Michigan spring weather is a constant flux of beautiful sunny days mixed in with gray, rainy days along with the ultimate possibility of wet snow. Every day is a surprise. In spite of all the weather challenges, my garden consistently provides me with some hope for summer. This time of year, my perennial herbs appear—bright, strong and green.
The first to poke through the ground are the chives. Ready to use just as soon as they sprout, chives will grow tall and flower staying hardy until the winter. Once I clean up my garden, the fresh thyme perks up and is also ready to be harvested. These common herbs are familiar spring edibles and are widely consumed. Looking around my yard, I also notice a variety of wild spring edibles.
The dandelion is the most common wild edible much to the angst of my family and neighbors. They are the unwelcome invaders of the perfect suburban lawn and garden. Introduced as salad greens by European settlers, dandelions are a great (and inexpensive) source of antioxidants and nutrition. The leaves, flowers and roots are all edible raw or cooked. The leaves and flowers can be added to soup, sautéed, fried into fritters or made into tea. The roots are commonly dried and roasted for a coffee or tea substitute. Be sure to only consume dandelions that are not treated or sprayed.
I also have found growing wild in my garden purslane. Found close to the ground in shady areas, purslane is often just picked and discarded. It had thick red stems and succulent green leaves shaped as tiny spoons. Purslane can be eaten raw or cooked adding a peppery flavor and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Lastly, the other most pesky but noticeable wild edible, are nettles. I inevitably find these by accident and end up quite itchy. Though, nettles can be easily disarmed then consumed like any other edible green. Most importantly, pick the nettles while wearing gloves, then just pour boiling water over them for 30 seconds. You can consume without any problems once disarmed.
I have learned to embrace our Michigan “spring” weather and revel in the daily changes. I’m pleased to have a few homegrown items to eat before the traditional bounty of Michigan edibles become available. As with all wild edibles, be sure you can positively identify what you are picking and eating. Michigan State University Extension is a great resource for gardening and agriculture. Check out their spring wild edible workshop.
Dandelion Flower Tea
8 to 12 dandelion flower heads, gently rinsed
10 to 12 ounces boiling water
Slice of lemon, lime, fresh ginger or sprig of fresh mint
1 teaspoon Whitfield’s Raw Honey
Place dandelion flower heads in a heat safe mug. Pour boiling water over flowers; steep 5 to 10 minutes then remove dandelions. Add lemon, lime, ginger or mint. Stir in honey. Drink hot or cold over ice.
—Pam Aughe, R.D.