Tune in to your inner gatherer: 5 spring plants to forage in the Pacific Northwest

Here’s when, where, and what to look for when you go foraging in the spring — plus, some recipes for when you get back home.

A collage shows images of Siberian Miners Lettuce, a magnolia flower, a Douglas Fir, a salmonberry flower, and a dandelion.

Each of these five plants can be found fairly readily in the Pacific Northwest.

Pictures by Leslie Sleaton, George Chernilevsky, U.S. Forest Service, Robert Flogaus-Faust, and Dominicus Johannes Bergsma

As plants begin to awaken and come back to life after the winter months, so do our opportunities to go out into the wild and forage for tasty ingredients.

Nettles and fiddlehead ferns are some of the most well-known stars of the foraging season, but here are a few other plants you may want to keep an eye out for next time you wander into nature.

Safety note: Never, ever eat a plant that you aren’t 100% confident about. Always consult a guide book before consuming or find an experienced guide to forage with.

A patch of Siberian Miners Lettuce has sprung up in some woods near Seattle. This particular group is sporting light purple flowers.

Luckily, Siberian Miners Lettuce grows in big patches, so you can grab enough for a salad pretty quickly.

Photo by Leslie Sleaton

Siberian Miners Lettuce

  • What: These plants have fat, pointed leaves with white flowers sprouting from the middle. However, they can vary quite a bit and are quite similar in looks to its close relative Claytonia perfoliata, which is also edible and similar in flavor. Regardless, look for dense mats of the stuff.
  • When: Find these leafy babes throughout the spring.
  • Where: Keep an eye low to the ground in wet, shady areas.
  • Recipe: Noted for a clear leafy taste, Siberian Miner’s Lettuce is a great addition to salads or can be cooked like a spinach. It’s super high in vitamins and nutrients.
A few dewdrops sit on this bright green Douglas fir branch.

Douglas firs are just one type of conifer that has edible needles.

Photo via U.S. Forest Service

Conifer needles

  • What: Most species of conifers have edible needles, but there are a few toxic varieties out there. Always consult a guidebook.
  • When: Found year-round, though many find newly sprouted needles to be more tender and pleasing to the palate.
  • Where: Well... we are the Evergreen State. Just keep your eyes peeled and you’re bound to be fairly successful.
  • Recipe: “Pine needle soda” has been compared to a sort of pine-y Sprite and can be made with just pine needles and sugar. The natural yeast on the needles does the rest of the work in getting things bubbly.
Two magenta Magnolia liliiflora blossoms stand out against an otherwise mostly bare tree.

The strength of a magnolia’s flavor seems to have a direct correlation to the intensity of the flowers color.

Photo by George Chernilevsky

Magnolia flowers

  • What: These round, fragrant flowers aren’t native, but they are a popular choice in landscaping. Just be cautious before taking any flowers from a neighbor or park. And while lots of magnolia varieties are edible, not all are. Keep a guide close by.
  • When: Find them scattered about town early to mid spring.
  • Where: You might already have them in your yard.
  • Recipe: Well-known TikTok creator and forager Alexis Nicole Nelson came up with a lovely magnolia snap cookie recipe to bring out the flower’s innate ginger-y flavor.
A single dandelion blossom stands against a plot of dark green grass.

While the flower’s vast presence on lawns across the United States might suggest a native status to our continent, it’s original home is actually in Eurasia.

Photo by Dominicus Johannes Bergsma


  • What: These otherwise pesky, sunshine-colored weeds are actually quite nutritious. The leaves, roots, and flowers can be used in dishes, and are rumored to be quite good for your heart. Just don’t try to stick that seedy fuzzball that we use to make wishes in your mouth. You won’t like it, we promise.
  • When: You’ll be battling them in your yard from mid-spring to late summer.
  • Where: You’ll find them in yards, park, and the side of the road.
  • Recipe: The flowers have a delightful bitter, but meaty flavor. Give ‘em a good toss in some batter and fry em up like pancakes. They go quite nicely with a chipotle sauce.
Two pink salmonberry flowers appear to have just started to open as they hang next to a background of green leaves.

You can’t tell us these salmonberry flowers wouldn’t look darling on a cake.

Photo by Robert Flogaus-Faust

Salmonberry shoots + flowers

  • What: This plant’s sunset-colored fruits are a common sight in the woods during late spring, but its sprouts and flowers can also make for a nice snack. The sprouts taste best near the base of the new stalk and when they can be easily pinched off from the root or the branch they’re growing from. Flowers have a sweet taste and can be used as a garnish.
  • When: Find them in early spring as shoots quickly become fibrous after sprouting.
  • Where: Look near creeks that have moderate amounts of sun.
  • Recipe: Because of the delicate flavors of both the shoot and stalk, you may prefer to use them in a salad instead of a stir fry.
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