I love this time of year in Maine, when mama Earth warms up after the long cold winter, and the spring blooms fill the air with their sweet scent and bright vitality. It was this time 4 years ago that I began my first herbal class with Suzanne Stone of Moon of Hyldemoer Herbals. Her teachings felt like a salvation, connecting me with the land in a new way as I learned the abundant medicinal gifts of numerous wild plants growing under my feet. I recall the first “yard salad” she offered her students; I was stunned at how delicious it was and marveled at what I’d missed for years eating only lettuce leaves in my salads (which is delicious also, but does not compare to the wild foods growing all around us).
I’ll share below some of my favorite wild ingredients in Suzanne’s salad. Here are a few precautions about wildcrafting: make sure the plants reside on unpolluted land free of pesticides, chemicals, or car fumes; receive permission from the land and the plant to harvest; Give gratitude to the plants for their gifts; only harvest what you need (more on ethical wildcrafting here).
Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata: An invasive which spreads profusely, rich in gifts, like many other “invasives.” All parts are edible, containing Vitamin A and C and many trace minerals. This plant tastes like garlic, and before it flowers, is delicious made into pesto, salads, and as a flavorful topping.
Violet Viola Odorata: All parts are medicinal. Both flowers and leaves are rich in Vitamin C, A, Magnesium. It’s supportive to the digestion, lymph, and nervous system. These beauties can be eaten throughout the summer, although they are most succulent in the Spring.
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale: All parts are incredibly nutritious. Leaves and flowers are best in the Spring before they turn more bitter. Delightful in salads and other dishes, including stir fries and patties! They are packed with Vitamin B complex, A, & D, and other minerals. They support the liver, digestion,and lymph.
Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea: Similar to their other relatives in the Mint family (Lamiaceae), Ground Ivy is a vigorous spreader, also known as Creeping Charlie. They are easy to pull if needed, and offer many benefits. Minty in taste, rich in Vitamin C, they are supportive to the digestion and respiration, the kidneys and the bladder. They make an excellent cooling addition to a yard salad!
Cleavers Galium aparine: Rich in Vitamin C, Supportive to the lymph, kidneys, bladder, digestion, and helpful in removing toxins. Cleavers add a cooling crunch to your yard salad. They also make a very soothing foot bath for tired feet.