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Early Spring Foraging: Plants to Gather for Food & Medicine

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As the snow melts, dust off your harvest basket and hit the backyard or local park for some early spring foraging.

A collage of 3 photos showing a wild violet, growing chickweed, and a basket of dandelions with text overlay.

Gather lots of these common, yet wild plants for eating fresh, preserving, and herbal remedy making.

Dandelion

The dandelion is the bane of the perfect lawn seeker but is a boon to foragers, herbalists, and pollinators.

Dandelion is edible and medicinal, it’s also very hard to over harvest but do intentionally leave some behind for the bees. 

Gather the tender green leaves and golden blossoms in the early spring. Save the root gathering for the fall season.

Silver bucket in a lawn surrounded by dandelion blossoms.

Eating Dandelions

Use the young leaves as you would any leafy green.

The flowers have a faint honey-like flavor that makes them an ideal addition to desserts, like cookies and cakes. They also make delicious fritters. Heck, you can even make jelly from those golden petals. 

A dandelion egg noodle wrapped around a fork with a bowl of noodles in the background.

Eat it raw in salads, toss some into your smoothies, even use them for pesto making. They’re delicious on pizza and cooked into soups, even pureed and added to egg noodles.

Using Dandelions for Medicine

A dandelion blossom infused oil is our favorite remedy for relief from arthritic joints. That same infused oil can be used to soothe chapped and raw skin. 

dandelion blossoms in a jar of olive oil.

Using Dandelions for Body Products

Because dandelion petals tend to be soothing to our bodies, they make great additions to lip balms, bath bombs, and more.

Violets

These beautiful flowers tend to be the first bits of color to our landscapes. These gorgeous blooms tend to be found mostly in violet but can also be found in white.

Johnny-Jump-Ups in their variety of colors are also violets can be used in the same ways.

Take the harvest basket out to enjoy the outdoors and early spring foraging for food and medicine to fill the pantry and medicine cabinet.

Eating Violets

You can eat the flowers and leaves of violets. Avoid eating the seeds.

Candy those flowers for a lovely edible decoration for cookies and cakes. Eat the flowers in a salad.

A collage of stacked photos a metal bucket in a lawn of dandelion flowers on top, text overlay in the middle, and a field of wild violets on the bottom.

Make gelatin and jelly from a tea from the petals.

Use them in a vibrantly colored cocktail for spring parties.

Infuse them in honey and whip into butter for a delicious and beautiful spread.

Using Violets for Medicine

Tincture the flowers and use it to help reduce the swelling of glands.

Make a cough syrup from the leaves and honey to soothe dry coughs.

Violet infused honey can soothe upset stomachs.

A tea of the petals can help soothe frazzled nerves.

Using Violets for Body Products

Harness the skin-softening power of violets by making a lotion from the flowers.

It can even be used in a homemade facial cleanser.

Plantain

These green leaves spring up in most unsprayed lawns all spring and summer. Plantain is so often overlooked but it is a medicinal powerhouse that should be gathered and dried to have on hand all year long. 

Plantain leaves in a grassy yard.

Eating Plantain

While safely edible plantain is a bit bland. Choose to eat the young tender leaves as the older leaves tend to get extremely bitter. Use like spinach or dandelion leaves.

Using Plantain as Medicine

Plantain is well known for its ability to soothe itches and bug bites. Use it fresh by bruising it and applying to the skin as a poultice to soothe bug bites and bee stings.

Tin of gardener's salve with gloves and seeds

Make a salve from it to treat burns, rashes, bites, and more.

Freeze the leaves in aloe for cooling relief from sunburn.

Chickweed

This flourishing green plant with the tiny white flowers tends to be one of the first greens to pop up each spring.

It is also loved by chickens so don’t be afraid to share some with your flock.

Take the harvest basket out to enjoy the outdoors and early spring foraging for food and medicine to fill the pantry and medicine cabinet.

Eating Chickweed

Chickweed makes an incredible pesto but is a bit bland on its own – add it to a mixed green salad or smoothie for a nutritious hit but use herbs to brighten the flavor.

Using Chickweed as Medicine

These tender little greens bring serious relief to itchy skin.

Puree the leaves in some vinegar and add it to bath water for a simple, powerful home remedy.

A sealed and labeled jar of chickweed bath vinegar sitting on a rock surrounded by fresh growing chickweed.

Infuse in oil and make a balm to soothe itchy skin

Drink chickweed tea for cough relief

As the weather changes and the earth bursts with new life be sure to get out there and do some early spring foraging with these easy to identify and plentiful wild plants.

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Adrienne

Sunday 24th of March 2019

I don't know about early spring foraging, but I remember last summer, I identified purslane growing abundantly in our garden. By the time I realized what I could do with it (I found a few cooking recipes using Google), we had frost. This year, likely later in the season, I plan to harvest the purslane. Thanks for the link for violet lotion. I have a violet-infused oil and I've been debating if I want to use it all as a massage oil or make a body butter/lotion with them. A few years ago, I made a dandelion salve based on a recipe from the Nerdy Farm Wife, which was delightful.

P.S. Kathie, I love your site and enjoy receiving your e-newsletter. You're one of my favorite bloggers. I love your gentle, authentic voice and the subjects that you discuss. When I read your work, I feel like we're having a conversation over a cup of tea. Keep up the excellent work!

Kathie Lapcevic

Monday 25th of March 2019

Purslane is wonderful! It's more of a summer herb around here. I make quick pickles out of it and eat it on sandwiches. Enjoy that! Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement, it all means so much.

Christine

Wednesday 4th of April 2018

I'm in NW Arkansas and yesterday I harvested a lot of chickweed to use in a salve. Later I'll collect some for tonight's salad. And, maybe some dandelion leaves, too.

Ruth Apter

Wednesday 4th of April 2018

I am harvesting sheep sorrel, miner's lettuce, stinging nettles, chickweed, nipplewort, plantain, dandelions,violets, shotweed & english daisies which are all growing in my yard here in Olympia, WA. The trilliums are about to bloom! I have enough Nettles dried for a year's worth of tea and to use in soup. The rest I am eating fresh in salads. I planted 1/2 dozen Miner's Lettuce plants under a Douglas Fir tree and I now have a huge patch. I am about to plant Lamb's Quarters instead of my usual Swiss Chard.

Magnolia

Sunday 4th of March 2018

I'm in Monroe Washington, and our favorite thing to harvest is the stinging nettles. They make great tea and are full of vitamins.

Erin

Monday 10th of April 2017

I'm in southwest Washington. We have surprisingly few dandelions on our new property, so we're opting to leave them be this year, hoping they'll spread a bit. We have violets, but they aren't blooming yet. Plantain is abundant and I've been wanting to make a plantain salve, so I should get on that! We love chickweed but don't have any here... I think I have some seed though and should plant some. Our wild strawberries are just starting to bloom. We have lots of Camas, but I'm scared of Death Camas, so until I'm sure we don't have any, we won't be foraging the camas bulbs.

Homespun Seasonal Living

Tuesday 11th of April 2017

Dandelions do have a way of spreading, don't they? My violets aren't blooming in northwest Montana yet either but it won't be long. Enjoy that new property and all the delights it has for you!

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