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Wild edibles of early spring: Now is the time to start learing to recognize them

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My wife and I greatly enjoy foraging for and harvesting wild edibles when camping.  When we're a week into a canoe trip, we really crave fresh greens, fruits, and veggies. Dehydrated meals are great, but there's just something deeply satisfying about supplementing one's meals with freshly harvested plants.


Early spring's an especially good time for beginners to get into this because there are not many plants out to bewilder and overwhelm you.  Also, many wild edibles are best in the spring, as most get bitter by late spring and summer.  So, if you've always wanted to improve your knowledge of wild edibles, now (late winter) is the time to get a hold of a few books on the subject, thumb through them, and familiarize yourself with the ones that are common to your own area and bloom in early spring.  You will have greater success if, in addition to a field guide, you have a search image in your mind of what the spring edibles in your area look like.


Here's a video my wife and I made last spring to introduce people to the pleasures of this. 



Below are photos of some of my favourite wild edible plants which my wife and I regularly forage which I did not see listed in this forum already.  All of these photos were taken by usin either southwestern Ontario or the near north of Ontario.


Wild Leeks or Ramps:

The whole plant is delicious and edible, though one must take care in identifying it as there are look-alike which are poisonous.  Your nose will guide you. Wild Leeks smell strongly and unmistakably of onion.  If it isn't perfectly and 100% obviously identifiable as an onion just by smell, it's not a Wild Leek.  Trust your nose on this one.  A choice wild edible, raw or cooked.



Trout Lily:

Again, the whole plant is edible, though it is sweetest and most tender in early spring before it flowers.  The mottled leaves help in identifying it.  The corms (small round tubers) are like tiny potatoes.  Tasty when raw or very lightly steamed or sauteed.





Indian Cucumber:

The tuber, though small, is one of the most delicious and tasty wild edible I've ever eaten.  Absolutely juicy and delicious raw out of the ground.




Burdock roots:

This big leafy plant looks like rhubarb.  The roots are too tough to eat raw, but good when boiled.




Cutleaf Toothwort:

The tubers of this plant taste like horse radish.  It is, in fact, a species of horse radish.  It's very good, but the taste can be over-powering, so a nibble is all you need for a mouth full of flavour.  A few raw tubers chopped into a plate will make a plate of bland wild edibles very flavourful.



Common Blue Violets:

These come in various flavours.  All of the above ground parts are edible. The leaves are somewhat bland, like lettuce and the flowers are mildly sweet and aromatic.  The flowers come in many colors.  Blue and yellow are most common where we live.



Garlic Mustard:

These are is an invasive species so one can harvest the leaves to one's heart's content.  As their name suggests, they are somewhat garlicy in flavour.



I should mention my two favourite mushrooms, though they are not spring edibles.


Chanterelle mushrooms:

My favourite of the wild mushrooms.  Delicately flavoured they are tasty whether raw, in a salad sauteed or fried, or pickled in lime and oil.  As with any mushroom, extreme care must be taken in IDing these. There are inedible look-alikes that will make you ill.  A non-visible identifying feature of chanterelle is their smell; they smell (faintly) like apricots.  These appear in late summer: August and early September.



Shaggy Mane mushrooms:

One of the nice things about these is that they appear late, in September or October, when most other wild edibles have disappeared.  The scales on this inky cap mushroom makes them hard to mistake for other mushrooms. 



Hope this helps,

- Martin


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Great information, Pine. Thanks for sharing this.


What part of the country to you reside?


Glad you found it helpful oldfatguy.


"All of these photos were taken by usin either southwestern Ontario or the near north of Ontario.", but I presently live in Huntsville, Ontario, which is considered the "near north" of Ontario, Canada.  The plants in the video and in the photos are to be found throughout much of this part of the country. 


Hope this helps,

- Martin

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So you are just about due east of me, Pine.  Just wanted to make sure of the location.  There are some other sections on wild edibles under this topic.  I think the information from my area (Midwest US) would apply to you as well.

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Great pics Pine!  I try to learn something new every day and the trout lilies are a new one to me. Thanks!





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