Bushcraft

Wild Plants You Can Eat: A List of Edible Wild Plants

Mushrooms in the forest
Samuel Funt
Written by Samuel Funt

Knowing what wild plants you can eat and other things to do when disasters strike will minimize the difficulty to survive and will let you live a normal daily life. It is unfortunate that we often cannot see trouble looming in the horizon, until it is already in front of us. Being prepared usually provides an adequate advantage for survival not just in the wild but in our very own backyard. We must know what plant resources are available for us to use when the proper time comes.

Knowledge of plants and their primary uses are part and parcel of survival skills which are practical know-hows and are essential for one’s survival.

Most plants that we do not know of, which are scattered almost everywhere, are considered medicinal and fit for human consumption. Taking free food from the wild is regarded as an ability to be self-sufficient. We must know where to look and how to prepare wild edible plants provided by nature. Looking for plants that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes depends on where we live. In humid and tropical regions most edible wild plants can be found in clearings that have direct contact with the sun. In dry areas, majority of wild edible plants can be found near the water.

Edible plants

Places that are regularly cleared or cleaned often have edible plants that are not cultivated, like dandelions, plantain, wood sorrel dead-nettle and grass. Grass is edible with intensely sweet and bitter flavor. Grass below 6” is easy to ingest, and those that are above 6” are often chewed to extract juice and then are spitted out.

Grass can also be made into juice by using a hand-operated wheatgrass juicer. Below are some wild edible plants that can be seen in the backwoods, and which can be safely used for food or other medicinal purposes.

List of edible wild plants

Dandelion (taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion can be steamed whole. Its center greens that are young can be eaten raw. The best part of the plant is its flower.

Dandelion on the wind

The best way to eat the plant is to remove the green base of the flower to remove the white sap which is bitter. This is one of the plants you can eat in the wild with leaves that have a sweet filling that you can find in abundance in the wild.

Chickweed (stellaria media)

Chickweed plants are entirely edible and all its parts can be consumed.

Chickweed

When eaten, chickweed tastes like sweet grass.

Wood Sorrel (oxalis spp)

Whole wood sorrel plants can be consumed raw. It has refreshing acid flavor that is nice to the palette. Most variants of wood sorrel have pinkish flowers. Stems can be eaten but avoid the red part and the leaves because they are bitter. It is a common plant that can be usually seen clearings, lawns and in the deep wilderness.

Wood Sorrel

Consumption of this wild plant must be moderate because it has great oxalic level content, which can cause gastrointestinal ailments in taken in large quantities.

Herbit (lamium ampllexicaule)

This is another wild plant which is wholly edible and can be eaten raw. It tastes like mild mint with a tinge of a grassy sweet flavor. Before eating a herbit, it is recommended that you avoid its stems by removing the tops.

lamium ampllexicaule

The herbit comes in a huge carpet formation usually in the early times of the year.

Dead-nettle (lamium purpureum)

It is a plant which is almost the same like the herbit and is eaten like as a herbit is eaten.

Dead-nettle plant

It also grows in abundance like a huge carpet on the ground mostly during spring time.

Plantain (plantago lanceolate)

The young leaves in the center of this plant are eaten raw and have a good salty flavor.

Plantain

English plantain variety and common plantain are quite similar to each other.

Sow thistle (sonchus spp)

Sow thistle is like dandelion, with yellow flowers that can be prepared in the same process and can be eaten raw.

Sow thistle

Sow thistle is more prickly-looking than dandelion.

Wild onion (allium spp)

Wild onion plants are commonly found on areas that are regularly mowed.

Wild onion

Bunches of wild onions are normally used like scallions.

Cress (cardamine spp)

Cress is a wild plant that can often be seen in the cities. It is part of the mustard family, hence when you eat the leaves raw; the taste would be like that of a slight mustard flavor.

Cress

Full-grown cress plants are steamed like mustard greens.

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

Most wild berries are not safe for human consumption, with the exemption of blackberries which are 100% edible and safe. Blackberries have long thin stems with green jagged leaves. They are abundant in spring and can be found clustered around its bush.

Blackberries

Blackberries are already ripe from the months of August to September.

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Asparagus is mostly found in Europe and in some North African regions. When this plant is ingested it gives the urine a peculiar smell. Wild asparagus that has more slender stems are sold in grocery stores. This plant is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamine.

Wild Plants You Can Eat: A List of Edible Wild Plants

Asparagus plants growing in a field.

Best to be consumed when boiled or can be eaten raw like the standard asparagus we normally use for food at home.

Elderberries (Sambucus)

Elderberry shrubs grow to about 10 feet, which produces a large quantity of food. It has 7 central leaves that are stretched out from the stems which have a long jagged edged appearance. The white flowers of this plant form a cluster that looks like an umbrella.

Elderberries

Berries from the elderberry plant are ripe by the month of September. Elderberries must be properly processed for use to prevent intoxication, but they can be used to treat flu and colds. The berries can be processed into home-made jellies.

Pine (Pinus)

Pine comes in different varieties and species. It is a good source of food supply and can likewise be used for some medicinal purposes.

Pine

Native American use grounded pine to treat scurvy. Pine is rich in vitamin C and can also be made into tea by boiling a bowl of water and dropping in a few pine needles.

Kudzu (Puenraria lobata)

Most of the parts of kudzu are edible that has medicinal properties. It can be used to treat inflammation, migraines and headaches.

Puenraria lobata

Leaves and roots from the plant can be boiled, steamed or eaten raw.

Daylily (Hemerocallis)

Daylily is a common plant that is scattered in many places. It has bright orange flowers with surrounding foliage that comes straight out of the ground.

Daylily

The flower buds can be eaten even before they open or it can be cooked like any other ordinary vegetable.

Pecans (Carya illinoinensis)

Pecan trees grow to an average of 20 feet to 30 feet tall. Others sometimes reach a height of 100 feet tall. The leaf structure of the pecan has a long and smooth edge. This plant has its origins in the south central part of North America.

Pecans trees in winter

Pecan trees that are found in the wild can provide a nutritious and filling food cache.

Hazelnuts (Corylus)

Like pecans, hazelnuts are tree that grow up to 20 feet. Its leaves are bright green with pointed edges.

Corylus

Hazelnuts mature in pods and are usually ripe from the months of September and October.

Walnuts (Juglans regia)

Walnut trees can be spotted easily since they grow to be the tallest nut trees in North America with a maximum height of 30 feet tall. Its leaves look similar to the pecan nut tree, which grows on long stems that have about six to eight leaves on either side.

Walnut trees

Walnuts grow in clusters and are ready to be eaten by fall.

Acorns (Quercus)

Also known as oak nuts, acorns are bitter to the taste. The can easily be recognized because of the shape of their shells which is greatly different from the other nuts that grow on trees in the wild.

Acorns

Acorns must be cooked before eaten and must only be ingested in small quantities.

Hickory nuts (Carya)

Hickory trees grow to about fifty feet to sixty feet tall. It has large leaves that look like a spear with pointed edges.

Hickory nuts

Hickory nuts have a green round shell, and are ripe for eating by September or October of every year.

Clovers (Trifolium repens)

Clovers are edible and are usually seen anywhere. Where there is grass, you can be sure to find clover sprouting amongst them.

Clovers

Trifolium is easy to see because they have distinctive trifoil leaves and white flowers. This plant can be eaten raw; however they would have a better taste if you boil them first.

Red Clovers (Trifolium pratense)

Red clovers are abundant in the wild.

Red Clovers

Its flowers or blossoms can be eaten as they are or can be steeped in hot water to make tea. Its leaves and flowers can be used in salads too.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory can usually be seen in North America, Australia and Europe. The whole plant is safe for eating including its blue flowers; which may come in white or pink colors.

Chicory

Chicory is renowned for its potency when used on internal parasites.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

The flowers along with the young leaves of this plant are edible. Coltsfoot flowers are eaten raw or can be mixed with salads to produce a good aromatic flavor. The flower’s head can be added to honey and stored into a jar for a couple of weeks before it can be used as a cough medicine.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot honey can also be added to hot tea. Coltsfoot flower heads can also be dried then used as tea or for cooking. The leaves are bitter but can be used for salads and stews, just add lemon, seasoning and virgin oil.

Coltsfoot is known to be a natural cough remedy, however prolonged use is not advisable unless the supplement is certified to be hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloid free (PA free), because PAs are said to be mutagenic, carcinogenic and has the capacity to heighten blood pressures. Coltsfoot tea must be avoided by pregnant women and should not be given to infants since it damages the liver.

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)

The young leaves of creeping Charlie can be eaten fresh or can be cooked depending on how you like it. The slight bitter flavor of the leaves produces an aromatic tang that has a great taste on salads and juices. Its leaves can be cook like spinach which could be added to omelets, stews and soups. Tea can be made from its dried or fresh leaves.

Creeping Charlie

Studies show that this plant is added in beer like hops to enhance clarity and flavor. The common name for creeping Charlie are ground-ivy, tunhoof, alehoof, catsfoot, field balm run-away-robin and gill-over-the ground.

Cattail (Typha latifolia)

North Americans commonly know this plant as punks. Its name in England is reedmace and bullrush. This plant is typically found on freshwater wetlands. Cattails have been a traditional part of Native American tribe diets, since the plant is edible. It can be eaten raw or boiled. Because the roots are found underground it is best to wash them off first before eating.

Cattails

Cattails

The best part of the cattail is the white part of the stem at the most bottom part of the plant. Cattail flowers can be eaten like corn during the early part of summer, and essentially tastes like corn.

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Leaves, flowers, seeds and roots of the garlic mustard can be eaten. The leaves have a bitter taste and the flowers can be sliced and put in salads.

Garlic Mustard infographic

When flower stalks are not present, the roots of the plant that tastes like horseradish can be collected and used. Garlic mustard can be harvested in late fall and early spring time.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweeds are eaten raw, but can also be boiled prior to consumption.

Chickweed

These nutritious wild plants become visible during the months of May and July.

Hop Clover (Trifolium campestre)

All the parts of the hop clover can be used raw or processed for beverages and other food items.

Hop Clover

Its flowers are used for tea, the seeds, which are harvested in autumn, can be grounded into flour or eaten raw. Whereas its leaves can be added to salads, juices, omelets, and sandwiches.

Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)

The herb Robert plant’s parts are all edible. Its fresh leaves are used for tea or salads, while its flowers, roots and leaves are dried and kept to be used for later as tea or as a nutrient herb booster. The leaves can also be used to ward off mosquitoes by rubbing fresh leaves on the skin.

Herb Robert

Whole herb Robert plants are known to deter deer and rabbits from gardens, offering a natural form of protection for cultivated plants.

Beach Lovage (Ligusticum scoticum hultenii)

Raw leaves form the plant can be tossed in salads or added to soups and salsas. It could also be added to cooked green vegetables.

Beach Lovage

Beach lovage has better taste before its flowers emerge, so its great flavor is often sought after for seasoning purposes.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris)

Young leaves from the shepherd’s purse plant can be added to salads, cooked greens or in cook soups. It can be mixed with any dish that requires cooking greens.

Shepherd’s Purse

Its leaves can be eaten for the whole summer period but its mature leaves are not appealing for it leaves a peppery taste on the tongue.

Research before eating any wild plants

To fully understand how wild plants can help in our survival, we must do a research and get ourselves a handbook on plants to serve as our guide. This will help us sort out which ones are safe and which ones are not. Suffice it to say that we must also know how the plant looks like, so it is vital to have a wild plant guidebook on hand.

There may come a time when all we have in the wild is our guts and wits; hence, it is always to better to remember to look for berries on trees. Most berries on trees are edible; they are soft and look shriveled. Also be on the lookout for ornamental trees that have attractive flowers, since the flowers will often lead you to edible berries, plums or crab apples.

Poison plants

Majority of nuts in the wild are healthy, and fit to be consumed by humans. Nuts can be usually found underneath trees. Acorns are in abundance under the oak tree’s leaves and can be consumed without need for further process.  It is also sound to note that edible fruit bearing trees can usually be found in the open, mostly on road sides, in forest clearings and nearby bodies of water.

Keep in mind that fruit trees need the sun to be able to bear their fruits, so finding fruit bearing trees deep in the forest is nil. Fruit bearing trees commonly found in the open are wild apples, persimmons, mulberries, etc.

There you have our simple guide on what plants to look for and can be eaten in the wilderness should you get lost in the forest or happened to just want to live with nature’s abundance.

About the Author
Samuel Funt
Samuel Funt

Samuel is a prepper with over 15 years of experience. Samuel is excited to share his knowledge and the things he learns while travelling in British Columbia, Canada where he lives and around the world.

  • Frank Shaw

    Thanks for this extensive list. It is tricky to find something safe to eat in the wilderness. I avoid any bitter-tasting plant, especially if I’m not familiar with it.

    I also wanted to add Amaranth (Amaranthus retro flexus) It grows everywhere on earth, and it is eaten raw. However, it’s better to boil it before consuming it because it has oxalic acid which is rich in nitrate acid.

    My rule is, if I’m not entirely sure, I avoid it. Better to remain extremely hungry than poisoned, or worse, dead.

    • That’s very true, Frank, but the ones in the list are risk-free.

      • Frank Shaw

        Yes, I understand that now.

    • Samuel Funt

      Hi Frank, You do not necessarily have to go hungry. Instead you should prepare in advance before going into the wild. You should have a list of edible plants that grow in the area you are exploring. Try as much as possible to know how to identify edible plants.

  • mike livington

    We try to prepare everything that we might need before a hike and good reason to learn which food you can eat in the wild. I read somewhere that two wild plants are rampant and look almost identical but one is edible and the other poisonous. So yeah, I agree with Frank that when you’re not sure, leave it.

  • Samuel Funt

    One of the grave mistakes a forager can make is harvesting poisonous plants. Therefore, you certainly need our article.

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