March is just a few day’s away. It’s a real transition month…sometimes. Sometimes it can just plain be cold and April plays the transitional role. But looking at my crystal ball and the long-range forecast, I would venture to say, it’s March’s turn this year.
So what does that mean for us outdoor weed hunters? Well, there are some outstanding wild edibles that will start making their presence known, even with weather that can’t make up its mind. Cold one day, warm the next, rain, than snow, freezing rain, sleet and warm sunshine. It’s enough to make a hibernating bear hit the snooze button. It’s also enough to get some hardy wild edibles ready for harvest.
Suffice it to say, all the wild edibles that you find are highly nutritious in their own way. The key word here folks is “edible”. Remember that 100% identification is a must all times of the year. I’m not going to blast you with too much information about each plant, but I do want to remind you that the foraging season is almost on us.
Here are a few of my favorites that you should start keeping an eye out for. Some obviously will be sooner than others.
Hairy Bittercress-One of my absolute favorite early spring edibles. A member of the Mustard Family, you can find the rosettes under the snow. Delicious mustardy flavor.
Bittercress is very similar to Water Cress in appearance and flavor. Except you are going to find it in your garden and lawn vs a creek.
Purple Violets-One of the earliest blooming flowers in Michigan.
Sometimes, even under the snow. Great in salads and as a garnish.
Soon after the snow melts, start looking for fresh growth on Dandelions. Every part of the Dandelion is edible and nutritious.
Stinging Nettle-This is the best time to harvest this sharp plant. Look for the new sprouts, soon after the snow is gone, to start popping. With gloves, pinch off the plant at the ground.
Don’t pull it. It will regrow. Wash them in cold water then boil like you would any vegetable. Once cooked, it’s ability to sting you is gone, but it’s ability to provide you with an abundance of vitamins and minerals is crazy. Oh, and if you like boiled greens with a bit of lemon and salt and pepper, you will see why the effort is well worth it.
White Birch- Harvest some of the buds and leaflets if they are present. Makes an awesome tea, especially if you were able to collect some of the Birch sap to use. A delicious Spring tonic that the Chippewa of the region depended on to detoxify from the long Winter eating sub-par food. Just don’t get crazy pulling off buds or chopping up the trunk. Take a few buds and only a small hole will suffice.
Of course, Morels and Ramps are on the way as well.
Many Mints can be found very early and make an amazing garnish, flavor enhancer and tea. Harvest some for when you have a stomach ache. It works well to ease discomfort.
Look around sheltered sunny spots for early Mallows. Awesome in a salad or use it in place of Okra for making gumbo.
Garlic Mustard makes an excellent pesto. Absolutely delicious. It’s an evasive species. Eat as much as you want.
Do be careful transporting it after it flowers and has gone to seed. You will spread its seeds everywhere and wish you didn’t. Also, don’t throw pieces of the plant outside. Put it down the disposal or something that destroys it. It will propagate from the cuttings.
Mullein is a fantastic cold remedy that can be found year around.
Use the fuzzy leaves and make a diffusion to get rid of phlegm. Look for last years tall stalks and you will find Mullein rosettes growing near by.
These just touch the surface and are some of my favorites. Look at what ever is popping up. Just make sure you identify it perfectly. You might find some of your own favorites.