If you know where to look, you can collect wild food plants that ripen in the spring. Some of these plants can be collected in your own yard and all can be cultivated on your property. Grow dandelion greens in a vegetable garden instead of harvesting them from your lawn or a meadow. Plant ostrich ferns in a partially shady spot to mimic their native habitats of woodland clearings and riverbanks. Or plant an asparagus patch instead of hunting it down in deciduous woodlands.
Collect dandelion greens (Taraxacum officinale) from your lawn or anywhere else you have permission and pesticides have not been used. Dandelion greens should be cooked until tender. To help rid them of some of their bitterness, change the water once during cooking. As with cultivated greens, the smallest and youngest leaves are the sweetest and most tender.
This long-lived perennial vegetable can be harvested from mid spring through early summer, a short 6 to 8 week season. Asparagus spears (Asparagus officinalis) begin to emerge when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F. Pick spears that are 7 to 9 inches long, on which the tops are still tight. If the tops begin to leaf out, the stalk will already have become woody and will be inedible. Wild asparagus can be found in woodland clearings and along roadsides.
The unfurling fronds of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) are known as “fiddlehead ferns” and are gathered as a delicacy in early spring. Ostrich ferns are easily located and identified at this time of the year by their dried brown plums that stand erect, while dead fronds from last year's growth lay on the ground still attached to the roots. Called “croziers,” the fiddleheads should be picked when they are only 2 inches high and cut off at ground level. Remove the tan, papery covering that surrounds the curled end. Cook in boiling water until tender; some people change the water during cooking to remove bitterness, although it is not absolutely necessary.