One of my favorite ways to welcome in the spring is foraging for wild edibles. Having grown up in Western Massachusetts where I’ve apprenticed with foragers and herbalists, I feel confident in my identification of most wild foods and herbs. Although, I only eat what I find if I am 100% sure it is edible. Before making a meal out of anything, I suggest confirming with a local plant identifier, especially when it comes to mushrooms. Books can be helpful, but I never rely on them entirely. The best way to learn what to eat from your backyard is from the people who are well versed.
Two delicious and highly nutritious spring edibles are nettles and ramps (wild onions). Nettles are easily cultivatable by transplanting established clumps or starting from seed. They love to grow in old manure piles near horse barns because they are heavy feeders, which means they are also densely packed full of nutrition.
Nettles are one of the best ways to consume minerals and vitamins after a long winter without fresh greens. They are a mild diuretic which aid the kidneys in flushing out toxins from the body. I put nettle tincture in my Allergy Relief formulas for their anti-histamine properties. The stingers contain formic acid (same as red ant bites) which can be annoying to some, and cause more severe rashes for others depending on sensitivity.
I purposefully sting my wrists and other joints to promote blood circulation. For the past six years I have been stinging my right wrist, which has a ganglion cyst and I do not suffer from tightness or pain any more. It’s similar to bee sting therapy! Try a small section on yourself before going too wild.
You can use gloves to harvest stinging nettles, though I prefer to be gentle and take only the top 3-5 inches. The more mindful and careful I am, the less stings I receive.
Remineralizing the body promotes strong healthy teeth, hair, skin, nails, and bones. Nettles is your ally here!
It’s so simple to make a mineral rich tea:
- Lightly pack a quart of half gallon mason jar with fresh nettles (fill 1/5 of the way if using dried).
- Pour boiling water over the leaves, cover, and let steep for 8 hours until cool. This long steep can be done overnight. Allowing the infusion to cool allows the minerals to be extracted.
- Drink 2-3 cups of infused nettle tea for 3-6 weeks as a daily mineral rich tonic. Cheers to healthy bones and a healthy urinary system!
** Other spring tonic plants I suggest adding to this tea are: cleavers, chickweed, milky oat tops, raspberry leaf, and red clover.
Another way I enjoy nettles is in soups and stir-fries the same way you would use kale or spinach.
WILD SPRING SOUP
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves crushes and chopped (set aside for 5 min before adding)
2 carrots, chopped
4 potatoes, chopped
1/2 cup shiitake or oyster mushrooms (Fungi Ally in Hadley is awesome!)
1 TBL ghee (I like Full Moon Ghee, of course)
1 tsp. each of cumin, coriander, curry
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk
1 cup fresh nettles
1/2 cup fresh ramp (wild onion) leaves***
salt & pepper
Combine the veggies and ghee in a soup pot and cook until onions soften. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer until carrots and potatoes soften. Stir in coconut milk, nettles and ramps and let simmer on low 5 minutes. The stinger of nettles disappears once it hits hot liquids. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!
This soup is delicious with a slice of home made or Hungry Ghost bread slathered with ghee, yum!
*** Ramps Disclaimer: whether foraging or purchasing at a local farmers market, NEVER EVER take the roots, only one leaf per plant. If the vendor has plants with the root in tact, kindly explain that ramps take 7 years to reproduce so leaving the root in the ground is crucial for sustaining the delicate populations. Buy the plants and re-plant them in a shady forest near a spring creek because they love growing near water.