Nature Wisdom

With Pat Tuholske; Naturalist

Spring Wild Edibles

Spring is here and greens are growing! If you are interested in all things native and want to nourish your body, check out the wild weeds growing in your yard. Wild edibles are full of vitamins, minerals and are easily metabolized because of their purity and untamed nature. Our bodies are hungry for wholesome sustenance and utilize every nutrient in wild edibles. Native plants are key to a robust immune system. 

Be sure you have a solid identification before you consume any plant. Get a field guide, smart phone app, or research on the computer. If you are on Facebook, check out the Wild Edibles of Missouri group. And, of course, any of Euell Gibbons books are an invaluable resource. Take a walk with a naturalist or herbalist familiar with wild plants for an in-depth experiential encounter which will awaken your wild palate. 

Wild Edibles of Missouri by Jan Phillips is a vital reference with an identification guide, recipes and an index to edible uses. Unfortunately it is out of print but available on Missouri Department of Conservation website as a PDF. Go to mdc.mo.gov click on “Discover Nature”. Choose “Field Guide” from the dropdown menu and select “Edibles” at the bottom of the page. Then click on the link to Jan Phillips’ award-winning book. Look for copies on Amazon, eBay or used book stores. My copy is grubby and dog-eared from years of trips into the field, meadow and woods. 

Check your landscape this month for Chickweed, Dandelions, Plantain, Spring Beauties and Violets. Never gather and consume plants from areas where pesticides were used. 

Chickweed – look for Chickweed in your garden and shady areas. It grows in early spring, dies out in the heat of summer, then comes on strong again in the fall. The leaves and stems can be eaten raw in salad, added to eggs, blended with spinach and other greens, added to smoothies. Chickweed reduces inflammation and is high in minerals, proteins and vitamin C.

Dandelion – don’t poison the Dandelions! They are a remarkable source of vitamin A, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, B vitamin complex, antioxidants and contain more protein than spinach. The leaves are best to eat in early spring before the plant flowers. Steam with vegetables, add to salads, soups, stir fry.

Plantain – there are two common varieties. One has long narrow leaves, the other has a round wide leaf. Young leaves can be harvested for a wild salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Steam a batch for a quick tasty wild treat.

Spring Beauty – one of the first spring wildflowers to bloom. To help you identify them, view the profuse masses on the sprawling lawns of Kirkwood and Webster Groves. Then go find them on your property. All parts are edible but my favorite is the “fairy spud” tuber growing several inches below the plant. They are worth the effort to dig. Eat these crunchy morsels raw and don’t bother to cook as they get mushy and musty tasting. 

Violets – one of my favorite blue spring flowers to gather and eat in salads. Nothing fancier than edible flowers! Add the leaves to soup and it will thicken. If you have an over abundance, collect the flowers and make jelly. Don’t poison the Violets! 

Make Wild Plant Pesto: combine Chickweed, Plantain and Violet Leaves. Puree to a paste consistency with olive oil. Add walnuts or pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese. Yum!

Enjoy the bounty of health and nutrition of Spring in Missouri! 

See Pat’s Wild Wreaths, Wheels, and Twig Art crafted from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com and at Green Door Art Gallery. Check out her Field Journal for her musings on the Human-Nature relationship.