Spring’s wild, edible plants

Source: Danel Rinaldo

Spring’s wild, edible plants

These four wild herbs might look like weeds, but Estonians have recognised their health benefits for thousands of years.  

These hearty herbs and plants grow in Estonian forests and meadows and have found their way into gardens as well. After the Northern European winter, the body could use a boost of vitamins, which these plants deliver. As with mushrooms and berries, great care should be taken when harvesting wild plants for consumption, as some are inedible or even poisonous. To learn more about Estonian herbs from experts, take a workshop at Energy Garden or Klaara-Manni Centre. To taste an outdoor meal of locally sourced ingredients, check out Metsarestoran or Maitseelamuse Koda.

Wonder plant

Nettle is believed to have both medicinal and spiritual properties in Estonia. 

Photo by: Arpent Nourricier, Flickr


Nettles are one of the first herbs to sprout in the spring, and Estonian folk medicine has come up with uses for all parts of this wonder plant. Nettle contains calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C and has been shown to soothe inflammation, strengthen the blood and relieve fatigue. Beside physical properties, nettle was believed by ancient Estonians to protect spiritually. It was thrown into fire to shield a house from lightening, and added to bath water to break spells cast on the bather.

Wild garlic 

Ramsons are called wild garlic for their strong flavour. 

Photo by: Adrian Pingstone, Wikimedia


Ramsons, known to some as wild garlic, is an herb related to chives. It has a bright green stalk with white flowers and begins to grow in late April. Fresh spring ramsons contain roughly 15 to 20 times more vitamin C than lemons. Their strong flavour goes well in salads, soups, pesto or butter and is said to cleanse microbes from the body while improving digestion. Ramsons growing in the wild are protected, so purchase them from a local who grows them in their garden.

Resilient ground cover 

Estonians have turned to goutweed as a reliable food source during famines. 

Photo by: Cbaile19, Wikimedia


Goutweed is a leafy plant considered a nuisance by gardeners for its invasive resilience, yet praised in Estonia for its healing abilities. A wrap of goutweed leaves is said to ease inflammation. Goutweed isn't just for medicine though, and is added to soups, salads, purees and, in South Estonia, to bread and scones. True fans even make goutweed jam.

Plant of many names

There are over 200 names for cowslip in Estonian including kanavarvas, kikaspüks, kikkahain, kukekäekaats, kuldvõti, kulupüks, kurekaats, käolill, neiulill, piimapisar, pääsulill, saksapüksid, taevasilm, taevavõti, võipäts etc. 

Photo by: Ainali, Wikimedia


Cowslip is a flowering plant with over 200 names in Estonian. It flourishes in May and June, delivering the highest amount of vitamin C of all Estonian spring plants, along with vitamins A, P and E. Cowslip is a multipurpose treatment for insomnia, anxiety, migraines and fungal infections. Enjoy cowslip as a tea or toss the yellow blossoms into salads.