Foraging,  Holistically

Spring Foraging | Plants & Wildflowers for May

Spring is always a very special time of year. A time of new beginnings & fresh starts, when everything is waking up and starting to grow.

May is a month full of flowers, where everything seems to be growing at an alarming rate. Each time I go out after it’s rained it seems all the plants and wildflowers have grown a foot or more! Nature never ceases to amaze me, for all the wonders that it holds. May is the perfect time of year to start picking plants and collecting your own herbs and wildflowers. This post is a collection of all the Spring foraging you can do right now, all of the ‘weeds’ and plants I have spotted, and many of the wildflowers and wild growing plants you can find this time of year.

If you have foraged before you may recognise a few of the plants included. But hopefully even if you have never picked wildflowers, this will be an easy and interesting collection of plants for you to look out for, pick, & use. I hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

 

Its also worth noting that although I am focusing on wild plants found on country paths, in meadows, & hedgerows. Many of these plants you may also be able to find them in your garden too!

 

Spring Foraging Tips

Firstly, and before you get started there are a few things you should be aware of/take with you to make your foraging easier. These are all my tips and tricks:

– Take a basket or 3-4 paper bags with you to easily store & separate what you pick

– Take a pair of gardening gloves to make picking those pricklie’s easier i.e. nettles, thistles…

– A pair of garden scissors is a must

– Find areas away from busy main roads to avoid your plants being covered in pollutants and dust

– Choose plants a little way back from pathways & above knee height to ensure no dog pee (or worse)

– Early morning or late evening are the best times for picking when possible. Especially if you are picking for cooking or herbal use. This ensures the highest levels of pollen and goodness in a plant before the heat of the sun and all of the bees & insects come out.

– Always, Always choose the youngest & freshest looking plants. Don’t pick those where there is yellowing or it looks like the flowers are already wilting and fading. Not only does this affect the strength of a plants medicinal properties, but also their taste if you are using them for cooking!

– Always wash any plants you are planning to use for cooking & remedies before drying. Its also worth giving plants a little shake as you are picking to dislodge as many bugs as possible before you get them home.

 

Wildflowers for Spring Foraging

Before I dive in I would just like to add a more personal note: Although all the flowers and plants to follow are pretty and useful please don’t pick everything in sight. Don’t forget to leave plenty for the wild animals, bees, insects, and birds that really need them. As well as leaving enough of each plant and flower so their is enough to re-seed and grow again next year.

Our planet and all the nature that lives on it are important and live in a delicate balance that we should always respect and appreciate. Please never just take for the sake of, only pick what you really need. A live growing plant is always more beautiful than a picked one which will only die.

Thank you x

Bluebells

Bluebell Image bluebell identificationBluebells are easily identifiable and easy to spot. They start to grow from late April through May an will fill the air with a wonderful smell. You can find Bluebells in amongst trees and shady woodland, and are commonly found growing near to wild garlic.

Although they look and smell beautiful they are actually poisonous so either wear gloves to pick these flowers or use scissors & make sure to wash your hands after. It is illegal in the UK to pick these flowers in the wild, but if you have them growing on your own private property they are are a lovely flower to pick and bring a piece of Spring indoors.

Cornflowers

Cornflowers are a beautiful bright blue shade. They can grow a few feet tall and can usually be found in wild grasslands and fields and grassy areas along the sides of country lanes. There are many varieties of Cornflower, but wild cornflowers you can identify by their frond like, intricate petals.

Cornflowers can easily picked by hand. But look best mixed with other wild flowers like cow parsley, dog daises & wild poppies.

 

Cow Parsley

Cow parsley, also know as mother-die, Queens lace – for its delicate frothy flowers, or wild chervil, are the the umbrella-like clusters of tiny white flowers that you see growing abundantly and tall ( they can grow to over a meter in height) along the sides of paths, roadsides, hedgerows, and woodland edges.

Though cow parsley grows abundantly it doesn’t last for very long and will only be around for 2-3 months. It doesn’t smell particularly pleasant, but it can look very pretty mixed in with other wildflowers in a vase. It also has some medicinal properties and can be eaten too!

– The leaves and stems of these plants can be used in cooking as herbs or dried for making teas

– you can also cook the roots of these plants and eat as a vegetable

– the cow parsley plant is rich in nutrients that can boost your immunity as well as being antioxidant, anti bacterial & viral, and anti-inflammatory too!

– medicinally they can be used to treat stomach complaints & digestive disorders, kidney stones & cystitis, relieve migraines, aid in weight loss, and treat colds & flu

Important Note: It can be easy to mistake cow parsley for Hemlock! Hemlock is VERY poisonous, so please make sure you are aware of the differences. This article is great to clearly show you which is which so please check it out!

Healing Plants for Spring Foraging

The plants and (what are often referred to as) ‘weeds’ here are not necessarily pretty enough to put in a vase, but are definitely worth picking regardless.

They are full of nutritional value and healing properties and can be used in everything from teas, soups & salads, to tinctures, salves and poultices.

Dandelion

I won’t insult your intelligence, I think we have all come across dandelions by now. But unfortunately everyone treats this undervalued plant as an annoying weed, when in fact it is a plant to use!

Dandelions grow in almost any grassy place and will grow from early March right through to November. It comes in all different shapes and sizes too, and can grow up to 40cm tall!

Both dandelion flower, stem, leaves, and root can all be used for healing and eating.

– Dandelion leaves can be eaten raw in salads

– roots can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, or the whole plant dried for making teas

– the leaves are high in potassium & are a diuretic (meaning they make you pee!) therefore good for reducing water retention & bloating, high blood pressure, and swollen ankles

– sap from dandelion stems can be applied directly to warts and verrucas

– the whole plant can be used for tinctures, salves & many other herbal remedies to treat eczema, psoriasis, acne, stimulate the liver, flush toxins from the body, and relieve arthritis, gout, IBS, nausea, and pms to name a few

Chicweed

Chickweed is a low growing plant that tends to grow in clumps. It is often known as starweed for its dainty, white, star shaped flowers.

It has bright green, fresh looking, oval leaves that grow to a point, and it’s flowers have five petals that look like they are divided into b-shaped points.

The chickweed likes most soils and can be found on waste ground, beside footpaths, under trees, and in meadows and field margins from March to November.

– The whole chickweed plant can be eaten as a salad vegetable or cooked.

– it is rich in minerals & trace elements including iron, magnesium, manganese, silicone, and zinc

– helps eliminate toxins via urinary system and stimulate bowel movement

– can be used medicinally to relieve itching and inflamed skin, wash irritated eyes, treat anemia, heal boils & abscesses, and relieve rheumatic diseases

Cleavers

You may know cleaves as the sticky weed you used to play with as a kid. They are easily identified by their long thin stems and leaves & their sticky like nature and feel.

Cleaves can be found in hedgerows, boarders and most soils. They are one of the first plants to start growing as early as February, and will grow rampantly (often smothering other plants) right through til November.

They will flower in June, although are best picked before they flower when they are fresh and young.

– the seeds of cleavers were traditionally tasted and ground to use as a coffee substitute

– their roots are red and can be used as a natural dye

– can be drunk as a fresh juice, just 1 dessert spoon per day, as a potent tonic for a spring clean & diuretic, and for joints & skin disease

– can be used medicinally to relieve lymph congestion, swollen glands, glandular fever, treat eczema & psoriasis, as well as externally for blisters and sores

Nettles

Again, I’m pretty sure you will be able to identify nettles on your own. But did you know there are many varieties of nettle?!

Here we are just looking for the common nettle, which you want to pick before it flowers. Take only the top 4-5 leaves, and choose the younger & lighter green plants.

I have written about Nettles, their medicinal properties and uses in a dedicated post here where you can read the best was to forage them. I also have a lovely Nettle soup recipe that’s perfect to make for this time of year!

Dead nettles

Although very similar to Nettles this nettle variety is easy to differentiate by its bell shaped white flowers which grow up the top 5 or so inches of the plant and will circle around the stem.

White dead nettles will tend to grow alongside and mixed in with common nettles and like all the same growing conditions.

They differ from common nettles in that they do not ‘sting’, hence to use of – dead. These nettles will grow all year round from March to December.

The white dead nettle is rich in tannins and the whole plant can be used for teas and herbal remedies. It is above all an astringent, meaning that it has a drying effect.

– use this nettle medicinally to help reduce bleeding & and heavy periods as well as balance hormones. You will need to take white dead nettle through roughly three menstrual cycles before you start to see its effects

– you can also take dead nettle to gently relieve diarrhoea

Violets

Violets are tiny little purple flowers that can be easy to miss. You need to be looking low to the ground to spot this pretty little flower. They have heart shaped leaves, and the flowers are often hidden beneath their leaves for protection.

Wild violets grow from January to June but will  only flower from March through to May. They like shady areas and you can find them growing in wood margins, around the base of trees in parks and grassy ares, and along more open hedgerows.

– Violets can be crystallised and eaten as sweets to sweeten breath and also sooth inflamed throats. You can also use the sweet flowers to make a syrup for dressing foods and taking to relieve constipation & coughs

– Medicinally you can use the whole plant to relieve dry, tickly coughs, chesty coughs and catarrh

– You can also use violets for A beautifully scented cleansing water, and in beauty products as it soothes the skin and reduces inflammation here too

Plantin

There are many types of plantin, but they are all interchangeable medicinally and have the same properties.

Plantin can be found almost anywhere as it can thrive in most environments. Waste ground, fields, meadows, footpath edges, you may even find it in your garden.

The leaves of plantin are thickly veined and the flowers are green and grow in cone shapes with long stamen and purple pollen bearing tips. Although plantin leaves are evergreen it grows mostly from the start of Spring and will flower May to September.

Both the leaves and seeds of the plant can be used medicinally

– the juice of the leaves is cooling and anti-inflammatory, anti allergenic and antibacterial

– plantin can be taken as a blood cleanser, antihistamine, cure for hangover, indigestion & heartburn, as well as easing diarrhoea, constipation, coughs & earache

– the leaves of plantin are an excellent remedy for bites and stings, even nettle stings. As well as sunburn, boils, eczema and psoriasis

Wild Garlic

Wild garlic has a very strong scent and is easy to identify by its long thick leaves and Pom-Pom like ball of white flowers. It can be found carpeting woodland floors and shaded grassy areas from early March til late May.

The leaves and flowers you can harvest at this time, but the bulbs are beat harvested in early spring or autumn – before or after the garlic has flowered to ensure the roots are full of nutrients.

– The leaves of garlic can be eaten raw in salads, blended to make pesto, or sautéed in omelettes. But cooking reduces the potency so you are best to eat fresh or lightly cooked to get the full benefits

– wild garlic bulbs can be used in cooking the same as you would regular garlic bulbs

– medicinally wild garlic can be taken to lower cholesterol and thin the blood, it’s antiseptic properties treat colds, sore throats, sinusitis, catarrh, and chest infections

– garlic helps boost your immune system so is great to take if you feel a cold coming on or a little under the weather

– it’s also a herbal remedy to relieve earache, cold sores, conjunctivitis, boils, and fungal infections

Mallow

Mallow has been used since Egyptian times as both a food and and medicine. It grows big five pointed leaves from thick roots and can grow up to 1 metre high.

It can usually be found on waste ground, along footpaths and country lanes, meadows, and moist ground from April to November, but does not flower until June.

They are also often found in country gardens.

The Mallow flowers are big pink flowers with five petals, although they can vary in colour from light to dark pink, and almost lilac.

The leaves, roots and flowers of Mallow can all be used both in cooking and medicinally.

– The roots of Mallow can be boiled and then friend with butter and garlic

– the flowers can be made into a syrup to treat dry coughs and sore throats

– the sticky substance inside Mallow plants (called mucilage) can be applied to soothe hot and inflamed skin

– medicinally Mallow can be used to treat inflammation of the digestive, urinary and respiratory tract, relieve diarrhoea, heartburn, indigestion, cystitis, asthma, boils and acne

There are may other wild flowers and plants I’ve not covered here. But these are the most prominent ones found in May. If you are heading out this weekend to find your own plants and wildflowers have fun & stay safe! and if you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like this please let me know in the comments. Maybe a monthly update on the plants, wildflowers, wild fruits and berries etc. that are available?

Emily xo

 

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