Spruce shoots are packed with vitamins, spruce needles have been used in many different ways by sailors and indigenous people in the Northern hemisphere to curb vitamin deficiency. Young spruce shoots contain oils, resins, carotenoids, tannins, and a lot of vitamin C, as well as minerals such as potassium and magnesium. Shoots are slightly sour and citrusy due to their high vitamin C content. In cooking, the shoots give the food an exotic and strong rosemary-like taste. Spruce shoots are also added to fermented beverages, such as beer for a fresh kick.
Fresh shoots should be picked and consumed immediately in late May when the 2–4 cm longs hoots are the softest and tastiest. Carefully break only the shoot from the tree without damaging the rest of the tree. Pick shoots from different sides of the same tree, in order not to interfere with the development of a single tree.
Spruce shoots can also be stocked for the winter season by freezing or drying the shoots. Before freezing, rinse the shoots with warm water and allow the excess to drain. Later you can use them in smoothies, salads, or as a colourful addition to dishes.
Dandelion has been a valued medicine since ancient times. In folk medicine, dandelion is used to detox and energise the body. The plant cleanses the blood, reduces cholesterol, and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by diluting the blood. You can make a salad from its flowers and leaves. Dandelion flower buds can be pickled like a cucumber using a variety of cucumber pickling recipes. The leaves of dandelion are collected for preservation at the beginning of the flowering period of the plant in mid-May. The leaves are placed in a thin layer on paper or cloth for drying in a room with a good draft, and away from direct sunlight.
Rhubarb is full of vitamin K, calcium, and potassium, in moderation phosphorus, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C and carotene, organic acids malic, citric and oxalic acid, flavonoid compounds and others. Despite its strong taste, rhubarb contains up to 93 percent water and is also high in fiber. Young shoots taste the best, and rhubarb is most commonly used in cakes, jams, and juice. Rhubarb is also good for salads and is good in marinades because it makes the meat soft and juicy. Strawberry-rhubarb sparkling wine and several other dry rhubarb wines have become a popular choice among diners in recent years.
Wood sorrel is a plant that most people know. It contains a considerable amount of oxalic acid. It is recommended that young children watch the quantities consumed. Given their low body weight, high levels of oxalic acid can be quite dangerous to their health. Wood sorrel can be successfully incorporated in mixed and fruit salads, cold soups, green butter, and even cold sauces from the collected leaves. The leaves and flowers are also used to decorate dishes, from simple sandwiches to gorgeous chocolate cakes. When heated, the rabbit cabbage loses its characteristic appearance and the vitamins, but the harmful effects of oxalic acid are also reduced.
Common sorrel is a fresh and crunchy springtime staple, full of vitamin C that quickly relieves stress and promotes digestion. Tanning and bitter substances give the plant a sour, slightly bitter taste. A commonly found plant in Estonia, it grows on meadows, but also on coastal and floodplain meadows, roadside, bushes, ditches, river, and lakeshores. Chopped leaves are commonly used in soups and salads, both as raw or cooked. In homeopathy, it is used to treat colds and gastrointestinal diseases.
Fresh wild garlic can be found already at the end of April. Thanks to its intense flavour, wild garlic banished harmful microbes from the body and aids with digestion. Did you know that springtime wild garlic contains 15–20 times more vitamin C than lemons? Wild garlic is great in salads, soups, herbal butter and pesto. However, keep in mind that wild garlic is under protection and should, therefore, be acquired for either personal use only, or from the market, shops, or friends who grow it in their garden.
Nettles are the first sources of energy offered to us by the spring. According to Estonian folk medicine, all parts of nettle can be used; however, these days it is mainly leaves that are used to make nettle tea, soup, or salad. Nettles help combat fatigue, invigorate, provide a lot of vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, etc., reduce inflammation, and improve blood composition. In the olden times, Estonians believed that the nettle is a witch's herb, which is why it was often used in spells and rituals. The plant was thrown into the fire to protect houses from lightning and added to washing water to remove curses. It was believed that nettles protect from revenants, ghosts, and evil spirits.