Spring-Season Wild Edibles for the Northeast


Being a gardener can be a lifelong progression, if we let it. Nothing is static in nature and I find that living in such close proximity with it encourage me to expand and flow in how I do things and why. Taking an interest in wild edibles is such a progression, even if it is at the same time to go back – back to basic. The wild is the only food supply humans used to have before evolving into agriculture so moving in the other directions feels a little bit like catching up. But it also comes with the insight that today, much of self reliant food sourcing, at least in this part of the world, happens in a cultivated and to some degree manipulated form where humans work the land, often by using fossil fuel based equipment, add nutrients and grow crops not always adapted or suitable for the climate. In many cases, this also involves fighting pests or other shortcomings, such as drought, flooding, inferior soil, weeds or lack of pollinators.

My learning curve as a gardener has been steep. Before I came to Maine I had never done any farming or gardening to speak of and was presented with this huge land to cultivate, care for and harvest. This is what I dove into, and for many years I've now been so engulfed with mulching, fertilizing, planting and picking that it's like I haven't even had time to stop and consider what grows on the other side of that hard earned fence I once built. While truly appreciating the year long supply of food I can crank out of our garden, I've also started, in earnest, to acknowledge all the vibrant food sources in the wild, that are free and abundant with no other need of energy input from me than to walk out and get them. Even without a material and energy intensive green house it's almost ridiculous how much effort is put into for example early spring garden greens for example. Preparing of soil, the price and production of the seeds, the compost making, the planting, mulching, watering and bug protection. That this is what I busy myself with to the degree that I don't have time or mental focus to, for example during my walk to the mail box, harvest a whole dinner's salad dish on the side of the road.

Here's a brief comment on some of my favorite spring season wild edible plants. Many of these plants have several other usages, as well as highly valued medicinal properties.


Stinging Nettle is probably my #1 favorite wild edible. It's often found around old homesteads where the ground is rich or in damp areas along road side ditches and streams. If you find one plant you're likely to find many since it spreads rapidly both by seeds and underground rhizomes (hence it's a good idea to keep it away from your yard). I start picking the leaves as soon as they come up in spring and keep harvesting even after the flower buds come out. Nettles are high in vitamin A and C as well as iron. As most greens, I use nettles in just about as many ways and I can think up. I add the leaves to soups and stews, I cook my rice with them or I eat them as a side dish. If I steam them I make sure to save the water and drink as tea or use as broth. I dry the leaves for a warming winter beverage.


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