The best season for Wild Edibles is fast approaching – SPRING. For many of us, Spring is coming early this year and many wild edibles are already popping up all over the place. One of the first wild flowers to show up is The Spring Beauty. I’ve been around this little flower my whole life and never knew it was a Wild Edible until a few years ago. I can remember the forest floor on my parents farm being covered with thousands of these little flowers.
To my knowledge there isn’t a spring wild flower that looks like this one. It’s pretty easy to identify. It has 5 petals with noticable pinkish-purple veins. Each stem typically has 2 leaves that are opposite each other.
They are small – only getting about 6 or so inches tall. The edible parts are the leaves and the tubers. The leaves don’t have much of a flavor – very mild. The tubers (root) has a earthy radish like flavor. The tuber size can vary from the size of a pea to the size of a quarter. Often, several flower stems will lead to 1 tuber.
How to Harvest the Tuber
I use a digging stick – actually an elk tine – to dig up the tubers. I just follow the delicate the stems down in the ground a few inches and then thrust the elk tine nearby and pry upwards. You want to make sure to follow the stems all the way and make sure they are connected to the tuber. These things grow around all kinds of other plants and you want to make sure you are collecting the right root.
You can see in the photo above how the skin on the tuber has come off. This is exactly how you prep them for eating. Just wash and peel off the skin. I just rub them vigorously between my fingers and it comes off pretty easy.
You can boil these for a few minutes or cook them in soups and stews. Or, you can just eat them raw. In this instance, I decided to make a fresh spring green salad with Spring Beauty Tubers. In the mix below I have dandelion leaves, garlic mustard, wild onion tops, dandelion buds, spring beauty leaves, mint leaves, clover and sorrel – all from right off the back step in my yard.
I sliced the Spring Beauty tubers and tossed them on top with a little olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.
Later in the summer and fall, many of these salad greens get a little bitter but in the spring when they first pop out they make a perfect salad before any meal. It took me about 5 minutes to gather the ingredients – including the SB tubers and another 5 minutes to wash and prepare everything. And, it was all FREE.
Now I’ll admit, the SB tubers are a little work for their size. And, the plant does die after you collect them. However, it’s a fun edible to mix in every spring. And, your harvest window is only a few weeks while you can identify the plants with the flowers.
Let me know if you have any questions at all. As always with Wild Edibles – don’t eat it unless you are 150% sure you know exactly what it is.
Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,