Spring is nearly here which means that soon the nature around us will be bursting with color, scents and life. Croatia has different climates and geographies, which mean each region is rich with its own unique plants.
During the past few years, the climate has changed so much that you can come across some spring plants as early as January.
Many plants that you find in Croatia’s nature are edible and healthy. We picked 5 edible plants that are very common in Croatia during springtime. It would be a waste not to pick them. However, be 100% sure that you can identify these edible plants before picking as some wild plants are dangerous to eat.
In this article, we cover:
- Cikorija (chicory)
- Divlja mrkva (wild carrot)
- Maslačak (dandelion)
- Medvjeđi luk (wild garlic)
- Kopriva (common nettle)
Let’s enjoy the fruits of nature…
Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a perennial herbaceous plant with a solid upright stab that can grow up to one meter. It has pretty light blue flowers with gentle narrow petals. You can see cikorija from a long distance as their petals stand out against green backdrops.
Chicory grows all over Europe. You can find it almost everywhere, but usually beside the roads, and on abandoned lawns, meadows and pastures. It is resistant to drought since it has a very developed root.
Almost the whole plant can be used. Its leaves and young buds are harvested in spring before flowering. Leaves are bitter but are tasty when cooked. The buds can be pickled. Flowers can also be picked and added to salads as an edible decoration and a touch of freshness. White coffee can be made of chicory’s dried roots. They are taken out of the ground in spring or autumn.
Wild carrot (Daucus carota) is a biennial herbaceous plant with a bunch of tiny white flowers that grow together. Each group of flowers has a dark red flower in the middle, that is specific to this plant. Wild carrot can grow up to 80 centimeters. Stems are resistant to drought and tough. Its leaves are similar to the leaves of the standard carrots we eat.
Wild carrot grows in Europe, Asia, and north Africa. It can be found up to 1.900 meters above sea level. It grows in groups on abandoned lawns, in fields, besides roads and embankments, and on the edges of forests.
Its young leaves, fruits and roots are edible. It is best to pick the root in the first year of spring when it is still young, but it can also be picked in autumn. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Leaves can be used in salads. Wild carrot is a good diuretic and antioxidant.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a perennial herbaceous plant with a bunch of narrow leaves growing from the middle of the plant. It has round bright yellow flowers that reminiscent of small suns. Every flower has many long, tiny petals. Children like to play with its seeds, which look like little lanterns. When they blow into them, seeds fly through the air and look like they are dancing.
Dandelions grow in Europe and Asia. They can be found almost everywhere: from meadows, pastures, fields, gardens, other grassy areas, to mountainous areas. It is a rich honey plant, since it blooms throughout all sunny periods.
All parts of the maslačak are edible: leaves, root, flowers and stems. Its leaves are healthy and tasty in salads. We pick them in spring in shady places before the plant blooms. You can also pick the ones that grow in the sun, but they are more bitter.
Dandelion salad is my favorite salad ever. I like to spice it up very simply. I use only salt, lemon or apple cider vinegar, and I don’t spare olive oil. I adore the bitter taste of dandelion leaves because it gives freshness to almost all dishes. You can easily turn it into a main meal by adding some tasty cheese, beans, or eggs.
Roots can be picked in early spring or autumn. They are eaten raw, cooked, baked, or they are used for tea. The root is good for increasing appetite and secretion of bile. Pickled flower buds are also tasty and a great addition to any dish. I also recommend homemade juice prepared from dandelion’s flowers. It is made of a bunch of flower heads dipped in sugar, water, and lemon.
Medvjeđi luk (Allium ursinum) is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows up to 40 centimeters in height. It has two thin leaves and several tiny thin white flowers that bloom in April and May. Medvjeđi luk has a smell very similar to onion.
Medvjeđi luk can be found in Europe and western Asia. It grows mostly in shady places of deciduous forests up to 1.900 meters above sea level. When you walk through the forest, you will recognize its strong smell from a great distance. It grows in dense patches.
The whole plant is edible and can be used in salads or as a spice. It is good for lowering blood pressure and can function as an antiseptic. Young leaves and stems are picked in spring, and bulbs in autumn. Be careful not to mistake it for đurđica (lily of the valley) or mrazovac (autumn crocus) that are both poisonous. Again, be sure to check its smell.
Common nettle (Urtica dioica) is a perennial herbaceous plant with an upright stem. It can grow up to 150 centimeters. Common nettle is covered with hairs that contain formic acid. If you touch any part of the plant, it will burn you and bubbles may appear on your skin. Watch out while you pick the plant. It is best to gently hold it at the base of the stem and pick it very carefully.
Common nettle grows all over the world. It can usually be found in dense groups on shady meadows, abandoned lawns, and flooded areas. It also grows on mountainous areas up to 3.000 meters above sea level. You can easily grow common nettle at home. Transplant a whole plant or sow its seeds.
Its young leaves can be picked at the beginning of spring, usually in April. Young leaves won’t burn you. They are excellent in soups, prepared like spinach or with eggs, and different kinds of cakes. Leaves can also be used for making tea which is very healthy for blood purification, rheumatism, gout, and bladder.
A good rakija can also be prepared out of common nettle. Put 200 grams of leaves into 1 liter of “rakija šljivovica” which is made of plums. Strain it after 3-4 weeks. This rakija is good for stomach aches, heartburn, and ulcers on stomach and bowels.
You can also eat raw kopriva. I will share one trick with you. Pick a whole plant, preferably a smaller one. Then turn the plant upside down, and rub it between your hands. This way you will destroy its hairs, and now you can eat it like a snack. Are you brave enough to try this?
NOTE: This is only an informative article. If you pick these plants in nature, be 100% sure that you found the right plant. Don’t risk eating it if you are not sure whether you found the right plant or not. Be careful not to pick a plant that is protected. If you are not sure, leave it. It may harm your health.