One of the most rewarding and adventurous things you can do is collect your own food from the natural world. I recommend buying a field guide to the native plants in your area. My favourite is the Peterson Field Guide, for Eastern, Central North America. The images are detailed, text descriptive, and plants are easy to identify depending on season, colour, locations, and food prep.
Some of my favourite spring foods are fiddle heads, dandelion leaves and heads, and spruce tips!
Make sure that you read the guide thoroughly before eating any wild plant. Some plant species can resemble toxic species, so take care with what you pick. Also, don’t pick all in one area. Try and spread out your foraging. I like to pick one dandelion leaf from a number of different dandelions, this way they still have a chance at producing seed.
Depending on what latitude you live in will greatly determine the time in which you can forage. Living in Southern Ontario, late May to early June seems to be the ripe time to pick the spruce tips. Avoid picking the spruce tip at the top of the tree, this will prohibit its ability to grow in height.
Pick spruce tips that are a lighter green, and may still have the cap on them, these will be the younger and tender tips. Try the needle raw and see if you like the flavour first before plucking a bunch. The flavour should be citrusy, and perhaps a bit sprucey flavoured, however if they are beginning to branch out and look like the rest of the tree with a tough texture and resin like taste then perhaps it is too late.
Spruce Tip Uses:
- Spruce Tea – Steep spruce tips hot water like tea. Optional: Add maple syrup for sweetener and more flavour.
- Stir Fry – Fry up the tips with wild onions, mushrooms, potatoes. I like to make a vegan cheese sauce to drizzle over top!
- Add to salad as a flavourful herb.
- Add to Smoothies for that extra boost of minerals and vitamins!