Spring Foraging Guide

Spring Foraging Guide

As winter loosens its grip and the first signs of spring emerge, Bellingham bursts into blossom, offering a bounty of wild treasures waiting to be unearthed. In this guide, I'll outline some of my absolute favorite forages from March to June discovering nature's delicacies that stir the senses and nourish the soul. So grab your basket and your sense of wonder, and let's explore the wild wonders of spring in Bellingham. 

While walking through the parks and forests in Whatcom county, Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) poke their heads up in bogs, along creeks and rivers, and in moist undergrowth. Despite their prickly reputation, these nutrient-rich greens are a forager's delight. Harvest the tender shoots and leaves before they flower, being sure to don gloves to avoid the sting. Once harvested, stinging nettle can be transformed into a myriad of culinary delights, from nourishing soups and teas to vibrant pestos and sautés. 
Here is my favorite nettle pesto recipe:

Pistachio Nettle Pesto

Lightly blanch nettles in a pot of boiling water then allow to lightly dry off excess water. In a food processor pulse salt, pepper, pistachios, & garlic. Then, add your nettles, olive oil, and parmesan. Add water a Tbsp at a time as needed. Enjoy!

1 large bunch of cleaned nettles

 Kosher salt 

Black Pepper

⅓ cup raw pistachios

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

1oz. Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving


In the late winter and early days of spring Black Cottonwood Bud (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) burst forth with a bounty of sticky, resinous buds. These aromatic gems are prized for their medicinal properties. Harvest the buds before they open, capturing their essence at its peak. The best window for harvesting is during a break in the rain, to allow the buds to dry before harvest. Infuse them into oils for soothing salves and balms. 

One of my favorite spring sights is a patch of unfurling Fiddlehead Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). These delicate greens, harvested from the ostrich fern, offer a fleeting taste of springtime. Gather them when young and tender, before they fully  unfurl. I love to sauté them in garlic and butter to serve with pasta or seafood or steamed with lemon juice and added to freshen up a stir fry. This year, I'm excited to experiment with pickling fiddleheads with this recipe from Forager Chef.
One of the most whimsical moments of spring is when the exquisite blossoms of the Magnolia Tree (Magnolia spp.) unfurl. They offer a heady fragrance on crisp spring walks, and their young blossoms inspire playful experimentation in the kitchen. Personally, I love crafting a refreshing magnolia blossom iced tea on a hot spring day.

While magnolia trees are commonly found in neighborhoods, harvesting can sometimes pose a challenge. However, I see it as an opportunity to connect with new neighbors. Offering to pick blossoms in exchange for a jar of pickled petals or sweet magnolia syrup, fostering a sense of community and sharing in the joy of spring.
Elder trees (Sambucus spp.) burst to life with clusters of these ethereal, fairy-like flowers. These delicate blossoms boast a sweet and floral flavor that lends itself beautifully to cordials, syrups, and desserts. I prefer to gather bunches of blossoms in the early morning, picking sparingly from each tree to ensure that the flowers can fully ripen into delicious late-summer berries.

From delicate blossoms to rich stinging greens, foraging is a cherished practice that keeps us intimately connected to the rhythm of the seasons. Each year, as my favorite forages emerge, it feels like welcoming back old friends and fills me with a contagious excitement for the season to come.

But our foraging adventures are about more than just culinary exploration and curiosity. They serve a crucial ecological purpose, too. These spring plants aren't just nourishing for us; they're vital lifelines for our local pollinators. From honeybees to native bees, these unsung heroes rely on the abundance of pollen and nectar provided by the plants we forage.

As you delve into your own foraging journeys, I hope this guide has inspired you to not only explore the edible wonders of spring but also to appreciate the intricate relationships that sustain us all. Stay tuned for my summer foraging guide, coming your way in July!

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