top of page

3 Spring Greens: Edible plants growing in your backyard + Recipes

Miner's Lettuce

Chickweed

Purple Dead Nettle


Hello friends! 


For those of you that know me or are even kind of acquainted with me, you know how (maybe overly) excited I get about herbalism... plants in general really.


I joined an apprenticeship here in Western Washington and have been having the time of my life! I've learned so much in our small intimate classes and every week we head out into nature and learn how to sustainably forage for medicinal plants.


My mind has blown over and over by plants that I never imagined were anything more than stubborn weeds turning out to be precious medicine.


Spring Greens


This spring I had a plant absolutely TAKE OVER my raised bed gardens. I thought it was pretty and I wasn’t ready to plant yet, so I had been simply enjoying looking at it, only to discover it was a totally edible spring green (Purple dead nettle) that helps with allergies and inflammation.


Being the woo woo human I am, I of course believe this plant showed up in droves just for me. And I'm an herbalist, so of course I harvested it and now it's hanging to dry all over my house in preparation for tea!


I want to share with you, not just the magic of purple dead nettle, but a couple other favorite spring greens of mine, miner’s lettuce and chickweed. These two are equally fabulous, often grow right in your yard, and come at the exact perfect time of year we need them most.


Seriously, nature never ceases to blow my whole mind!


As always, I will add a fun recipe for each of these little beauts at the end of this blog.


Let's dive in shall we?


Miner's Lettuce - Claytonia perfoliata


hand holding miners lettuce bloom
Found quite a bit in my own backyard!

If you live here in the western United States or Canada, you’ve likely seen this beauty growing right in your own backyard! It pops up in early spring and dies back as the days get warmer and longer.


Miner’s Lettuce is packed with vitamin C and was used by miners in the mid 1800s to prevent scurvy. It was used by indigenous peoples long before, and some tribes were said to have planted it next to red ant nests. where they picked up formic acid from the traversing ants, giving the leaves a natural vinegary taste in order to create a homemade salad dressing. Brilliant! 


You can eat this plant raw and plain, thrown into your favorite salad, or follow our recipe below to create a delicious pesto, yum!


The only precaution here is that, like spinach, it has been known to be high in oxalates. So if you have issues with kidney stones or your doctor has told you to avoid foods high in oxalates, this may not be the plant for you. 


Outside of that, enjoy freely! 


bunch of chickweed

Chickweed - Stellaria media


This little cutie. I can’t even. Did you know that indigenous peoples of this region used chickweed as a weather indicator? This sweet little plant can sense coming storms, closes its blooms and curls its leaves over the delicate blossoms to protect them from the storm. How adorable is that?


Also called Little Star Lady or Star Weed, it is in the Carnation/Pink family. Like most spring greens, chickweed is typically considered an early spring plant and begins to die back as summer approaches but can be gathered from fall-mid spring. It grows every season but summer, when it dies back completely until fall.


To gather it, we don't use the roots, so give it a nice haircut and it'll grow right back! It makes a great ground cover, adding nitrogen to the soil and it's a favorite food of our other garden friends, chickens.


Eat it shortly after harvest or within a couple days. It is most powerful when it is fresh and it doesn’t keep well in the fridge. Use it like you would sprouts. Add it to salad, a sandwich, or wraps.


You can steam it or sauté it as a good substitute for spinach. Enjoy the stems, leaves, flowers, and seed pods.


A serving size is about a cup of chopped plant material. It tastes a little bit like corn and that one serving has more vitamins than a health food store! It's higher in iron and zinc than spinach and is great for people with anemia or iron deficiency, and that's just for starters!


Close up of purple dead nettle in a field

Purple Deadnettle - Lamium purpureum


Another colorful springtime edible medicinal. Purple dead nettle is easy to identify with its square stem (like all mint family plants), fuzzy leaves, and pretty purple tops hosting dainty pink flowers. 


Highly nutritious and healing. It is known to be anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It can be used internally and externally.


Use the leaves for wound care either as a poultice or homemade herbal salve. 


Consume it internally as an infusion or tea with either fresh or dried plant material. Make a tincture, add it to soups, salads, or blend into your smoothie.


Consume it any way that you would use another leafy herb or veggie. This is another good one to add to your pesto!


Just be aware that it can have both a diuretic and/or laxative effect if used in large amounts. It’s good for your kidneys, and many people even report relief from seasonal allergy symptoms.


In conclusion:


I have only really touched the surface of the deep well of information regarding just these three spring greens. There are so many more out there like dandelion, lambs quarter, plantain, and stinging nettle.


Spring in the PNW is like a superfood schmorgesborg! As always I encourage you to stay curious and find exciting ways to incorporate these and more into your world.


Stay magical, my friends!


~Melody


I’ve added photos of each plant here, but I would highly recommend finding a good resource for identification of any plants you plan to forage and consume. Never consume a plant that you are not 100% confident in your identification of, and always avoid foraging where poisons like pesticides or weed killers may have been sprayed.


You can find more information in books. Or like me, you might also try and find local groups in your area that do regular in-person plant walks like this one:



And please always harvest ethically! The AHPA has some good resources for ethical foraging here:



*It's important to note that while herbs are generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts, individuals with certain medical conditions or those taking medications should consult with a healthcare professional before using them therapeutically. Additionally, pregnant women should exercise caution and seek medical advice before using herbal supplements, as their safety during pregnancy has not been extensively studied.


Recipes


Chickweed as a side dish veggie:

Sauté fresh garlic in olive oil, add freshly washed chickweed and a splash or two of tamari soy sauce. Cover turn heat to low, allow it to get steamy for about 5 min until the chickweed is just wilted and serve.


It's light corn flavor is also delicious fresh and used like sprouts on a salad or sandwich. Add it to your pesto, create an infusion, infused oil, or make a tincture.


Spring greens pesto:

1 cup of nuts (I like macadamia or pine nuts)

1/2 cup cheese (I prefer parmesan or pecorino, any hard Italian cheese will work)

6-8 cloves of garlic

4 cups un-chopped spring greens

2/3 cup olive oil

A squeeze of lemon juice to taste


For a bright green pesto, add the greens after processing the nuts and garlic.

Add the nuts, cheese, and garlic to the bowl of the food processor and process until finely minced. Add the greens and process. While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the chute. Season with kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Miner’s lettuce salad:

If I'm being honest, I haven't found a better salad recipe than the one I found made by Kara on soul homesteading. She has definitely mastered the art of salad making! This recipe blog also links to her blog on how to forage for miner's lettuce too. Love her!



Purple deadnettle tea:

Add 3 Tablespoons dried leaves for every 8 ounces (1 cup) of not quite boiling water.

Allow to steep for 5-8 minutes, then strain and sweeten to taste.

You can blend with other herbs such as burdock, dandelion root, and milk thistle to make a tea that will naturally support your kidneys and liver function.

Although this plant is in the mint family, it has a more grassy taste. It's also wonderful in soups, stir frys, salads, smoothies and casseroles.


ENJOY!!








16 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page