Foraging for edible weeds and wild greens is an age-old practice, and here in Ohio, it’s the perfect time of year to grab a bucket and take a hike to search for supper ingredients.

Interested in growing herbs for more than just food? Many herbs and edible weeds are wonderful herbal allies for our health. Learn How to Start a Medicinal Herb Garden for more self-sufficient wellness!

Spring Foraging: Identifying Edible Weeds

Why Should You Forage Wild Edible Weeds

Foraging wild edibles isn’t just a fun spring pastime. It is a skill that, when done properly, can uplevel your sustainability by providing food and medicine from your own property. 

Many beneficial plants that are typically considered “weeds” and killed out instead of utilized. These plants are excellent for pollinators, but they are also great for human consumption as well. Once you learn to properly identify edible weeds, you can begin to use them in teas, salads, infused oils, tinctures, and more.

Before You Begin Foraging

I know, I know… You are excited to get started, BUT you need to familiarize yourself with edible plants and their lookalikes before go head out on your spring foraging adventure. Check out local field guides, foraging apps (I use PictureThis), articles, and blog posts to make sure you know the differences in the beneficial plants that you are looking for and the potentially toxic plants that look very similar. 

wild edible weeds in a basket

7 Common Edible Weeds

While you wait for your garden seedlings to grow, you can take advantage of the delicious and nutritious greens nature provides. Many of the wild greens available this time of year are packed with vitamins and minerals, plus many have cleansing qualities to help clear our bodies of toxins we accumulated over the winter.

1. Dandelion

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is probably the most common of the edible weeds. The young greens make a tasty salad or can be used as wilted greens. 

Traditionally, dandelion is served with a hot vinegar dressing and topped with hard boiled egg and bacon. There are even a couple restaurants in Holmes County that feature Dandelion Salad on the menu during the spring season. 

child holding dandelions

Dandelion greens are best eaten young as they become more bitter when the plant flowers. The flowers are the primary ingredient used in dandelion wine, plus they can be dipped in batter and fried.

Dandelions blooms can also be infused into oil for salves and the roots can be roasted as a coffee substitute.

2. Lamb’s Quarters

Lambs quarter (Chenopodium album) is a prolific garden weed that tastes like spinach when steamed. Another green that is common around the garden and yard is chickweed. I often pinch the tender end shoots and add it to salads. 

Watercress from streams and garlic mustard from wooded areas are other edible greens that grow in abundance in the spring. Ramps or wild leeks will spice up your foraged dishes and soon the season to hunt for tasty morel mushrooms will start. 

You can even add a touch of elegance to your wild salads with violets, which are an edible flower.

3. Stinging Nettle

A spring edible weed that is prolific on our farm is stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L.). I once viewed them as a problem to eradicate, now I look at them as a cash crop. Stinging nettle will lose its sting when cooked and makes a delicious green that is great in scrambled eggs or in soup (see recipe below). Many folks also use it as a tea to help with arthritis and other maladies. You do need to take care when harvesting and preparing this plant because the stems can cause skin irritation before cooked.

stinging nettle

4. Purple Dead Nettle

This invasive wild edible takes over yards and meadows in the springtime. Purple Dead Nettle does not have the stinging properties commonly found in nettles, hence the name “dead”; therefore, you don’t have to worry about wearing gloves when foraging this plant.

purple dead nettle

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) makes a great tea to calm seasonal allergies due to its antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.

Eat purple dead nettle raw in salads, in a pesto, or as a dried seasoning. You can also use this plant to make infused oils, salves, tinctures, and wound poultices.

5. Wild Violets

Wild violets (Viola sororia) pop up in early spring. The small purple flowers don’t last very long, but the heart-shaped leaves will stay for months.

This plant is an anti-inflammatory, high in Vitamin A & Vitamin C, cleanses the blood, moves the lymphatic system, and relieves skin irritations. 

wild violets in field | edible weeds

Use violet flowers to make a tasty tea or violet jelly. Use the fresh leaves in raw salads or in violet leaf oil and violet leaf salves that can treat insect bites and sunburn.

6. White Clover

White clover (Trifolium repens) is a very common “weed” that shows up in the spring. It is known to treat common cold symptoms and the effects of arthritis. Although it is an invasive species, it is valued in the garden for nitrogen fixation, pollinator attraction, and as a ground cover. 

White clover blossoms

Use white clover blossoms and leaves raw in salads, in infused oils, salves, tinctures, and teas. You can dehydrate the blossoms to use later as well. 

7. Wild Strawberries 

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria vesca) are tasty little berries that look almost exactly like miniature strawberries poking out of the grass. 

These berries are high in potassium, vitamins, and other minerals. You can eat them raw or gather them to make wild strawberry jam. 

Wild Strawberries

There is a lookalike to the wild strawberry, but thankfully it isn’t toxic. It is called a mock strawberry. To tell them apart, look at the shape of the berries. Wild strawberries are shaped like regular strawberries- almost heart-shaped- while mock strawberries are round. The flowers also bloom in different colors. Wild strawberry flowers are white and mock strawberry flowers are yellow.

Original content by Karen Geiser: Updated by Homesteaders of America in 2024.

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Spring Foraging for Common Edible Weeds
Spring Foraging for Common Edible Weeds