Common Wild Edible Plants

Introduction

There are many wild edible plants such as berries such as blackberries, wild raspberries and blueberries that are well known and easy to identify. Other wild eidbles such as fiddleheads or ramps (wild scallions) are common fare at many restaurants. However, there are many plants that are edible and delicious growing right in your back yard. This article aims to help the wildcrafting enthusiast by identifying a number of these plants and giving you some basic tips on harvest and preparation.

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Dandelions

Dandelions are one of the most common edible wild plants. You can find them everywhere there is sunshine, yards, fields, roadsides, forest edges. The deep roots of dandelions make them, as many gardeners and lawn enthusiasts know, very hard to kill and so they spring up in the strangest of places.

Dandelion leaves make excellent salad greens when young. Make sure to pick only young leaves, as the older leaves will have a bitter, milky sap that will make them unpalatable. Many gourmet spring mixes have some dandelion greens in them. The greens provide a sharp flavor much like arugula. You can also make dandelion wine from the blossoms or cook them in traditional dishes and sauces. Recipes for dandelion wine can be found on a number of websites.

When harvesting dandelions do not pick from areas that you know or suspect to have pesticides or other chemicals. Dandelions are as much as many other plants, and you don't want to eat any poison unknowingly. Therfore, make sure to wash and greens that you pick thoroughly before you eat them. You can store dandelion greens in a bowl with a wet paper towel over the top for a few days before they will start to wilt and look un-apetizing.


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Cattails

A very common but relatively unknown edible plant is the cattail. Cattails grow in low lying swampy areas in bunches and around the edges of ponds and lakes.

Young cattail shoots are delicious and very similar to asparagus. To collect the shoots, pull the young plants from the ground and peel off the outer two leaves leaving the inner portion of the plant which will resemble a scallion. You can prepare these the same way as you would asparagus, by sauteing, boiling or grilling them.

Cattail pollen can also be collected. In June and July the spike just above the brown 'tail' part of the cattail will have signs of dusty, yellowish pollen on it. To collect the pollen Bend the cattail toward you, putting the top of the plant into a bag, close off the bag with your had and shake the pollen into the bag. In an area full of cattails, collecting a large amount of pollen will go by quite quickly. This floury pollen can be substituted for up to half of the flour in a bread, pancake, or batter recipe.

Cattails grow in swampy areas, so be prepared to get wet if you are going to collect them. Also, don't collect cattails from swampy areas that may be polluted by industrial or agricultural waste. Be sure to harvest responsibly, don't remove all the cattails from a section of a pond or marsh, try to spread your harvest evenly through the area to ensure they will be there again the next year.

Wild and Garden Flowers

There are many wild and common garden flowers that you would never suspect to be edible so I have prepared a list of some of the most common,

  • Chicory - The buds can be boiled steamed or sauteed and the roots can be used to make chicory tea.
  • Red Clover Blossoms - These sweet blossoms make for a great tea when dried. (note red clover should be consumed in moderation as it contains several natural chemicals that can act as blood thinners if taken in large or daily doses, however occasional ingestion is healthy and delicious!)
  • Daylilies - The young buds of daylilies are edible and can be boiled, sauteed, grilled or steamed
  • Hibiscus Blossoms - Sweet, acidic, makes a wonderful sauce when cooked in stock or wine.
  • Lavender - Delicious 'colorful' flavors can and a great aroma and delicate flavor to sauces or dishes.
  • Marigold Blossoms-Spicy, and bitter, a great addition to a sweet salad, petals make a great garnish
  • Pansy Blossoms- A great garish, bright beautiful flower that has a sweet / tart flavor to it
  • Queen Anne's Lace Flowers - Great when battered or breaded and pan fried
  • Snap Dragon Blossoms- Bland but colorful and fun addition for a garnish.
  • Sumac : Red Sumac Clusters - (NOT SUMAC WITH WHITE FLOWERS / BERRIES!) can be used to make a tart citrus addition to a dish a great local citrus substitute. The red clusters also make a great lemonade when soaked in water overnight!
  • Violet Blossoms- Sweet, lucious a fantastic addition to a desert


Wild Burdock

In the northeast United States wild burdock is a very common plant that is extremely useful in cooking and extremely annoying for dogs and hikers. The roots, leaves stems and shoots are all edible from this plant. For more detail, check out my article that details the harvest and preparation of wild burdock!

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Milkweed

Like wild burdock, milkweed has numerous parts of the plant that are edible. Milkweed grows in clearings, fields, roadsides, and really anywhere with direct sun. Breaking the plant reveals its namesake, a milky white sap. When harvesting be sure to take in moderation, milkweed is essential to the ecosystem and has a distinct importance to butterfly species.

The young shoots have an asparagus like flavor to them and were a popular Native American food. The flower buds and seed pods of milkweed can be prepared by boiling in water for a three to four minutes to remove bitterness and then sauteeing with butter and garlic. They have a broccoli like flavor and add a depth of flavor when mixed with broccoli in dishes.

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Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles are very delicious but please do not try to eat them raw, it will be a most unpleasant experience. Nettles grow along riversides and creek banks, and if you have ever walked through a patch in shorts you know they live up to their name.

The young plants can be steamed sauteed or boiled, and cream of nettle soup is a wonderful treat. Just substitute the nettles for spinach in any recipe for cream of spinach soup. Older plants can be simmered in water and then removed (they get too tough and fibrous to eat) to create a flavorful vegan broth for cooking.

When harvesting be sure to wear long sleeves and gloves - preferably latex coated - to ensure you don't get the itchy nettle effect. Do not worry about being stung by eating cooked nettles, heat removes that aspect of plant, which is truly a very tasty and common edible.

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Comments 35 comments

Samantha Ford profile image

Samantha Ford 4 years ago

Great information - I love to add violets, dandelion leaves and nasturtium flowers to salads for colorful and flavorful additions. Nettles are my favorite steamed and topped with a little salt and butter - not necessarily a gourmet dish, but tasty. :)


Bob Zermop profile image

Bob Zermop 4 years ago from California, USA

Cool, great hub. I live in California and have many of these plants growing in my backyard. I'll give them a shot! Voted up and interesting.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Whaaa? Cattails and stinging nettles are EDIBLE? That's fascinating!!! I quite enjoyed this Hub, and learned so much from it! Ever since a friend of mine told me about his childhood experiences of eating wild scallions, I've been wanting to learn more about this subject. Great Hub!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona

Neat Hub and interesting read! I had no idea most of these wild plants had edible parts. My favorite is cattail pollen as a partial substitute for flour. Looking forward to more of your Hubs!


Levertis Steele 4 years ago

Wonderful hub! Recently, I have been compiling a list of edible flowers and wild plants, fruits, and nuts. I must say that I have an impressive list. Although I recognize some of yours, I have gleaned some that I did not know, and some I could not believe were edible.

Thanks for sharing!


DreamerMeg profile image

DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

Very useful. Maybe I should use this as an incentive to remove some of the nettles in the garden - although in the UK, they are a good resource for a particular butterfly that prefers them.


Roosters profile image

Roosters 4 years ago

I have been meaning to make some dandelion wine for a while now, must get round to it soon. Nice hub.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

Congrats on the HOTD. Very informative hub. I only know of eatable dandelion and lavender flowers. Thanks for sharing.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

This is fascinating; I love the idea of eating wild greens. Congratulations on Hub of the Day! In Peru, stinging nettle is a remedy for depression and anxiety. The patient is literally beaten with the stinging plants! It's claimed to be a very effective remedy.


CyberShelley profile image

CyberShelley 4 years ago

Well done on wining Hub of the Day. This is a very enjoyable and informative hub which expanded my knowledge. Voted up and interesting!


intriguewriter profile image

intriguewriter 4 years ago from worldwide

omg I am actually in shock because I have been totally obsessed with this topic for a couple of months now. I was just watching a video by a guy called sergy beutenko who is a vegan and wild food advocate. I was just about to go pick some dandelions. thanks for this!


freetowrite profile image

freetowrite 4 years ago from Everywhere!

Cool hub man! thanks for the info.


nmdonders profile image

nmdonders 4 years ago

I was actually just thinking about this topic last night. This is a great hub with interesting info. I remember a neighbor of mine that used to collect dandelions. I'd like to give them a try just to see how they are. The cattails were unexpected I couldn't imagine eating them.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting and useful hub and voted as such. We used to pick dandelions in our Wisconsin Rapids home and eat them. Have eaten nasturtium blossoms but none of the rest that you mentioned except for eating our fill of wild blackberries when vacationing in Oregon. They seem to grow like weeds up there and the berries are huge! Congrats of HOTD. Tweeting.


Mama Kim 8 profile image

Mama Kim 8 4 years ago

Love this hub!! thank you!


Daughter Of Maat profile image

Daughter Of Maat 4 years ago from Rural Central Florida

Great hub, my husband and I love to forage for salad greens in our backyard and since we live in the country, we have lots of things to choose from but I wasn't sure exactly what was edible. This is a fantastic reference hub!

Voted up and awesome, and shared.


mariacolomy profile image

mariacolomy 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

Great hub! The photo references make things easy to identify, and your descriptions about how to prepare / what parts of the plant to eat were most helpful. Voted up!


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

Stalking the Wild Asparagus is one of my favorite books because it tells you how to find wild, edible plants. This hub is much more concise, though, and I love the photos. Voted awesome and useful!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

When harvesting Queen Anne's Lace, be very careful to identify it by its leaves, not just the flower. There is another plant that has flowers very similar to Queen Anne's Lace that is poisonous. This would probably be a good idea for many of these plants. Identify carefully before touching or eating or you could kill yourself.


Esmeowl12 profile image

Esmeowl12 4 years ago from Sevierville, TN

This was so interesting! I knew about dandelions but never knew there were so many other edible "wild" plants. Thanks for the great info.


dreamer18 profile image

dreamer18 4 years ago from San Diego, CA

Useful and interesting hub.

Congratulations on Hub of the day!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey

First of all congratulations.

This is a great hub for someone like me who is always looking for useful plants that can grown at home. My hibiscus will bloom soon, and it will be interesting to try out your suggestion for making a sauce with it.

Thanks for combining all the useful plants and flowers in one place. Very useful and interesting.


livingpah2004 profile image

livingpah2004 4 years ago from USA

We have dandelion in our backyard. Great Hub.

Congrats on HOTD!


Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! This is so interesting, and comes at a time of year when many of these plants are readily available in the wild. Although I haven't tried some of the plants you mentioned, I have tried dandelion greens, cattails and some of the flowers. I didn't know that you could eat queen Anne's lace! Must try that. Voted Up!


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

WOW, these are great selections of edible plants. This will come in handy when you're out camping. Nice one!


urmilashukla23 profile image

urmilashukla23 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

Thanks for this lovely hub and lots of information about edible plants.

Congratulations on hub of the day award.


AMdaugherty profile image

AMdaugherty 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, IA

I had no idea that there were so many things I could do with the plants in my back yard. I'm really interested in trying some of these out for some of my recipes!! Thanks for the awesome and interesting insite.


Riverfish24 profile image

Riverfish24 4 years ago from United States

Congrats on HOTD! Great job with this hub.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

Most interesting. Congrats on HOTD!

We have milkweed around here...but it is a WEED...and I would not think of putting it on the table, as my husband is allergic to it, and cannot touch it. I'm the one who has to pull out the milkweeds and toss them into the green waste bin.

I"ve not seen any dandelions in a long time (in safe areas, that is). ... and hmm...perhaps I should plant some of those other flowers... Oh--we do have some marigolds, but they are annuals, and are already mature flowers when we bought them. I don't know that they self-seed very well.

I do like snapdragons; they are fun, but I never knew they were edible. What a fun article! Voted up, interesting, useful, awesome and shared.


kj force profile image

kj force 4 years ago from Florida

Charlesspock...good hub,found very informative...I like my dandelions cooked like spinach..just salt and pepper..great in a quiche...also wheat grass is excellent as a salad or a drink...thank you for sharing.


Sheladiya Gautam profile image

Sheladiya Gautam 4 years ago from ahmedabad

good hub... thanx for sharing .... http://onlytrikss.blogspot.com


Bredavies profile image

Bredavies 4 years ago

great hub! will share!


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 4 years ago from sunny Florida

Congratulation on hub of the day. Your article was filled with foods to try. I have eaten dandelion greens with bacon dresssing....so delicious. Giving the others a try will be a new adventure.


charlesspock profile image

charlesspock 4 years ago from Vermont Author

Thank you for all the feedback and positive comments, I appreciate it!


NC4Life078 profile image

NC4Life078 4 years ago from United States of America

I loved this hub, It is very useful information to know. You never know what will happen these days. One day we may have to utilize these plants as our main source of nutrition.

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