Wild Foods Recipe Round-Up:
A Seasonal Guide to Preparing Foraged Foods
By Meghan Gemma
Photography by Juliet Blankespoor (except where otherwise credited)
Foraging seasonal wild foods is an exciting and nourishing way to celebrate the turnings of the year—one that connects us to our ancestral stories of sustenance. Each season offers something unique, perfectly timed to nourish the cycles of life.
This recipe round-up is a duet: we’ve included every wild foods recipe from our blog, plus we’ve added recipes from some of our favorite foraging foodies. There are bushels of fantastic wild foods recipes out there (both in cookbooks and online)—this is really just a nibble to get you inspired!
Please remember: foraging wild foods calls for a healthy dose of caution and a solid grasp on foraging ethics and etiquette. You can find a detailed guide to all of the above in our article on Sustainable and Safe Gathering Practices.
This article is a featurette on recipes; not on plant ID! Some of the links may include ID information, but many will not. You’ll want to find a couple field guides relevant to your region by searching our book list. Find a local foraging and/or plant identification teacher, if possible! Remember, there are deadly poisonous plants and mushrooms out there: one wrong move could be your last.
Have fun and be safe—which means being 110% sure of any plant’s identification before you sample or harvest.
Spring: Wild Greens Galore
The spring foraging season is all about the greens! Spring presents us with a cornucopia of delectable wild greens that are both abundant and off-the-charts nutritious. This is a traditional time to integrate wild green foods and juices into meals as a way to cleanse the body after a winter of heavier foods. Depending on your region, look for fresh greens like chickweed (Stellaria media), wintercress (Cardamine spp.), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), daylily (Hemerocallis fulva), and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) from January through May.
I anticipate the arrival of daylily greens every year in early spring! They’re fantastic cooked up with little more than butter, garlic, and salt. Note that some people have daylily allergies, so try a small portion the first time, prepared from cooked greens. (Raw daylily is more likely to cause a reaction.) Please read this article for ID tips as it’s easy to confuse many poisonous plants for daylily.
Whirl this pesto together with whatever array of greens is handy to you, and combine them with salty, savory additions like toasted pecans, feta cheese, and tahini. Perfect for keeping in the fridge as a snack; fancy enough to serve as an appetizer course at dinner.
Herbal pâté is a thicker, creamier variation on pesto. Made with wild greens, this is one of my all-time favorite condiments (especially when stinging nettles are added to the mix!). I spoon it onto eggs, crackers, veggies, and grain dishes. You can also try this vegan version featuring black walnuts and nutritional yeast from our friend, Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries.-
One of my favorite breakfast dishes—a heart-friendly, wild foods/herbal version of the classic toasted bagel. This recipe features violet (Viola spp.) leaves and flowers, plus chickweed greens—which are high in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and soluble fiber.
Wild Grape Leaf Dolmas by Dina Falconi
I love spicing up traditional dishes with wild foods flair. These dolmas, wrapped up in tender wild grape leaves, are a popular finger food at my house. I especially like to mince dried wild fruits in with more savory ingredients.
Wild Spring Greens Tabouli by Gather Victoria
Serve this regional take on classic tabouli as a delicious and mineral-rich side dish, or as the base for a light entrée. (Poached egg and kimchi on top, anyone?)
Summer: Foraged Berries and Blossoms
Summer’s wild foods dishes are loaded with the antioxidant gifts of flowers, mushrooms, and berries. This is hands-down the most colorful season to bring foraged foods to the table. This is also a prime-time window for food and herb preservation. Dry, freeze, jam, ferment, and infuse your extra harvests—your pantry will be a wonder come winter.
These appetizer-sized blooms will likely be the most beautiful dish on any table you set. Colorful, tantalizing, and savory, few will be able to resist their novelty and floral allure. Daylily petals are lightly crunchy and succulent, which pairs well with the creamy filling in this recipe.
This sweet and savory salsa is high in bioflavonoids, with its array of vibrant rainbow colors. Nopales (Opuntia spp., Cactaceae) are an important medicine and traditional food in Mexico, Central America, and the Southwest.
Wild Fruit Ice Cream by Dina Falconi
Homemade ice cream has it all: high-quality creamy sweetness that you can tweak to suit any dietary preference. I personally like using raw cow’s milk (or coconut milk) and local honey when I churn up a batch. Dina’s recipe is perfect for any of summer’s wild berries.
Dark Magic Reishi Truffles by Asia Suler
These chocolate reishi (Ganoderma spp.) truffles are decadent AND loaded with antioxidant, adaptogenic medicine. Reishi mushrooms are gathered in the summer months, but can be dried and saved for making treats any time of the year.
Nettle Seed Salt by Rebecca Altman
I try to always have this condiment on hand. The simple combination of salt, seeds, and lemon is tasty and medicinal; nettle seeds nourish the adrenals and kidneys, and can impart a boost of energy (sans caffeine!).
Nasturtium & Sumac Hot Sauce by Gather Victoria
Any pantry benefits immensely from a good jar of hot sauce. Even if you yourself do not partake, you’ll be glad you prepared a batch the next time you host Taco Tuesday or set out fixings for the burrito bar.
Dandelion Flower Fritters by Mountain Rose Herbs
This is an old-time classic that every child will be excited to try! I like to serve piping hot dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) fritters alongside a homemade dipping sauce à la plain yogurt blended with lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs.
Fall: Wildcrafted Comfort Foods & Drinks
Whereas summer’s harvest is bright and bold, I find the wild foods of fall to be softer, sweeter, and more earthy. This is the season for gathering ripening tree fruits, savory nut meats, edible roots, and sun-browned seeds. Again, this is an abundant time for putting up any foraged surplus to nourish you through the frosty months of winter.
A warming, lightly boozy concoction that can be made alcohol-free by substituting apple cider for brandy. This beverage blends some of fall’s tastiest fruits and herbs into a cold season tonic that will have you feeling ready for crisp nights and wood stove fires.
Foraged Chai Masala by Ellen Zachos
This wild chai features spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and juniper (Juniperus spp.) berries, wild ginger roots (Asarum canadense), and spruce needles (Picea spp.). Local, regional, and domestic substitutions are 100% acceptable! According to its creator, this chai is “freakin’ amazing.”
Burdock Root Roast by Colleen Codekas
Burdock root (Arctium lappa, A. minus) is a classic food herb whose flavor is earthy and sweet—somewhat like a carrot or parsnip. This simple recipe really lets burdock shine. Consider switching out the olive oil for other fats that have a higher smoke point (like ghee or coconut oil), and adding more root veggies to the mix—I like carrots and sweet potatoes.
Raw Persimmon Pudding by Wild Abundance
This creamy, raw pudding is one of my favorite fall treats—and it’s so easy to whip up. Make sure the persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) you gather have sweetened up properly; they are extremely high in mouth-puckering tannins until well and fully ripe!
Chanterelle Stuffing with Pine Nuts by Hank Shaw
Stuffing is one of the most comforting foods to put on the table at special fall feasts. Add delicacies like chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) and pine nuts (Pinus spp.), and you’ve got a masterpiece!
Black Walnut Butter by Woodland Foods
If you’re willing to crack all the nuts needed for this recipe, you’re in for a treat (that’s rich in magnesium). The author doesn’t specify which plant oil to use—I prefer coconut.
Winter: The Wild Feast Continues
Yes, there are wild foods to forage throughout the winter months! Admittedly, I tend to do more foraging in my pantry than in the hedgerows this time of year, but if you know what to look for, you’ll be impressed by the nourishment available during the cold moons. Rosehips (Rosa spp.), edible roots, seaweeds, certain mushrooms, hardy greens, and many conifer needles can be gathered through the hard frosts of winter.
Conifer & Wild Berry Winter Syrup by Gather Victoria
Nothing calls to mind the sweetness of winter like the comforting aroma of evergreens. Conifer needles can be stirred into a decadent spread of recipes, including this vitamin C-rich syrup. Take by the spoonful, or drizzle over yogurt or cream.
Sauerkraut with Juniper Berries by The Wondersmith
I consider sauerkraut to be a year-round staple, but I especially appreciate its probiotic benefits in winter when my diet tends to be heavier. Juniper “berries” (Juniperus spp.) are a traditional addition to krauts, and I love the piney flavor they impart. Gather in late fall to early winter—use fresh or dried.
Herbal Bone Broth by Ritual Kitchen
Another winter essential. Bone broth (or veggie broth) can be amped up with the addition of herbs. This recipe offers up plenty of possibilities, from nettles to rosehips to burdock roots.
Rose Hip & Cranberry Compote by Rosalee de la Forêt
Vitamin C is strengthening to the immune system, and this recipe is loaded with it! Take care with foraged rose hips: they need to be split and de-seeded before they can be eaten as food (tiny hairs that irritate the throat surround the seeds). They can be used whole when taken as tea.
Oyster Mushroom Udon Soup by Fat of the Land
Winter is soup season! Various species of oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) fruit throughout the year, and I’ve collected many nice harvests in the heart of winter. You can also rehydrate dried mushrooms for this recipe.
Homemade Maple Syrup by Wild Abundance
Maple syrup is made from the sap of sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum). Don’t have any near you? Other trees can be tapped, including hickory (Carya spp.), birch (Betula spp.), walnut (Juglans spp.), and other species of maple (Acer spp.).
Hungry for more?
These recipes are just an amuse-bouche at the wild foods feast served up by Mother Earth. Visit the following resources we’ve whipped up for more inspiration:
Meet Our Contributors:
JULIET BLANKESPOOR founded the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine in 2007 and serves as the school’s primary instructor and Creative Director. She's been a professional plant-human matchmaker for close to three decades. Juliet caught the plant bug when she was nineteen and went on to earn a degree in Botany. She's owned just about every type of herbal business you can imagine: an herbal nursery, a medicinal products business, a clinical practice, and now, an herbal school.
These days, she channels her botanical obsession with writing and photography in her online programs and here on her personal blog, Castanea. She's writing her first book: Cultivating Medicinal Herbs: Grow, Harvest, and Prepare Handcrafted Remedies from Your Home Garden. Juliet and her houseplants share a home with her family and herb books in Asheville, North Carolina.
MEGHAN GEMMA is one of the Chestnut School’s primary instructors through her written lessons, and is the principal pollinator of the school’s social media community—sharing herbal and wild foods wisdom from the flowery heart of the school to an ever-wider field of herbalists, gardeners, healers, and plant lovers.
She has been in a steady relationship with the Chestnut School since 2010—as an intern and manager at the Chestnut Herb Nursery; as a plant-smitten student “back in the day” when the school’s programs were taught in the field; and later as a part the school’s woman-powered professional team. Meghan lives in the Ivy Creek watershed, just north of Asheville, North Carolina.
Are you intrigued with the idea
of foraging but intimidated by where to start?
Gain confidence with our Online Foraging Course!
The course begins with the basic ground rules of foraging safety and ethics, and then moves on to botany and plant identification. Before you know it, you’ll have the skills and confidence to safely identify and harvest wild plants.
You’ll befriend THE most common edible and medicinal wayside plants, including dandelion, stinging nettles, violet, yarrow, burdock, rose, goldenrod, and many others. The printable manual is hundreds of pages long and filled with close-up photos for identification, medicinal uses, and loads of easy-to-follow recipes. In fact, most of our plant profiles contain more detail than you’ll find in any book on wild foods and herbs.
Registration for the Foraging Course is closed until 2020.
Sign up for free tutorials (videos + articles) on Foraging and herbal medicine, and to be notified when enrollment reopens.