April showers have brought May flowers—and some of them are edible! Springtime is one of the best times of the year to forage for wild edibles. The tender new growth is usually at its most mild and flavorful this season—and it’s most attractive. Try adding some of these wild edible flowers to your wild salads or cooked greens.
Nothing says spring like a lawn full of dandelions (Taraxacum officinale). Look for the sunny yellow composite flowers, and toothed green leaves. Just 4 ounces of leaves and flowers contain 2 grams of protein, 224% of your daily Vitamin A, 64% of your Vitamin C, 20% of your calcium, 18% of iron and some Vitamin K. This plant is found throughout North America, and most of the world.
2. Pennsylvania bittercress
Growing on dry land, as opposed to the watercress, Pennsylvania bittercress (Cardamine pensylvanica) is a small plant (never more than a foot tall) with 9-11 leaflets on the compound leaves. Contrary to the name, this one is not that bitter, and it can make a great “mustardy” salad base. These tender leaves and stems can be eaten raw or cooked, but don’t delay. You’ll see them in April in most areas, and that’s about it for the year. These short lived plants grow tiny white flowers with 4 petals, and then give way to popping seed pods, and then they are swallowed up by the growing grass of spring. Get them while you can. This plant is found in the eastern US.
These pretty pink flowers are great in salads. The redbud (Cercis Canadensis) is a small understory deciduous hardwood tree typically 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9m) tall with dark bark. It is one of the first trees to flower in the spring. It has heart-shaped alternate simple leaves, growing on slender twigs. Before the leaves emerge, small pink buds appear and open into odd looking curved pink flowers ½ inch (1.5cm) long. To most people, these shapes most closely resemble bunny slippers. The unopened buds and open flowers are a great addition to spring wild salads, and they can be incorporated into baked goods for an interesting color accent. The small green seed pods that follow can be harvested up to 2 inches (5cm) long and cooked as a vegetable, however they are mildly toxic raw.
Get ready to give your taste buds a workout on this one. It’s often intensely bitter. You may know this plant by other names like Yellow Rocket and Creasy Greens, depending on the part of the country you live. Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris) has very shiny leaves, which are green to dark green in color. A common way to prepare these greens is frying the greens in bacon fat. These are the biggest plants of this featured trio, as yellow flower stalks can reach 3 feet in height. Try the unopened flower buds as a snack or salad item. They look a lot like little broccoli heads, and are actually related to broccoli and the other cruciferous vegetables. Because of their bitter flavor, few folks eat the leaves and stems of this plant as a raw salad. Cook it a little, with some kind of oil, and it will taste much better. This plant is found in Montana and most states to the east.
Are these flowers on your spring wild edible list? Tell us if you’ve had creasy greens or wild watercress by leaving a comment.