Foraging your area for edible wild plants is a great way to give your diet variety. Different areas support different plants, so providing an exhaustive list in this venue is impossible. However, following are some plants found throughout most of the continental United States:
- Asparagus: In the spring it resembles a cluster of green fingers. Mature plants have fernlike foliage and red berries. It’s best to eat the young stems before leaves form. Steam or boil them, as diarrhea or nausea can occur when you eat asparagus raw.
- Bearberry or kinnikinnick: These berries are edible raw or cooked. Tea can be made from young leaves. The Indians also used it as a form of tobacco for smoking.
- Beech: Mature beechnuts are an excellent survival food because of the kernel’s high oil content. Break the thin shell and eat the white meat inside. Nuts can also be roasted, then pulverized and used to make coffee by boiling or steeping.
- Blackberry and raspberry: The fruits and peeled young shoots are both edible and tasty.
- Blueberry and huckleberry: The fruits are edible raw.
- Cattail: Eat the young, tender shoots raw or cooked. The rhizome can be pounded to remove the starch and used as flour. When young and still green, the female portion can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob.
- Chicory: All parts are edible. Can be eaten as a salad or boiled to use as a vegetable. Roots can be roasted and made into a coffee substitute by pounding them into powder and boiling.
- Cranberry: The berries can be eaten raw or boiled in a small amount of water and sugar and turned into a jelly.
- Dandelion: All parts are edible. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The roots can be boiled and eaten as a vegetable. Roasted, the roots make a good coffee substitute.
- Daylily: Young green leaves and tubers are edible raw or cooked.
- Duchesnea, wild or Indian strawberry: The fruit is edible.
- Elderberry: Eat the flowers and fruits. Soak the leaves in water for eight hours, discard the leaves and you have an excellent drink.
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- Hackberry: The fruit is edible when it falls from the tree after ripening.
- Hazelnut or wild filbert: The nuts are edible when mature in autumn.
- Junipers: Eat the berries and twigs. Roast the seeds for a coffee substitute.
- Marsh marigold: All parts are edible after boiling.
- Mulberry: The fruit is edible raw, cooked or dried.
- Nettle: Eat young shoots and leaves. The plants have stingers, so it should be picked wearing gloves and boiled for 10-15 minutes to remove the stingers. Mature stems can be separated and woven into string or twine.
- Oak: All parts are edible, but some parts are bitter. The acorns should be soaked in water for two days to remove the bitterness. They can then be boiled or ground into flour or roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
- Persimmon: The leaves are edible raw, or they can be dried and made into tea. The fruits are edible raw or baked.
- Pine: Seeds can be eaten raw or cooked. The bark of young twigs is edible. The inner bark of young twigs can be chewed. The green needles can be made into tea.
- Sassafras: The young twigs and leaves are edible fresh or dried, and can be added to soups. Dig up the roots and underground stem, peel off the bark and let it dry, then boil in water to make sassafras tea.
- Sheep sorrel: The plants are edible raw or cooked.
- Strawberry: The fruit is edible fresh, cooked or dried. The leaves can be dried and made into tea.
- Water lily: Flowers, seeds and rhizomes are edible raw or cooked.
- Wild crabapple or wild apple: The fruit can be prepared like cultivated apples or eaten raw when ripe or cut into slices and dried.
- Wild fig: The fruit is edible raw or cooked.
- Wild onion: The bulbs and young leaves are edible raw or cooked and can be used to flavor meats or soups.
- Wild garlic: The bulbs and young leaves are edible raw or cooked and can be used to flavor meats or soups.
- Wild rose: The flowers and bulbs are edible raw and boiled. Fresh young leaves can be boiled in water to make tea.
To find out more about edible plants in your region, buy a book from a local or online bookstore. The books will have the added advantage of color photographs to help you identify the plants.
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