Thursday, March 19, 2015

Wild Edible Spring Greens: Medicines in Your Own Backyard


Spring has almost sprung and its time to wake up and start moving again! You may find yourself craving more salads and fruits as the body sheds its winter protection. Traditionally, in the spring, country folk would begin to gather spring greens to help the body detox from the rich foods of the winter.  The Greek physician Galen (130 AD – 200 AD) and many other notable physicians after him commonly believed the blood became stagnant after a cold winter, and that the long winter months affected one’s temperament and triggered melancholy.



The easiest way to cleanse our blood and to relieve the winter blues is to eat wild spring greens. Their bitter flavor along with their high mineral content gives the liver a little push, stimulates the secretion of digestive fluids, supports the removal of waste through the organs of elimination, and nourishes the cells and tissues. Eating spring greens is a great way to feel connected to the earth and to sync your body with the rhythms of nature.  There is also science showing that eating small amounts of native soil is beneficial to our immune systems and can balance our gut flora.


Gathering wild edibles is fun and easy but you do need to know your plants. I recommend taking an herb walk with a local herbalist or signing up for a wild edible foraging workshop. I'll be leading two herb walks in Silver Spring this May and there are a number of great Meet-Up groups throughout the country. If you live in the city you can purchase many of these greens at local farmers markets or at your local market. Local urban foraging groups can also help you find clean spaces to harvest your spring greens. If you are lucky enough to have a yard or some land, you will likely find many of these plants ground around the edges of your property or along the sides of trails.

Here are three of my favorites:

  1. Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata- This spicy and bitter plant's name says it all! It is one of the first edible greens that pops up here in Maryland and it really gets your digestive juices flowing. This prolific green leafy plant is high in vitamins A,C, and E and even has pretty good amounts of B vitamins for veggos! It is also super high in vital minerals and has a long time European folk history of use as an antiasthmatic, antiseptic, diaphoretic, and vulnerary. (source)

  2. Dandelion Greens (Taraxacum officinale) - Yes an obvious pick and this plant has so many great health benefits!  The leaves are high in potassium and also contain diuretic agents. The nice thing is that diuretics typically cause potassium loss but dandelion has it covered and provides additional potassium to the system, how great!  100 grams of dandelion leaves contain 2.7g of protein, 3.1 mg of iron, and 397 mg of potassium. The young leaves taste best and they can be eaten raw or blanched with other veggies. (source)

  3. Chickweed (Stellar media)- This lovely little plant packs some pretty stellar health
    benefits! It is another of our folk remedies that has a long standing as a spring green as it is a gentle laxative, digestive aid, and circulatory tonic. I have used this plant many times as a poultice for rashes, burns, stings, allergic eyes, and pretty much anywhere where there is inflammation. It is a wonderful cooling topical remedy and is super easy to spot once you recognize the star shaped flower.  As a wild edible and ethnobotanist Jim Duke in his book, The Green Pharmacy, notes its historical use as a natural slimmer and recommends it in his "Weed Feed" slimming salad which contains chickweed, dandelion, evening primrose, stinging nettles (cooked and cooled), plantain, and purslane. (source)


    So, if you are looking to improve your health this spring get outside and forage for wild edible plants!  It will get your blood moving, you will soak up Vit D from the sun, and you will be getting nature's most potent spring remedies!

    For for information about our upcoming herb walks visit our workshops page and to link up with a local Meet-Up group search "Wild Plant Foraging".

    Bon Appetit!

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