper level, it communicates its wisdom in these subtle ways that seem to defy logic.
I don’t claim to be an expert forager, far from it, so I advise exercising caution when foraging wild edibles. Always research from multiple trusted sources before consuming any wild plant. I will list my favourite resources below for your reference. Here I share a selection of easily accessible wild spring plants so that you too may reap the benefit of nature’s tasty treats:
1. Three-Cornered Leek
Named after its triangular leaf profile, three Cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum) just looks like thick grasses to the untrained eye, but is easily identified when crushed to release its glorious garlicky onion scent! Out from February until early Spring, all parts of the plant can be eaten and the young plants can be treated as baby leeks or spring onion, used in salads, soups or stews. If you dig up the more mature bulb, its roots can be used as onion or garlic.
Fear not about depleting Mother Nature as this wild food grows in abundance on verges and hedgerows and do look out for its beautiful white-bell like flowers that appear from April to June! As with all alliums, they have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and are also known medicinally to treat high blood pressure, help reduce cholesterol and protect the circulatory system. They can be sprinkled onto salads, added to soups and stews and made into pesto!
2. Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum) also known as Ramsons, grows in abundance in woodland wetland areas, bordering freshwater rivers and streams. They give off an unmistakably pungent fresh garlicy aroma whilst in season from April to June.
This versatile plant can be whipped up into a delicious soup, salad, pasta or pesto and its flowers are the perfect addition to a salad and quite yummy as a snack whilst harvesting.
Crammed full of immune boosting and anti-viral propitiates, vitamins and minerals, wild garlic offers a whole host of medicinal benefits. They were used traditionally throughout Europe as a spring tonic due to its blood-purifying properties and is also thought to lower cholesterol and blood-pressure, which in turn helps to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart attack or stroke. For those off out on a hot date, be sure to take some mints with you as its pungent odour lingers on the breath for quite a while!! tehe
3. Hairy Bittercress
Often misconstrued as a nuisance weed, this flavoursome plant is commonly found in most gardens including my own. Since learning about this delight, my de-weeding exploits have become a joy rather than a chore! Hairy bittercress are crammed full of vitamin C, beta-carotine, and possibly lutein which is known to help reduce vision problems including cataracts. The peppery flavour of bittercress makes for a great addition to a green salad, soup or stew.
Also known as Goosegrass or Sticky Willy (Galium aparine), this common weed is easily identifiable due to its sticky nature, which has tendency to ‘cleave’ to human clothing or animal fur. Not only is it a surprisingly versatile wild edible, but can be formed into a flower crown, a favourite childhood pastime of mine. Pick the fresh looking tips before they seed in summer and steep overnight in spring water to make a refreshingly tasty spring tonic. According to herbalists, this plant helps cleanse the blood, and strengthens the liver. It helps the body become more vital by improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste through the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin. Once the seeds have fully hardened, they can be roasted and use as a coffee substitute late summer. On an energetic level, cleavers help supports attachment and appropriate bonding, keeping relationships flowing and love strong. This is no surprise when you consider its cunning ability to stick to anything.
Also known as Goosegrass or Sticky Willy (Galium aparine) , this common weed is easily identifiable due to its sticky nature, which has tendency to ‘cleave’ to human clothing or animal fur. Not only is it a surprisingly versatile wild edible, but can be formed into a flower crown, a favourite childhood pastime of mine. Pick the fresh looking tips before they seed in summer and steep overnight in spring water to make a refreshingly tasty spring tonic. According to herbalists, this plant helps cleanse the blood, and strengthen the liver. It helps the body become more vital by improving the body’s ability to eliminate waste through the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin. Once the seeds have fully hardened, they can be roasted and use as a coffee substitute late summer. On an energetic level, cleavers help supports attachment and appropriate bonding, keeping relationships flowing and love strong. This is no surprise when you consider its cunning ability to stick to anything.
Gorse, glorious gorse! The magnificent golden gorse flower shines brightly all year long, even in the harsh winter months. As such, on an energetic level, it represents resilience, endurance, upliftment and hope during immense challenges and promotes a light hearted attitude toward life. Amazingly, it has a wonderfully coconutty scent and the raw flowers can be eaten too (in small quantities). Ensure to wash them thoroughly to remove any bugs.
Medicinally it can made into a tea to aid with detoxification of the liver, and assist with bladder, kidneys and pancreatic problems. On an energetic level, its flower essence is known as a remedy for hopelessness, bringing internal sunshine to drive away the dark clouds of despair. Again, a wonderfully appropriate remedy for this time as for many, the chaos of the world is a heavy burden to bear. This affirmation by Patricia Kaminski captures the healing dynamics of the Gorse flower essence:
I trust in a Higher Providence.
I remain hopeful despite tragedy or difficulty.
I have Faith in the right working of Destiny.
This tenacity gives roots to my Soul.
5. Sweet Violet
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) is a small creeping plant that can be found in woodland, hedgerows and shaded areas and flowers from March to May.
It has an unmistakable sweet fragrance, which has been use for perfumery for thousands of years and tastes delicious infused in a tea, candied and used to decorate cakes or simply added to salads or used as a garnish.
Sweet violets are used in herbal medicine to treat ailments such as headaches, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Unfortunately they are less common these days so I forage sustainability by only picking if I stumble upon a large quantity to ensure the bees have enough to feast on.
It came as a surprise to me recently to learn that Magnolia flowers were edible! These precious pink blossoms have a surprisingly mild ginger flavour and can be eaten raw on salads, or pickled. Each spring I am in awe of the magnolias sumptuous pink hue and curvaceous contours. Their fleeting nature reminds me to savour their elegant beauty while it lasts and to find acceptance in the ephemeral nature of existence.
In folklore, the magnolia is said to embody a triple fold expansive energy that represents the Queen archetype, beyond the triple goddess. How fitting that this stunning flower carries the energetic signature of majestic divine power and unconditional love! According to yorkshirefloweressences.com, the message of Magnolia is:
“Surrender to love. Surrender to your own inner wisdom which knows no limits. Accept that battles will result from the rearguard action of old beliefs, but remember that these battles are for your own personal freedom.Magnolia shows that true love does, indeed, conquer all. It allows us to let go of our shadow existence and grasp the nettle of reality. Magnolia helps us to go forward into those expanded realms with courage and fortitude.It mirrors man’s deep desire for new and superior ways of living. It presents us with challenges, but also with the ways of meeting those challenges.”
I hope that you leave inspired and empowered to sample your own wild food foray this Spring!