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My Favourite Edible Spring Plants

Guest post by Luke Eckstein

Trout Lily!

Spring is my favourite time of year. Everything is waking up from sleeping under a blanket of snow for months and is quick to become vibrant, alive and full of colour. The flowers start to bloom as their insect pollinators begin emerging. A procession of spring ephemeral plants (perennial plants that emerge quickly in the spring and die back to their underground parts after a short growth and reproduction phase) spread across the carolinian forest floor before the tree canopy opens up to shade them while they survive off of what they have managed to store away. Shade tolerant plants continue their life cycles under the new canopy and the mushrooms begin to fruit more now that they are more protected from the sun. Coming out of the winter months, I'm always anticipating the change in the weather that warms the soil and waters the sprouts and shoots of new growth.

In spring the plant's energy is in the root and then moving up into the shoot, leaves and flowers.  One of these plants in the spring ephemeral group is called Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum, which has mottled or speckled leaves and a yellow flower. It is a beautiful little plant that can be abundant enough to carpet the forest floor and yet it takes years to gather enough energy for it to flower. All parts of it are edible from the sweet and crunchy root bulb to the leaves and flowers. It can be hard to imagine such abundant plant's being over harvested but when it takes years to gather the sunlight needed to flower you can see why we are able to have a big impact if we take more than we need.

Luke Eckstein grew up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and has been eating wild edible plants since he was little, scouring the school yard for tasty morsels.  Since then he has indulged his curiosity by learning about plants throughout high school, and studying biology, genetics, cell biology, and eventually specializing in molecular biology and microbiology at University. Luke is endlessly curious about the plants that surround us and can usually be found with at least one filed guide to fungi or edible plants in his bag... just in case.


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