Springtime Wild Herbs

Nat Mady from Hackney Herbal shares her favourite herbs for this time of year and how to use them.

As spring arrives, the longer days and milder temperatures stimulate plants to wake up from their winter dormancy. All around us plants are unfurling, transforming our green spaces accompanied by the subtle scent of springtime blossom.

It’s a time to celebrate the cyclical rhythm of the natural world as new plants emerge and remind us that the new season is here.

Spring sees the return of many of our beloved wild plants and is a great time to explore the plants growing in your local area. Here are some of the herbs you will find growing abundantly at this time along with some ideas for how to enjoy them.

Chickweed

Chickweed 

Stellaria media

Chickweed is a vitamin-packed and tasty spring green. It pops up in bare patches of soil and can be eaten fresh in salads or added into dishes. We love combining it with gram flour, garlic and spices to make pakoras. You can also make use of its anti-itch properties by infusing the fresh herb in oil and then turning it into a balm or cream for stings and bites.

Picking time: February - March.

Daisy

Daisy 

Bellis perennis

The humble daisy is one of the earliest spring flowers to bloom. You’ll find it in grassy areas where it can create little carpets of delicate white flowers. The flowers and leaves can be eaten or infused to make tea. It’s a great anti-inflammatory plant and you can make a great remedy for bruising and swelling. A simple bruise balm can be made by combining an oil infused with daisy flowers and wax. 

Picking time: From late Feb.

Stinging nettles


Stinging nettle 

Urtica dioica

Sometimes a bit tricky to pick if you haven’t come prepared with rubber gloves but well worth the stings. Bursting with vitamins A & C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium nettle makes for an excellent brew. Try it as a herbal infusion or add it into soups and stews (which takes away the sting) for an iron rich boost. Nettle tea can also be a useful remedy for hayfever.

Picking time: March - May or whenever you find a patch that hasn't flowered yet.

Cleavers


Cleavers (sticky weed, sticky willy, goose grass) 

Galium aparine

Recognisable by its sticky character, cleavers are best enjoyed in their fresh state. Add them to a big jug of cold water or pop them into your water bottle and allow to infuse overnight. You can also wiz them up in a blender for a juice that will help your lymphatic system, aiding your body with the removal of toxins. A great tonic for a sluggish post winter body.

Picking time: March - April.

Wild garlic


Wild garlic (ramsons) 

Allium ursinum

We like picking the leaves of these and adding them to salads or sandwiches for a nice hearty garlic kick. It’s packed with allicin which is antibacterial and antimicrobial, perfect for beating off those pre-spring colds. Be careful not to uproot when you are picking them so the plant can live on and come back each year. 

Picking time: Late March - April.

Picking times vary depending on where you are and the weather. These times are based on what I tend to experience in London. When picking herbs in the wild, be careful to never deplete an area, leave plenty behind and only take what you need remembering that other people and beings rely on these plants too.

It's also really important to make sure you identify plants correctly and never eat something that you aren’t 100% sure is what you believe it is!

Nat Mady is a Hackney-based permaculturist with a passion for connecting people with nature in their urban locality. In 2015, she founded Hackney Herbal, a social enterprise promoting wellbeing using herbs as a way to share knowledge about plants and their many creative uses. She is the author of 'Enjoying Wild Herbs' from a series of pamphlets created by Rough Trade Books in partnership with Garden Museum. 

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