Northwest Foraging – 9 Wild Foods to Gather in Early May

Northwest Foraging – 9 Wild Foods to Gather in Early May

Looking to do some Northwest wild food foraging? Here are 9 wild foods to gather in early May. All these plants are edible and many of them have medicinal qualities as well. Recipes to follow so stay posted!

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Foraging in Early Spring

Our ‘wild garden’ is going to provide many of the same types of things you might find in your annual veggie garden or farmer’s market this time of year. Spring is popping and plants are emerging from winter dormancy, putting on new growth as they make their run toward summer.

Foraging in early spring you will mainly be looking for tender spring greens. Some are going to have more flavor pop than others so you should be able to find something for even the most picky sensitive of palates.

So grab your harvest basket and tools and head out for a walk to see what you find. We could all use the fresh air right now, am I right or am I right?!

And… please be sure to forage responsibly so that you and other wild food rebels always have a patch to come back to!

Ok, I am going to start this list with my new favorite spring treat…

Oxeye Daisy Greens

Oh. freaking. yum.

Oxeye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) is definitely at the top of the list.

I held back from trying this wild edible for a long time. I don’t know… I just really didn’t think it would taste good! But try it… seriously. Just pick a young tender leaf and give it a little nibble.

For more information on this wild edible and medicinal check out this post: All About Oxeye Daisy.

And then there’s…

Fiddlehead Ferns

Search for the emerging shoots of the Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), still curled and resembling ‘fiddleheads’.

Did you know that middle ages lore taught that fern spores in your pockets would render you invisible? Not going to count on that, but I will pick the young Ostrich Fern shoots and take them home for dinner.

Claytonia – Miner’s Lettuce

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) is easy to identify with its distinct round leaves that encircle the stems. Miner’s Lettuce retains its tenderness throughout the growth cycle so you can use it pretty much any time you find it. I find that flavor is very mild and resembles young spinach.

Claytonia – Candy Flower

Northwest Foraging in Early May - Candy Flower (Claytonia) Growing in a Dry River Bed

A close cousin of Miner’s Lettuce, Candy Flower (Claytonia sibirica) is another species of the genus Claytonia. We find that Candy Flower is way more prolific than Miner’s Lettuce in our area so we harvest a good bit of it. Use it in salads, on sandwiches, or any other way you might use tender baby greens.


Cleavers (Galium aparine) is fun to pick and play with its ‘cleaving’ characteristic as you stick it to your clothes like velcro.

Cleavers makes a nutritive addition to herbal tea or as a potherb.

Surprisingly, the young tips of Cleavers are a tasty treat with a mild vanilla-licorice-like flavor. For nibbling, you will want to just pinch off the top couple of inches while they are still young and tender before it becomes stringy.

Fireweed Tips

Young Fireweed tips (Epilobium angustifolium) can be eaten raw as greens, on a sandwich or whatnot, but as I harvested these today I found that they were quite bitter. I think this is the tail end of the prime harvest season. I will be taking today’s harvest home to saute in some olive oil and garlic to balance out the bitterness.

Fireweed is high is vitamin C and beta-carotene and is best harvested for eating when the shoots are just emerging and the leaf tips are still pointing upward.

Indian Paintbrush Blossoms

We find that their flavor resembles a sweet mushroom.

Not something you want to eat a ton of because of a possibly high content of selenium. However, in small amounts, Indian Paintbrush blossoms (Castilleja spp.) are said to make a nice trail snack or edible garnish.

Wall Lettuce

Have you ever tasted your garden lettuce and it has gone bitter? That is what wild lettuce (Lactuca muralis) tastes like. Certainly not ‘choice’, but it is a good one to know for survival food.

You could always harvest this for use as a potherb, or mix small amounts in with your salad for a little bitterness if that is your thing.

Plantain, Broadleaf and Lanceleaf

Young tender leaves of both Broadleaf and Lanceleaf Plantain (Plantago spp.) can be added to salads or used as a cooked green or potherb. Plantain is high in vitamins C, A, and K. As the leaves get older, the more fibrous they become but can still be used to add nutrition to a broth.

Bonus Tip: Grab Some Wild Berry Leaves for a Cup of Herbal ‘Trail Tea’!

A nice hot cup of herbal tea is a great way to treat yourself after an afternoon of foraging.

When we are out on the trail we like to gather a handful of tea herbs for a cup of ‘trail tea’ for when we get back to camp or home. It doesn’t take much. Figure on about one tablespoon of fresh herb per cup of tea.

Today we snagged a few leaves from whatever berry producing plants we saw along the way… trailing blackberry, wild strawberry, new growth of Oregon grape, and blueberry. We also grabbed a couple of Oregon grape flowers.

More on ‘Trail Tea’ in a coming post!

Have you tried any of these wild foods? Do you have a favorite? What else are you harvesting in early May?

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Disclaimer: This information is for research and educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Do your research!


Kallas, J. (2010). Edible wild plants: wild foods from dirt to plate. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith.

Moore, M. (2011). Medicinal plants of the Pacific West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press.

Tilford, G. L. (1997). Edible and medicinal plants of the West. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publ. Co.

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