Spring is the season of new beginnings and new growth. As the temperature starts to warm up and everything begins to thaw from the winter, spring foraging options increase! This is the time of year for fresh salad greens, tasty spring flowers and shoots, medicinal plants, and a few edible mushrooms. This list of what to forage in spring will help you get started on your spring foraging adventure!
If you want to learn more about the edible and medicinal weeds that surround us and how to use them, check out my eBook: Wildcrafting Weeds: 20 Easy to Forage Edible and Medicinal Plants (that might be growing in your backyard)!
Gather & Root Online Foraging Course
My online foraging course is a great way to learn about wild edible and medicinal plants! Sign up to learn more about the gather + root online foraging course here.
20 Edible and Medicinal Plants and Fungi to Forage in Spring
Before you begin foraging or wildcrafting, it’s really important to get a guidebook to use as a reference. You can find my favorite foraging guidebooks here and also some of the best foraging books for kids here.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are the quintessential spring foraging plant, with edible and medicinal flowers, leaves, and roots! They are super easy to identify, and any look-a-likes are edible and medicinal as well, so no worries there.
Dandelions are one of my favorite edible and medicinal weeds to forage in my backyard. Make dandelion salve with the flowers, dandelion pesto with the leaves, and dandelion root coffee with the roots.
If you’re worried about harvesting dandelion blossoms in the spring because they might be food for bees, it’s actually not as big of a problem as it’s been made out to be.
Dandelions are actually not the best food for bees, and there are many other flowers we should be saving and planting for bees instead! (Read this post on flowers to plant for the bees).
Find over 50 ways to use dandelions here.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a tasty edible green that comes up in early spring. In some milder locations, it will even grow throughout winter.
Read more about foraging for chickweed here.
Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) looks a little bit like chickweed and is sometimes confused with it, but it is a different plant. It is a delicious salad green that grows wild in western states but can be cultivated in other areas.
Like chickweed, it prefers cooler temperatures and will sometimes grow right through the winter.
Read more about foraging for miner’s lettuce here.
Wild violets (Viola sororia or Viola odorata) and their leaves are both edible and medicinal. They come up in early spring and are often the first flowers of the season, making them a lovely sight!
They love cooler temperatures and will grow through the winter in warmer locations.
Read more about foraging for wild violets here.
Both red clover (Trifolium pratense) and white clover (Trifolium repens) are beneficial to us in many ways.
The blossoms are sweet and edible, perfect for adding to baked goods or infusing into honey. Red clover is especially high in vitamins and minerals and makes a wonderful tea.
White clover iced tea is another favorite.
Fiddleheads are fern leaves before they’ve unraveled, and they are usually only available for a few weeks in the springtime.
The fiddleheads of the Ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) are the most popular for foraging, as they are the tastiest. They have a flavor that is similar to asparagus and are excellent sauteed with butter and garlic.
Some other varieties of ferns are also edible as fiddleheads, such as western sword fern, bracken fern, and lady fern. These should all be cooked before consuming.
Some varieties of ferns are toxic, so be sure that you consult a guidebook and have a positive identification before harvesting.
Read more about foraging and identifying fiddlehead ferns here.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) are also called wild leeks and are in the same family as onions and garlic (Allium). They have a strong onion flavor and can be used just like you would use onions or garlic. I love making ramp pesto. They grow wild in the eastern United States and Canada.
Please note: Ramps require special harvesting practices as they are becoming threatened in many areas. Ramps should be cut leaving the bulb in the ground to regrow.
Read more about foraging and sustainably harvesting ramps here.
Cattail Shoots (and Pollen)
Cattails (Typha spp.) are known as the ultimate survival plant, as every part of the plant can be used in some way. The young shoots that come up in the spring are the tastiest part, resembling the flavor of a cucumber, and can be eaten raw.
The yellow pollen that covers the flower spike in late spring or early summer makes a delicious foraged flour substitute.
Wild asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is one that I’ve never found myself, but would absolutely love to one day! They are found in patchy areas throughout the United States and Canada and are notoriously difficult to spot.
Wild asparagus is just like regular garden asparagus in flavor—which means delicious! You can bet I’d make Fermented Asparagus & Garlic with it if I did find it!
Read more about foraging for wild asparagus here.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of my favorite plants to forage for in the springtime. They are usually pretty easy to find, but don’t forget to bring a pair of gloves for harvesting!
Nettle is a superfood that is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Cooking the plant will dispel its sting.
Learn more about foraging for stinging nettle here.
Dead nettle got its name because of its supposed resemblance to stinging nettle (I don’t see it) but without the sting.
Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), which is pictured below, is the most common variety and is often found in backyards or gardens. It is perfect to add to a wild greens salad or pesto.
Learn more about foraging for purple dead nettle here.
Purple dead nettle is one of the plants covered in my gather + root online foraging course! Sign up below to get free info sheets from the course, all about purple dead nettle.
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is in the same family as purple dead nettle, and they are often confused with one another. If you compare the two photos above you can really see the difference between them.
This is another tasty green that can be added to salads or made into a wild pesto. Chickens love henbit too, which is where it got its name!
Learn more about foraging for henbit here.
Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a prolific plant that is sometimes considered to be invasive. This means that you can and should harvest as much as you want! It has a strong garlicky flavor that is tamed by blanching.
Make this garlic mustard pesto with your foraged greens!
Learn more about foraging for garlic mustard here.
Most everyone is familiar with soft and fuzzy pussywillows that emerge in the springtime. Not everyone knows that willow (Salix spp.) is a highly medicinal tree! White willow bark in particular is a powerful pain reliever—it actually has the same compounds in it as aspirin!
Make willow bark tea to help ease your aches and pains.
Learn more about foraging for willow here.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is another highly medicinal plant that comes up in the spring. Its frilly, frond-like leaves make it easy to identify. It is also technically edible, but is quite bitter so is most often used for medicinal purposes.
Be aware that yarrow can sometimes be misidentified for poison hemlock!
Read more about foraging for yarrow here.
Plantain is both edible and medicinal and is a very important herb to know about. There are two main varieties, broadleaf plantain (Plantago major) and narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata), and both are beneficial.
Young and tender plantain leaves can be eaten raw and are highly nutritious. Older leaves can be added to soups and stews.
Using plantain medicinally is as simple as chewing up a leaf and putting it on a bug bite, bee sting, or minor wound. It stops itchiness and helps to heal wounds. Plantain is also a great herb to use in an herbal salve.
Read more about foraging for plantain here.
Cleavers (Galium aparine) is a plant that often surprises people with its medicinal properties! It is most well known for its habit of being a pesky garden weed and sticking to everything.
Turns out that cleavers is highly nutritious and is good for the lymphatic system. It is edible, but I recommend blanching first to dispel the sticky hairs.
Here are some great recipe ideas for using cleavers.
Read more about foraging for cleavers here.
Everyone gets excited about the thought of finding morel mushrooms (Morchella spp.) during spring foraging forays. Maybe it’s because they have a relatively short season, or that they can be a bit elusive to find. Regardless, morels are some of the best mushrooms to forage for in the springtime!
Be sure to use a mushroom guidebook whenever you are out mushroom hunting.
Learn more about foraging for morel mushrooms here.
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) will grow spring through fall in many locations.
They are relatively easy to identify because they always grow on trees or stumps (if it’s not growing from a tree, fallen log, or stump, it’s not an oyster mushroom!). They are also some of the tastiest wild mushrooms around.
Be sure to use a mushroom guidebook whenever you are out mushroom hunting.
Learn more about foraging for oyster mushrooms here.
King Bolete Mushrooms (Porcini)
King boletes (Boletus edulis), also known as porcini mushrooms, are considered a delicacy in many places for good reason: they’re delicious!
“Spring Kings” are often found growing in the forest duff underneath conifer trees, and they start to emerge in the springtime. King boletes will also commonly grow in the late summer and fall after rainfall.
Boletes can sometimes be tricky to identify, be sure to use a mushroom guidebook whenever you are out mushroom hunting.
Learn more about foraging for king bolete (porcini) mushrooms here.
I hope this list has helped you learn what to forage in spring. It really is a great time of year to get outside and collect some wild plants and mushrooms. Happy spring foraging!