Eat Your Greens: Wild and Weedy Edibles for Spring Health

Published by Annie Barrett: 
May 17, 2022

Spring is full on here in the Pacific Northwest. I love it. Out my window, I’m enjoying the lovely blossoms on all the fruit trees, and in the yard, garden and forest, a feast awaits. I'm not talking about the lettuce plants, although they are growing nicely. I’m talking about the wild and weedy edibles that Nature has provided for my spring feasting.

Eat from your ecosystem!

The science of lifestyle medicine and the ancient teachings of Ayurveda teach us to align our bodies with the rhythms of nature. In the spring, our bodies sense the seasonal change and there is a natural urge to make a clean, fresh start. Our bodies are primed for lightening up and clearing winter stagnation. Chances are, your nearby forest, yards and gardens are full of nutrient dense greens to support this process.

Most of what nature has to offer in the greens department in the spring are the BITTER, ASTRINGENT and PUNGENT flavors found in seasonal greens. Spring greens are anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and generally detoxifying. You're probably already familiar with spinach, kale and chard. Maybe you've also tried or heard of arugula, mustard greens, and chicory. There are also many wild and weedy relatives of these cultivated greens, plants such as dandelions, nettles, and green garlic. While the flavors of these plants may be strong or unfamiliar to you, I give you the challenge to "wild your palate." That is, get curious about the flavors of the wild edibles in your ecosystem.

Dandelions, the New Kale

What is more hip than kale? Dandelions! And, they are everywhere. As long as they have not been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide, they are perfect for your health. Dandelions are full of calcium, vitamin A and vitamin K, with twice as much iron as spinach. The plant is a powerful healer, used to purify blood, settle digestion, and for inflammatory conditions. Use them in your morning green smoothies. Add them to your salads. Saute them with garlic.

My Best Dandelion Spring Smoothie

This combination of fruit, slightly bitter greens, pungent ginger and astringent turmeric is a sure way to burn away stagnation and energize you in the morning.

  • 1 apple
  • 1 kiwi
  • a bunch of dandelion greens from my garden
  • a bunch of sorrel from my garden
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger
  • small piece of turmeric root or turmeric powder
  • warm water

Blend everything in a high speed blender.  If it's cool outside, use warm rather than cold water in your smoothie.  

Ward away Spring Allergies with Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles are a super food and super supplement.  They are used to treat prostate issues, hay fever, joint pain, eczema, reducing bleeding and helping mothers produce more milk.  Many folks may be familiar with nettles taken in capsule or tea form, but the fresh leaves can be steamed or sauteed and enjoyed like spinach. I find nettles along the roads next to the forests.  If you go out to pick nettle, care must be taken. Wear gloves, long pants and long sleeved shirts.  Use scissors to pick the nettles.  Once you get them home, lightly steam them in a steamer to rid them of their stingers.  Once you have a pot of steamed nettles, you can make all sorts of delicious recipes.

Nettle Soup

Here is a delicious alternative to Potato Leek Soup,  I used Jamie Oliver's River Cottage Nettle Soup Recipe. If you don't eat potatoes, substitute cauliflower. Click here to get the recipe.

Green Garlic

We have a patch of garlic that regrows each year in part because we are too lazy to fully harvest the bulbs.  In the spring our laziness pays off, and nature rewards us with delicious green garlic stems, similar in flavor to garlic chives.  I like to use these in place of scallions or garlic in any recipe. The flavor is definitely garlicky, but more mild than garlic cloves.

Green Garlic Nettle Pesto

If you are like me, you know you can make pesto out of anything green!  Green garlic pesto is a total treat.  If you have nettles on hand, throw them in.  Throw in any other edible greens or fresh herbs you have in the garden.

Here is my latest spring pesto:

  • big bunch of green garlic
  • 1 cup of steamed nettles
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • several glugs of olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • optional: grated romano cheese or creamy goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blend in food processor until smooth.  Serve on pasta, toast, roasted vegetables, or with crackers, fish or poultry.