Early Season Foraging

It's hard not to get excited for outdoor activities when the snow starts melting and the warmer temperatures arrive. Foraging is a great way to get out in the early season, get your hiking legs back, breathe in the fresh spring air and to gather some free calories from your local environment.


I personally enjoy the empowering feeling of self-sufficiency I get from foraging for and making tasty snacks and meals with edible things I find in the woods.

There are a couple of ground rules when it comes to foraging that people must understand and follow so everyone can continue to enjoy nature's bounty.

  • First and foremost, do not over harvest any one plant or patch, some plants may be very slow at spreading and reproducing so it could be decades before it recovers. Do not pick from the first plant or patch that you see, if there is only one in the area it would be best to leave it alone and give it its best chance to populate the area.
  • Stay off of private property unless you have permission from the landowners and be aware that removing whole or parts of plants from provincial or national parks is not permitted.
  • Last but certainly not least, leave nothing behind. Take all garbage with you.

Wild Leeks 

Wild leeks are found in the under-story of hardwood stands such as oak and maple, on flat ground or on southern facing slopes. Their leaves are one of the first to come out in spring as they need to capture as much energy from the sun as they can before the deciduous tree leaves grow in and create a canopy above them. When the tree canopy above them grows in, their leaves die back and only the bulb remains, safely underground waiting for the next spring. Wild leeks have some lookalikes but can be easily distinguished by their strong onion scent when crushed between your fingers.

This is a plant that you need to harvest very sparingly, it can take 7-15 years to properly mature and are very slow growers as they only have leaves to catch the sun's energy for a short period each year then go dormant. Never take the whole plant, or more than 5% of a patch and do not take from the same patch each year. If possible, with permission, harvest from private property so it is known how many people are taking from one area. The leaves, bulbs and roots all have the same great taste so if you want to harvest more sustainably you can harvest only the leaves so the bulbs can regrow the next year. 

Morel Mushrooms


Morels are a foraging favourite. They are extremely elusive mushrooms and are hard to cultivate so all the morels that you find in fancy restaurants and at farmers markets are generally harvested from the wild. They are so expensive due to the difficulty cultivating them, short growing season and their extremely short shelf life. Morels have a nutty and earthy flavour and a meaty texture.

Morels pop in the spring and can last until June, their caps are honey comb textured or pitted and can be conical, elongated or nearly spherical in shape. Their appearance is very unique and easily identifiable, however, they do have a lookalike that is not safe to eat. The best way to distinguish morels from their lookalikes is that morels will always be hallow. If you are ever unsure about the mushrooms you harvest it is always best to play it safe and to not eat it unless you are sure that it is the type you are looking for. We do not recommend 'self-taught' mushroom harvesting, beginners should always go out with experienced harvesters.   


Fiddleheads are another spring foraging favourite, the are the tightly curled heads of the ostrich fern. They are found throughout hardiness zones 3 to 7 in forests where the soil is damp and rich. They can also be found along streams and brooks in wooded areas where they can get some sunlight. Ostrich fern fiddleheads can be identified by their U-shaped groove on the inside of the stem as well as the brown papery scales that they emerge from. Bracken ferns fiddleheads are similar but they can be differentiated by their fuzzy appearance, lack of U-shaped groove and no brown papery scales. To ensure ethical harvesting do not pick more than half of the fiddleheads from a group, called a crown, and do not harvest from the same crown more than once per season. Like all food you forage for make sure they are properly washed and cooked before consuming.  


Dandelions are amazing in that you can eat every part of the plant! They are very nutrient dense and versatile despite being considered a weed by most people. With many options for places to pick dandelions it is important to pick them from somewhere that does not use fertilizers, pesticides or chemicals as these compounds are you do not want to consumer that and are very unpalatable. The leaves of dandelion are a great addition to spring salads or added to stir fries, they have a slightly bitter taste but have a peppery kick similar to arugula.

The root of dandelions have two parts, the inner and outer root. The fleshy outer root can be boiled and eaten and is similar to asparagus. It is recommended that you remove the inner root if you eat them this way as they can be more bitter. The roots can also be dried and used to make a drink that is similar in taste and effect to coffee.

Dandelion flowers can be used to brighten up spring salads after removing as much of the green part as you can. The flowers can also be used to make a wine that contains subtle hints of honey, a nice way to remember the taste of spring when fall and winter come barrelling around the corner. The flowers can also be used to infuse oils and vinegar's to use in cooking all year round. Or add infused oils to salves, dandelion salves are known to help with sore muscles and great for moisturizing dry skin.

Spruce tips 

The tips of white and black spruce trees are very abundant in the early summer, they are very light in both flavour and texture and can be harvested in bulk to be enjoyed for the rest of the year. Spruce tips can be added to salads and eaten raw, pickled or candied. To candy your spruce tips, cook them in a pan with syrup until reduced then dehydrate them for proper storage. Adding candied spruce tips to your favourite trail mix is a great way to enjoy this seasonal treat all year round. 

Whichever way you want to spend your foraging season remember to be respectful to the environment and to enjoy the natural beauty of where you live!

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