Flowers are blooming and herbs are thriving: the season of harvesting edible plants from the wild or your garden has begun, and there are many ways to take advantage of their flavors and fragrances. These 10 DIY spring recipes include sweet syrups, infused honey, tea and wine as well as vinegars and tonics. If you’re wildcrafting ingredients, be sure to pick them only in areas away from roads that you’re certain haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.
Dandelions are considered a major pest by homeowners obsessed with flawless lawns due to their tenacity and deep taproots. But these fast-spreading yellow blooms can not only be eaten in salads (flowers and leaves) or be made into coffee (the roasted root), they can also be brewed into a delicious pale yellow wine. They’re rich in calcium, vitamins A and C, iron and liver detoxifiers.
In early spring, these little purple flowers begin to pop up in the grass, offering a very delicate but distinctive flavor that can be preserved in the form of syrup. This syrup recipe from Lavender and Lovage is very easy to make and can be added to beverages, baked goods or icings and buttercream for cakes.
Spring Tonic Vinegar
From Mountain Rose Herbs, a respected source of herbs and supplies for all sorts of healthy and organic endeavors, comes this wonderful Spring Tonic Vinegar, a nutrient-dense draught that will help cleanse away impurities from the excesses of winter. Many of the ingredients can be wildcrafted, like the dandelion and nettle leaf, or you can get them from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Make use of the bounty of spring strawberries now, and you’ll have an amazingly delicious homemade wine ready to drink just in time for the height of summer. This recipe from The Luxury Spot uses 7 pounds of fresh strawberries, along with a bit of lemon juice and sugar, fermenting the ingredients into wine over a period of about three months.
Spring Cleansing Herbal Tea
This gentle detox tea combines lemon balm, calendula, dandelion, jasmine, red clover, rose and lavender for an extremely flavorful floral beverage that’s healthy and comforting. You can gather some of the ingredients, like the clover and dandelion, from your yard, and get the rest at organic floral shops or online.
Depending on where you live, you can probably walk out into your yard or a wild patch of grass near your workplace and find a patch of chickweed. Generally considered a weed, this plant is actually medicine and food, loaded with vitamins A, B, D and C as well as iron, calcium and potassium. Vinegar extracts and preserves all of these nutrients. Chickweed vinegar is very easy to make, and can be used as a salad dressing or taken a shot at a time as a health tonic (it’s particularly helpful for allergies.)
Maybe you don’t want to accidentally brush up against a stinging nettle plant, but you do want to eat it. That may sound contradictory, but once this plant – which is covered in thousands of tiny stinging fibers – is cooked, it’s not only harmless, but extremely good for you. Nettle is very rich in minerals like magnesium and calcium as well as anti-inflammatory substances and phytonutrients. This infusion from Nourished Kitchen adds mint and red clover for even more health benefits and flavor.
You can infuse raw honey with just about any herb or edible flower you like simply by covering clean, dry plant matter with the honey and letting it sit for at least two weeks. Chamomile pairs especially well with the honey’s natural flavor, and it’s a relaxing addition to tea. Get the recipe at My Humble Kitchen.
In mid- to late-spring, the sweet scent of honeysuckle begins to waft through the air, heralding the coming of summer. Capture its essence with raw honey and a pint of brandy in honeysuckle elixir, which is really simple to make. The recipe is at Bear Medicine Herbals (image via wikimedia commons).
Chive Blossom Vinegar
Chives produce small puffs of purple flowers in late May to early June, and they carry a faint flavor and scent of green onions. Steeping them in vinegar produces a tasty, pretty pale purple infusion. Learn more at Food in Jars.