I love taking nature walks. I was noticing on my walks lately how many beautiful signs of spring had appeared. In addition to making observations, sometimes I enjoy gathering a few safe wild edibles for making teas and other nutritious foods too. Spring is the perfect time of the year to start hunting and gathering.
It is amazing to think about how the pioneers survived on many of these wild edibles, and they must have been so happy when spring appeared with new growth and wild foods to sustain them after the cold winter.
My kids are currently working on a Pioneer Unit Study about Davy Crockett and they just finished a unit study on Pine Trees. This was great timing for our spring nature walk and their unit studies to coincide together and enhance their learning experience.
Dandelion is beautiful, edible, and medicinal.
We love dandelion lemonade and dandelion tea. Dandelion has edible flowers, leaves, and roots. Every spring and early summer I gather as much fresh young dandelion leaves as I can to make fresh salads and stir fries and flower heads to make tea and lemonade.
Dandelion is a great substitution for cooked spinach. I like to chop up a handful and added into recipes that call for spinach. My grandparents ate dandelion leaves several times a week for their lunch and called it wilted lettuce. They used a source of fat like bacon in a skillet and when it was cooked they added the dandelion greens and cooked them until they were wilted. Grandpa always had fresh greens and garden produce all spring summer and fall.
In addition to using dandelion for tea, lemonade, and as a spinach substitute, we have made dandelion jelly and dandelion cookies in the past. I have never harvested the roots for coffee myself, but I have purchased pre-made dandelion coffee before and it tastes similar to coffee. I also personally use dandelion supplements in a capsule as needed to keep my kidneys and bladder in good working condition. The dandelion can help the body release excess water and stimulate urination. There is a time of the month when women’s bodies tend to store additional fluids and they feel bloated and the dandelion is an excellent resource for using a few days of the month for helping to reduce the extra water.
This year my goal is to make a dandelion syrup for multiple uses. I plan to can it and then keep an opened jar in the fridge for use by the spoonful as needed. It will be a great healthy addition to salad dressings, drinks, smoothies, pancakes, and more.
Violets are beautiful, edible, and medicinal.
Violet flowers are delicious and fragrant in salads, teas, and the leaves can be used as a substitute for cooked spinach and used in stir-fry. The flowers are often used as a fragrance and in soothing aroma baths. The roots are also used as medicine.
Wild onions, chives, and garlic plants.
The entire plant of wild onion, chives and garlic are used the same ways domesticated varieties are used both as a food and medicinal.
Pine buds, pine pollen, and pine needles.
Pine needles make a delicious citrus flavor tea full of vitamins, especially vitamin C. Pine buds and pine pollen are full of protein and an array of amino acids.
Sometimes I take these nature walks by myself, but most of the time, one or more of my kids want to go for a walk with me. We really enjoy these walks.
Walking around today, with the mindset thinking what the pioneers might of looked for and gathered for food and medicine made this walk even more exciting.
We also found beautiful butterflies flying above our head already. The weather was still too cool for much flight for them and they landed often to rest. We followed this one for quite a ways in the yard, bushes, and trees. It often stopped to rest.
The roses are leafing out and starting to bud. They also still have a few rose hips left from last season and we nibbled on these. They are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants, especially vitamin C.
The grapes had fully leafed out and bloomed fragrant yellow flowers before most of the other trees even had leaves or buds.
My daughter enjoyed collecting the fragrant flowers from the wild grapes that had already fallen to the ground.
Potentilla are also called cinquefoil and the leaves and flowers look similar to wild strawberries, but they have a yellow flower instead of a white flower. They have red fruit that looks like a strawberry, but they are flavorless. I would describe eating their fruit like eating a lovely red strawberry that tastes like water, no flavor and no aroma. The flowers, fruit, and leaves are edible in salads and the roots are used as medicine.
There were so many beautiful treasures to find. Some were so tiny you had to look very closely to see.
Beautiful patches of red and white wild clover has popped up everywhere. There are no blooms yet so I can’t tell which is the red and which ones are the white, but there are several varieties of leaf patterns in these plants. Some are more solid green with a lighter green veragation.
Other clover patches have leaves that are veragated with green and white.
Another patch has a yellow and green verragated pattern. So pretty!
Even in areas that seems dead or barely growing, little signs of spring flowers have appeared.
Now that it is spring, we need to start working on our gardens.
Today we removed weeds from the gardens and applied rich compost we made.
Spring surprise! A lovely patch of volunteer lettuce! This is going to be delicious in a salad!
Mint has returned too and is doing well.
We also found some carrots returning from last year. We harvested one and it was nearly 5 inches long already!
Barrel planters filled with pansies have made it through the late frosts. The flowers are stunning!
Enjoy the bounty and blessings of spring!