Edible Plants in the Wild

oswaltag
By oswaltag on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 - 7:46pm

I'm interested in finding out what kinds of plants are edible that are found in the wild. I read an article that had a few familiar things and most that I'm not familiar with. I would never have guessed cattails!

http://www.naturalnews.com/045475_edible_plants_survival_wilderness.html 

6 Comments

Tall's picture
Tall
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 18 2010
Posts: 564
caveat for wild plants

Please take the time to learn to accurately identify plants before you start foraging.

Exhibit A: Yarrow, a lovely herb with a long history of use as a way to stop bleeding, a tonic, and a flavoring for beer, etc. http://www.gruitale.com/bot_yarrow.htm

 

Exhibit B: Poison hemlock. Something to avoid. http://www.plantillustration.com/portfolio65-Poison-hemlock-Conium-macul...

Plant identification is a learned skill as any other.

That said, here you go: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-complete-guide-to-edible-wild-plants...

 

Be careful out there!

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
Eat the Weeds

I highly recommend the YouTube series, "Eat the Weeds." Lots of good info there, over a hundred episodes so far!

kd6iwd@gmail.com's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 17 2011
Posts: 25
onions and garlic hazard near mineral deposits

I have heard from geologists in Nevada that people have been poisoned by eating wild onions and garlic from near mineral deposits. The naturally occurring arsenic and selenium are supposed to be concentrated in the bulbs. This is not mining pollution. The soils near mineral deposits contain elevated arsenic and selenium.

The roots of cattail plants commonly growing in swampy areas are similar to potatoes and contain nearly pure starch. This plant is common and can be found nearly anywhere in the USA. I have tried them and they are like potatoes.

Best Regards

James Fisher

 

 

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 772
On edible plants in the wild

I would like to suggest that you actually start *gardening* the edible wild plants that grow in your area.  What I mean, is that there are weeds that are perfectly edible, that farmers hate, and you can actually buy seed for.  

One favorite of mine is Lamb's Quarters.  It is such a heavy feeder, and so prolific (the seeds are like quinoa), that it is a massive problem for farmers, so they consider it a weed.  I consider it ideal.   

Now, LQ is high in oxalic acid, which is irritant and poisonous (Rhubarb leaves, for example) but is found in many things, including green potatoes, spinach, beets, chard, and so on.  However, to deal with the oxalic acid, we do two things:  

(1) we never cut the plant, we pull the entire thing when it is 6-12" tall.  We pull 50 plants, take them inside, and cut off the roots, wash the greens, and then 

(2) we double boil them, pouring off the water of the first boil to eliminate the oxalic acid.  

The first is to avoid triggering all the LQ to 'think' it's under attack, and spike its oxalic acid production; the second is to get rid of what is there, so that we don't get massive kidney stones.  

---

But back to my first point, you don't know what LQ is off hand.  There are many plants in the goosefoot family, and even more that look maybe like it.  So instead, buy seed from a source you trust, and plant it.  Then you'll know.

---

Now, for other wild foods -- remembering that you need to figure this out yourself, and that even then, you may need to find ways to deal with toxins.  Poi, anything from the cherry, and tapioca are made from extremely poisonous plants.  

If you live on the eastern seaboard I'd consider:  

dock (never tried it, but it's all over.  It's also high in oxalic acid),
* burdock,
* mulberry, 
* pawpaw
* wild black cherry,
* acorns (high in tannins),
* American Persimmon (high in tannins),
* scuppernong wild grapes (don't confuse these with other, incredibly toxic members of the grape family), 

* blueberries and rubus berries (pretty safe, but don't confuse blueberry, which has a open flower on the end, with the toxic laurel berry, with a stick-like flower on the end),  
* wheat and millet (fairly easy to identify),
* Almost all your cruciferae (they often grow wild),
* corn (if you're sure it's corn and not some other plant, you can break the stalk and suck out the corn syrup in a pinch),
* dandelion, 
* chickory (there's many kinds),
* milk thistle and only milk thistle (my brother grows it and eats it like lettuce.  The thorns don't seem to be a real problem.  But in some states it's illegal to intentionally grow it because it is so prolific),
* Kudzu (every part is edible, and it reduces the desire for alcohol; again, be sure you know kudzu and don't eat an incredibly toxic wild grape.  Grow it yourself first from seed),
* greenbriar tendrils (my brother eats that on hikes, but don't take my word for it).
* Prickly pear cactus fruits (watch out for the stems: they have a toxin; and not all cacti are fine)
* asparagus -- but watch out for other plants, like naked lady flowers.  Only if you know the stand produces asparagus tops should you harvest the shoots.
* pine nuts if you know which pine they are (watch out for the tree hemlock.  There are a few completely different plants, each called hemlock; one looks like Queen Anne's lace, one looks like a pine tree.)

 

Watch out for onions:  some things that look like a bulb, thus, maybe an onion, are actually incredibly poisonous.  
Parsnips are delicious and prolific; and though wild and cultivated are identical, I'd typically avoid parsnip, because it is possible to really confuse that with hemlock, and even then it can only be safely harvested at night or with gloves.  There's a chemical in the plant juices that can react with UV to give you a horrible parsnip sunburn.

There's another thing...  consider the strategy of planting a particular kind of food at particular locations that are good for the food, that you will be aware of.  Keep the colonies going, so that in a pinch you know where to go to harvest this, that, and the other.  Potatoes in this overgrown field; orange (not white) carrots in that field, blackberry shoots by that fence, and so on.  

Or catalogue where edible plants are that you have seen, and when they ripen.  Be the first to a plant, and you'll likely get a yield.

 

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 772
On edible plants in the wild

I would like to suggest that you actually start *gardening* the edible wild plants that grow in your area.  What I mean, is that there are weeds that are perfectly edible, that farmers hate, and you can actually buy seed for.  

One favorite of mine is Lamb's Quarters.  It is such a heavy feeder, and so prolific (the seeds are like quinoa), that it is a massive problem for farmers, so they consider it a weed.  I consider it ideal.   

Now, LQ is high in oxalic acid, which is irritant and poisonous (Rhubarb leaves, for example) but is found in many things, including green potatoes, spinach, beets, chard, and so on.  However, to deal with the oxalic acid, we do two things:  

(1) we never cut the plant, we pull the entire thing when it is 6-12" tall.  We pull 50 plants, take them inside, and cut off the roots, wash the greens, and then 

(2) we double boil them, pouring off the water of the first boil to eliminate the oxalic acid.  

The first is to avoid triggering all the LQ to 'think' it's under attack, and spike its oxalic acid production; the second is to get rid of what is there, so that we don't get massive kidney stones.  

---

But back to my first point, you don't know what LQ is off hand.  There are many plants in the goosefoot family, and even more that look maybe like it.  So instead, buy seed from a source you trust, and plant it.  Then you'll know.

---

Now, for other wild foods -- remembering that you need to figure this out yourself, and that even then, you may need to find ways to deal with toxins.  Poi, anything from the cherry, and tapioca are made from extremely poisonous plants.  

If you live on the eastern seaboard I'd consider:  

dock (never tried it, but it's all over.  It's also high in oxalic acid),
* burdock,
* mulberry, 
* pawpaw
* wild black cherry,
* acorns (high in tannins),
* American Persimmon (high in tannins),
* scuppernong wild grapes (don't confuse these with other, incredibly toxic members of the grape family), 

* blueberries and rubus berries (pretty safe, but don't confuse blueberry, which has a open flower on the end, with the toxic laurel berry, with a stick-like flower on the end),  
* wheat and millet (fairly easy to identify),
* Almost all your cruciferae (they often grow wild),
* corn (if you're sure it's corn and not some other plant, you can break the stalk and suck out the corn syrup in a pinch),
* dandelion, 
* chickory (there's many kinds),
* milk thistle and only milk thistle (my brother grows it and eats it like lettuce.  The thorns don't seem to be a real problem.  But in some states it's illegal to intentionally grow it because it is so prolific),
* Kudzu (every part is edible, and it reduces the desire for alcohol; again, be sure you know kudzu and don't eat an incredibly toxic wild grape.  Grow it yourself first from seed),
* greenbriar tendrils (my brother eats that on hikes, but don't take my word for it).
* Prickly pear cactus fruits (watch out for the stems: they have a toxin; and not all cacti are fine)
* asparagus -- but watch out for other plants, like naked lady flowers.  Only if you know the stand produces asparagus tops should you harvest the shoots.
* pine nuts if you know which pine they are (watch out for the tree hemlock.  There are a few completely different plants, each called hemlock; one looks like Queen Anne's lace, one looks like a pine tree.)

 

Watch out for onions:  some things that look like a bulb, thus, maybe an onion, are actually incredibly poisonous.  
Parsnips are delicious and prolific; and though wild and cultivated are identical, I'd typically avoid parsnip, because it is possible to really confuse that with hemlock, and even then it can only be safely harvested at night or with gloves.  There's a chemical in the plant juices that can react with UV to give you a horrible parsnip sunburn.

There's another thing...  consider the strategy of planting a particular kind of food at particular locations that are good for the food, that you will be aware of.  Keep the colonies going, so that in a pinch you know where to go to harvest this, that, and the other.  Potatoes in this overgrown field; orange (not white) carrots in that field, blackberry shoots by that fence, and so on.  

Or catalogue where edible plants are that you have seen, and when they ripen.  Be the first to a plant, and you'll likely get a yield.

 

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 25 2014
Posts: 772
Additional Caveat

Let me add something to what she just said up there:  there is an old saying, "there are old mushroom hunters, and bold mushroom hunters, but no old bold mushroom hunters."  A friend of mine, Ilona Daukiene, like all Lithuanians would go out picking boletes every year.  They knew what to pick.  Unfortunately, one mushroom which had never before grown in Lithuania -- the False Morel -- grew there in 2003.  It mimics a lot of other mushrooms in the button stage, including the bolete.  Her family picked it; three ate, all three got massive liver damage, she died.  It wasn't that she was bold, but that she didn't know what she didn't know.  It's that simple.

Now, we Americans know better than to pick mushrooms out of any place other than a supermarket.  As much as mushroom hunting is part of the Lithuanian culture, NOT mushroom hunting is part of the American culture.  

But foraging for wild food is as risky as mushroom hunting.  For every species of plant out there (and that includes Brassica, which is among the safest species; it includes grasses; it includes almost everything) there are not only family members which are edible and family members which are extremely poisonous, there are also lookalikes not in the family, and there are plants that are poisonous at this time, not poisonous at that time.  Tomatoes?  Obviously, you wouldn't eat a deadly nightshade berry.  Or would you?  That little paper-husk tomatillo in the supermarket, nothing wrong with that, right?  Well, how about the wild paper husk tomatillo growing on the eastern shore of Virginia?  It's called a ground cherry, or horse nightshade.  It's poisonous with solanine IIRC, which is especially toxic to children.  And there are some times when adults can eat it safely.  Other times, they can't.  It isn't an easy equation, "oh, we can eat this."  

You eat what you know.  If you're starving, and have a good guess that something is okay... then maybe try it in the most benign way possible:  First try it out on an animal.  Feed that food in bulk too nonfood animals or -- less safe -- animals that you won't kill and harvest until the next year.  Watch out, even that's a problem.  Rabbits can eat certain toxic foods like nightshade without significant damage, and then kill the one who eats the rabbit.  But if the animal takes damage or dies, you were wrong.  Then try it out on one person only:  first the touch test, then the sniff test a day later, then the touch-to-lips test a day later, then the dry lick test, then the crush and touch the item to your lips test, then the touch-to-tongue taste test, and so on, down to eating a little bit.  If a week goes by without damage, then eat a little bit more.  Next year, that one person eats normally.  Year after that, everyone eats normally -- but you always watch what happens to the leader.

If you need multiple new foods, use a different guinea pig person for each food.  Best bet?  Don't need multiple new foods.  Recycle your seeds, and know what grows where and is edible when.  Plant an excess of your own foods in public areas you know -- you'll have first dibs on the crop. 

Anyhow, that's why I say that the best bet is to grow the wild foods yourself, from known good seed.  Avoid the crash course:  it can hurt too much.

 

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