Edible Wild Plants
Identifying edible wild plants is not as simple as that of identifying trees or wild flowers. Learn what plants you can eat.
Many edible plants are similar to poisonous ones, which makes identifying wild plants that will be used as food critically important. It has become more and more popular on camping trips or in the home to use wild plants for salads, fruit pies, teas and even as remedies for some ailments. This article will not only aid you with identifying edible plants, it will help you learn what parts can be eaten.
The process of identifying edible wild plants is not as simple as that of identifying trees or wild flowers. This is because most plants can only be accurately identified when they are flowering and the edible plant parts are produced outside the flowering season. The most fool proof way to identify a plant is to do so while it is flowering and then watch it through the season until you are completely familiar with it. When this is not possible there are plants, trees and berries that will supply a nutritious meal in an emergency.
Roots and tubers are high in carbohydrates and an excellent source of wild food. They can be roasted, baked, boiled or in some cases, eaten raw. Squaw root is found along woodland edges and in meadows of the Pacific states of the United States. It is a perennial plant with an unbranched stem that can grow up to 4 feet tall. The leaves are sparse, thin pinnate leaves with 3 to 7 leaflets and tiny white or pinkish flowers. Any member of the rose family is edible. These would include blackberries, raspberries, salmonberries, dewberries, cloudberries and thimbleberries. Most of these berries can be found in the woods or along woodland edges. They grow on both upright and trailing bushes with arching green stems with darker green leaves. They usually have five rounded leaflets and clusters of white flowers which is followed by sweet, juicy fruits.
Wild onion is found in open woodlands, prairies, dry meadows and rocky slopes. It is a bulbous plant with a reddish purple bulb. The leaves are thin, flattened and grass like. Pink or white flowers appear in clusters on this plant. Prickly pear grows in dry soil, sandy grasslands and among rocks. This plant looks like a cactus with clumps of flattened sprawling stems that are studded with red brown bumps of tiny barbed hairs. The flowers are yellow with red centers and the edible fruits are reddish brown. Thistles are another edible food source in the wild. Easily identified by their spiny tipped leaves these plants are usually found in fields and pastures throughout the United States. They produce a bristly red purple flower. Removing the spines from young leaves makes a delightful salad and the young roots can be cooked and eaten, too.
When looking for food in the wild always be sure to remember nuts and seeds. Seeds are rich in carbohydrates, oils and proteins. Some of the more common to look for include beech nuts, hazelnuts, chinkapins, walnuts, hickory nuts, pecans, acorns from the white oak tree, pinion nuts and sunflower seeds.