My Powhatan ancestors counted five seasons, not the standard four of other cultures. The harvest of corn signaled the “first autumn” and the falling leaves marked the beginning of a “second autumn.” Of all five seasons, none were dreaded like spring. Although there were a few migratory fish runs to look forward to in spring, the winter food reserves were depleted and the spring wild foods were mostly low-calorie greens. Despite the explosion of flowers and plant growth, spring was the “starving season.” Fortunately, if you’re not trying to feed a whole village, you might run into enough wild food to get you through these hungry weeks. You could find goose eggs, leftover acorns, dandelion flowers and many other edibles with high calorie or nutrient content. If you’re caught without a meal, look for these nutritious spring wild foods.
Greens and Wild Veggies
Spring offers us a great variety of wild salads, shoots, tubers, and roots. Again, the calories are low, but the vitamins and minerals are high. Some of my favorites are chickweed (for making salad), spring beauty bulbs, trout lily leaves, and sassafras roots which I use for tea and homemade root beer. Another favorite of mine is dandelion. 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, and 18% of iron.
Try to locate leftover tree nuts from last fall. The hickories and walnuts have probably been eaten up by animals or gone rotten, but the bitter tannic acid of acorns acts as a preservative and animal deterrent for a few extra months. I have harvested acorns as late as May. If they have sprouted, it’s a sign they are probably still good. One pound of acorns will provide almost 2,000 calories. They need to be shelled, crushed into chunks, and soaked in water until the bitter tannic acid is mostly gone. The nut meat can then be used for porridge and baked goods, or added to other foods.
The practice of collecting spring eggs for food has been around as long as humans and birds have co-existed. The act of stealing song bird and game bird eggs is illegal in most areas now, but in an emergency situation you can fry, hard boil, or poach your way to a delicious protein-packed meal. Geese provide the largest wild bird eggs you’ll find in North America, and a female goose can lay half a dozen white eggs in her large nest. Each of these eggs is double the size of a chicken egg. The calorie count ranges from 175 to 225 per egg.
Due to an egg’s size, its standout color, and the protective presence of both goose parents, goose nests are often easy to spot. But that’s where the easy part ends. Fiercely protective, mama goose will not give up her eggs without a fight. Be aware that bird eggs develop at different rates, and you might find a chick inside that shell, instead of the yellow yolk you were hoping to see.
Have you had good luck foraging in the spring? Please tell us what you found by leaving a comment.