In this chapter, we go over the names and characteristics of the most common edible wild plants.
Chapter 2: Naming the Edible Wild Plants
2.1 – Plants
This uniquely shaped plant has several other uses other than eating it. There are people who will also use cattails for a flower arrangement for just for fun. This plant has been consumed as food sine as early as the 17th century. Cattails are full of fiber. The Egyptians and Chinese considered this plant to be a treasure. In the past, cattails have also been used during religious ceremonies. The native tribes located in North America also thought of them as treasured food. The high content of starch it contains is excellent for pasta or bread making.
Common Name: Typha Latifolia
Location: Africa, United Kingdom, Australia, United States (Grows in all states, but Hawaii), Eurasia, India. They are often in ponds, or any place that contains water. Anyone reading this guide is likely to locate a cattail swamp in their area.
Description: This plant possesses flowers that look like a cat’s tail (thus how its name became adapted). The tightly packed flowers have the males sitting on the top and the females resting at the bottom. When both sexes remain on the same plant, this is called monoecious. The cattails grow rapidly and can reach up to be as tall as 10 feet. They turn brown once they are in complete bloom. Its leaves appear like long, thick grasses shaded a grayish green. If you were to look closely at them, you would see they have many small seeds on them. There are reeds, bulrushes, and sedges that grow in the same area as the cattails, so make sure you know learn their distinguishable characteristics.
When to Find It: It is common in tropical and subtropical climates. It can also live in dry continental and humid coastal temperatures. It blooms in mid or late summer and during the spring. They will appear as a bright and powdery yellow.
Eating the Plant: In wildlife, it is marked as an important food source because there are no records showing it to be toxic. You can hack then with a sharp knife without any problem. When the surface of the cattail is a yellow spike, rub it off or knock it into a bag or container. The root stalks may be eaten as well as its shoots, consisting of their stem and appendages. Both, if you would like, can be eaten as is. The pre-bloomed spikes can either be eaten raw or cooked when you consume it. When you eat this plant cooked, it resembles the flavor of corn. The flowers and roots can be used for flour whereas you can use the young shoots as a salad.
Research claims that borage was once used to exhilarate the mind, banish sorrow, comfort the heart, and increase someone’s bliss. Borage is a great companion plant that can protect and nurse foods like spinach, brassicas, cabbages, and strawberries. It can ward off insects and worms and can aid in resisting diseases. The seed of the Boragecan convert into seed oil for use as medicine or treating skin disorders
Common Name: Borago officinalis, also known as Starflower.
Location: Native to the Mediterranean Region and has now spanned across Europe and the United States.
Description: It is easily caught by the eye and is a star-shaped flower that is bright blue and has white, prickly hairs. Since the outside of the upper plant is bristly, it can be uncomfortable for those with sensitive skin to handle. The leaves around it are slight curved and its fruits have dark brown seeds that cluster in a bundle of four.
When to Find It: It is an annual or biennial plant that is similar to an herb garden escape, and you can locate them in urban areas and allotments such as lawns or junk yards.
Eating the Plant: It is used to eat as a vegetable or dried herb. You can safely eat the seed, stem, leaves, and flower of the plant. When used for veggies, borage tastes similar to cucumbers and most people like to add it to their salads. The plant is also made as a filling for pasta dishes. Borage is also very popular to add as a garnish and decorate desserts or a cocktail. In Europe, this plant is infamously used in soups. Most foragers enjoy dipping the leaves in batter prior to frying it which helps lay the bristles down and allows you to chew the food easily.
It is a popular enough plant to find in general farmers’ markets. It is suitable to grow in various types of soil such and sandy, loamy and clay, although it does prefer to grow in moist soil. It is a plant also used medicinally for people who experience chronic itchiness and redness.
Common Name: Stellaria Media
Location: It is a cosmopolitan plant you can find just about anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere; this includes Britain. It is a very common type of fast growing garden weed. You can find the plant around parks, gardens, trail paths or allotments; just about any area where the ground or soil has been disturbed.
Description: These are small plants that sprawl, which means they spread out across a big area in an unnatural or irregular manner. It has weak, straggly stems which have fine hairs unilaterally of the stem. The angles of the hairs alter at every platform. The leaves are oval to egg-shaped with a sharp end. The roots are a breeze to pull out because they’re not firmly planted deep beneath the Earth. It has five-petaled white flowers that seem to look double that and five longer sepals. The white flowers will portray a slight pink tinge from time to time. The flowers are hermaphrodite and it is very self-fertile.
When to Find It: Chickweed is an annual plant often found around the months of March, when it is in first leaf, through September. Though it disappears momentarily in the summer, you can find it again during the fall.
Eating the Plant: You can collect the chickweed with ease by using just your hands, but you can also use scissors. You do not need to uproot this plant. It is common for Chickweed to be a substitute salad vegetable by foragers. It can get chewy when it gets older, so it is best to grab the new growth. The young chickweed will be around two to four inches tall. You can eat the plant and the stem raw or add it to soups and cook it. The seed is edible as well.
image via Google
A dandelion is one of the most prominent signs of spring, but you can also find them during late summer or fall. I bet everyone has seen a dandelion flower at least once in their life. The leaves can scatter everywhere and the yellow buds dance along the sky or cover the lawns where just the seedy blow balls remain. It is interesting to know that this weed is a very popular agricultural crop.
Common Name: Taraxacum officinale
Location: It is a cosmopolitan plant scattered around Eurasia, Africa, Australia, South America and North America, including Canada.
Description: It has lobed basal leaves that bare its teeth. The stalk of the dandelion has no leaves or branches. The leaves can grow either upright or horizontally and are shaped like a fish skeleton. Dandelions were first discovered in France. In French, ‘dent de lion’ means lions’ tooth. There is a yellow flower at the top that ultimately becomes a blow ball filled with seeds. They can reproduce extremely swiftly and can adapt to most types of soil. It is typically 5-40 cm high, but can grow as tall as 70 cm.
When to Find It: During the start of spring you can discover its first greens and in early April, you will find it finally produced its flowers.You can locate them in agricultural lands, grasslands, urban areas, and coastlands.
Eating the Plant: Another type of plant that can be easily picked by using your hands or scissors. If you use a root extractor, you can uproot even the most firmly-rooted dandelions. The greens of the plant can be used as a potherb, its flowers can be extracted for wine or used to prepare a nice flower marmalade, and the roots can make a delicious coffee or tea beverage. Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C and can be eaten raw or cooked in soups or salads. It is recommended to eat the leaves while they are young, but they will have a bitter taste to them during that time. You can reduce the bitter taste by using a black bin liner in order to bleach the leaves and turn them a pale yellow.
Lamb’s quarter are a notorious species of plant that is also known as wild spinach. Many high-class restaurants can charge a premium for this plant as a side dish. For those of you who enjoy eating your spinach, I am positive that you will enjoy this very much. Lamb’s quarters are dubbed ‘fat hen’ in the United Kingdom because it is a plant that has a higher food value that any other type of weed grown.
Common Name: Chenopodium album
Location: This is another cosmopolitan type of plant that is found in many parts of Eurasia, Australasia, Africa, and the United States (including Canada)
Description: This herbaceous plant has alternating triangular-shaped leaves and a top bundle that is gray at the center. The leaves at the base are toothed with a diamond shape to them. It is almost impossible to get this plant wet because any water that lands on the plant will glide off of it instead of getting soaked up. It can grow up to a meter tall, but it will start to bend after flowering because of the weight.
When to Find It: This plant thrives in soils that are rich in nitrogen and is a common summer annual. The flowers of lamb’s quarters bloom during the months of May and November. It is found in pastures, fields, roadsides, gardens, vineyards, and landscapes.
Eating the Plant: You can gather this plant by using your hands or scissors. It is a popular substitute for spinach and may be eaten when it is cooked or raw. The best time to eat the leaves is when they are still young. Even though it is safe to ingest, you still want to consume the plant in moderation because it contains oxalic acid. Wild spinach is a great source of phosphorus, calcium, protein, vitamin A, and potassium. The seed of the plant can be used in flour, beverages and soups too.
For some reason, I am reminded of “Alice in Wonderland” when I look at this plant. Chicory is a lovely shade of blue and is a roadside wildflower. Because it is very beautiful to look at, many people often admire it when they pass it. It never crosses the mind of many that it is also just as good to eat.
Common Name: Cichorium intybus
Location: Chicory was first noticed in the Mediterranean before being distributed throughout Australia and the Northern Hemisphere.
Description: This is a summer plant whose flower stalk averages about 2 feet high. It is decorated with its very noticeable circular blue flowers.
When to Find It: It is common to find this plant during the spring, but it is only when the flowers open up that you noticed it, which is during the early summer. You will find this plant on roadsides and highways or in fields such as pastures, lawns, and wastelands. It grows the best in the lime-rich soil though it can grow in any type. This plant is somewhat popular and can also be found in many types of grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
Eating the Plant: You can pick these plants using your hands or scissors. Their basal leaves are collected to cook or use as salads. This is food that you can digest easily and all parts of the plants are edible. This plant contains “tannis,” a compound that aids in digestion and lowers the number of parasites in the intestines. When eaten raw, they tend to have a bitter flavor, but blanching the plant for 5 minutes will remove this taste. Chicory can be made into a seasoning by drying and grinding its roots or as coffee when you roast and grind up the roots.
Most people know this type of plant is something to avoid because of its name. When you touch it, the area is rapidly irritated for either a short length or you begin to feel unbearable itching. Stinging nettle is one of the first green plants that marks an appearance not long after winter. This plant is positively known as being very good for you both nutritionally and cosmetically.
Common Name: Urtica dioica
Location: This cosmopolitan plant is just about everywhere. It can be seen in Europe, the United States, West Asia, and North Africa.
Description: Its leaves look tooth-like. Every surface of this green plant is covered with small hairs that will sting you when touched. When stinging nettle starts to flower, it has bundles of covered flowers in the nodes, where the leaves are located. It loves the rich soil and in the spring, young shoots can grow up to 3-4 inches tall. At this point, it is past the ideal time to eat it.
When to Find It: It is common to find this plant during early spring and in wet wood areas or nearby streams. You can also buy this plant in most farmers’ markets.
Eating the Plant: You will not want to touch this plant with your bare fingers, put on some gloves and use scissors to gather it. Do not consume this plant raw, submerge it in hot water and ensure it is thoroughly cooked before consuming. Stinging nettle is not just a passable plant to eat; it is extremely tasty and well worth your endeavor. You can add it to sauces as a custard or in soups like nettle soup, or even enjoy it in pesto. Nettle is a wonderful substitute for spinach as well. If you dry its leaves, you could alternatively serve them as beverages.
You can eat this plant without worrying about toxins. However, you should be cautious when you are handling this plant. The sap of the hogweed can blister skin when it is exposed to light. When you collect hogweed, you should do it on overcast days or in areas that are shaded.
Common Name: Heracleum sphondylium
Location: Hogweed is native to Eurasia (except Iceland) and North Africa. The hogweed in North America is called Heracleum maximum, or cow parsnip, which is counted as being a subspecies.
Description: The stout of the plant is medium to tall, and it is a bristly haired type of plant. The stems are hollow, and the plant is seen in groups of three to five lobed segments. Hogweed is pink to white in color. It is an umbelliferous plant, which means it displays an umbrella-like arrangement of flowers. It is usually 20-50 inches tall, but can reach up to six or seven feet.
When to Find It: This is a biennial or short-lived perennial plant. You can find these plants from April through September. You will find this plant in herbaceous areas, along the roadside, woods, meadows, hedges and in mountains; especially those about 8,000 ft. Hogweed is a lover of rich nitrogen oil.
Eating the Plant: You should cut the stalks of the plant when you gather it. This plant contains young, emerging leaves that you can cook, boil or steam. It is similar to the carrot and parsley family. It is important that you properly identify this plant from carrots or parsley because any mix-up can be potentially dangerous. The young leaves may be eaten cooked or raw as well as the shoots. You can also extract the sugar substances from the shoot to use as a sugar substitute.
You can find purslane in many farmers’ markets, but it is so abundant in most parts of the world that it would be better to forage for them instead of buying them. Although farmers state their plants are cleaner than wild-grown ones, plants foraged in nontoxic and non-polluted areas are just as clean.
Common Name: Portulaca oleracea
Location: This plant is nearly everywhere around the world and most common in Asian areas.
Description: Purslane can readily adapt to temperate and tropical conditions and can withstand living in poor soil with little water.This plant is scattered in many which ways and is a low-lying weed that grows extremely fast. It has alternative branching with bundles of little oval-like, paddle-shaped leaves. Purslane can also have five yellow petaled flowers with deep red to purple stems.
When to Find It: They are often many gardens, sidewalk trails, roadsides, flower boxes, agricultural fields and in parks.
Eating the Plant: There will be no struggle for you when you pick this plant, you can pick them with your hands. The leaves and stems are edible. You can add it to salads, soups or cook it for use as a potherb. It possesses a nice, succulent flavor and texture. Some cultures use purslane as a thickener for their stews.
Prickly Pear Cactus
In the United States, this cactus can be spotted in the deserts of Southwest America. If you ever happen to be in such an area or find that you get stranded in a desert, this is, hands down, the ultimate survival food.
Common Name: Opuntia
Location: This plant can be found mostly in North America, but also in South America, Australia, Africa. Namely, you can find it in spots that do not have a lot of moisture. Similar to other cacti, the prickly pear can grow in soil that is dry, rocky, and drained slopes. It is also located in juniper forests or those containing evergreen trees. This cactus can even be discovered in mountain foothills. It thrives in sunny, desert-like locations. It has been discovered that the flesh is very effective as a water purifier.
Description: This green plant is characterized by its oval-shaped pads that are flat and fleshly. They bear a strong similarity to large leaves. Water is contained and stored in the pad of the cactus that are 4-18 inches long and about 9 inches deep. Among the surface of the pads are long, sharp spines. The less visible spines are called ‘Glochids’ and seem to be harmless, but one can develop skin irritations for days when it goes beneath the skin. The height of the cactus ranges from one to eight feet tall. Prickly Pears also grow fruits that are red to purple colored.
When to Find It: Fruit begins to grow on the cactus during early spring up until the end of summer. An ideal time to ripen the fruits is during September through November.
Eating the Plant: This cactus is vicious on the outside, but deliciously sweet on the inside. You can eat the pads and fruits of the cactus. The fruits can be eaten as is once in harvest season. The cactus can be dried, or you can extract its juices. The stem of the cactus can be eaten raw, but it is best boiled. When the outer layer of the fruit is a shiny red and in inside is orange, it is an indication that it is ripe. Since this is a sweet tasting food, it is also used as a jelly, syrup or can be fermented to make liquor. When you are ready to pick the cactus, have gloves, a fork and a knife handy.
Although its presence does not signify the start of spring, these plants are still most certainly one of the visual glories spring has included in it. It is nothing short of amazing to witness the fiddlehead fern fronds lift up and unfurl as if it were some kind of prehistoric mollusk. These lush and fascinating plants are unique to some places, like Japan. You are likely to see this plant added on seasonal menus of various top notch restaurants.
Common Name: Matteuccia struthiopteris
Location: Found in the upper parts of the Northern Hemisphere
Description: This plant possesses a crown-like growth and possesses two two types of structures, one of which has a characteristically tall, green, and leafy frond. The second type is a brown stalk that has short branches on the side that make spores. The fiddlehead resembles a curled ornamentation on the end of an instrument.
When to Find It: Locate fully grown fern that are mature and come back to the area around the end of April or the start of May to collect the tops. You can also find them in upscale food places and some farmers’ markets. Fiddleheads are not cultivated so you can find them only during the seasonal months of spring.
Eating the Plant: You will want to gather only the tops of these plants during the time you see that they furl or curl. Cook them when they are about one to four inches in height. You do not want to eat these plants raw. Use them as you would with any vegetable you make. They can be served, steamed, boiled, sautéed, and added into any of your favorite dishes.
This root of this plant is cultivated and a part of very traditional Japanese Cuisine. Gobo is the term for these long and slender roots that can be found in most Asian markets and upscale food places.
Common Name: Arctium minus
Location: This is a cosmopolitan plant that can be found throughout countries around the world.
Description: Burdock is a biennial plant that produces wide, oval-shaped plants that are grayish white and hairy beneath its surface. Basal leaves are made the first year, and the flower stalks are produced the following year. The stalk of the flower rises when it is around summertime. It creates burrs that get spread out by latching themselves to whoever or whatever comes in their path. It can be hard to identify burdocks because they tend to hybrid with other plants.
When to Find It: You will see these during the times of early spring and come summertime. You will want to locate leaves that are on the sides of pathways. Do not confuse them for docks while they are still young leaves though they do appear similar to each other. You can set them apart because burdock leaves are hairy and whitish below the stalk whereas docks are a green color.
Eating the Plant: Pick the burdock by first unearthing the burdock roots with a shovel. You will want to do this prior to the flower stalk appearing, which is during the upcoming ear. Once you have finished gathering them, scrape them clean and boil it. It is best to finely slice the roots and stir fry or simmer them for about half an hour. The roots of this plant are best to cook, and goes well with Asian-inspired dishes. When you peel and boil the stalks, you can eat the vegetable as is. They have a crunchy texture to them, comparable to a bamboo shoot. The leaf and stalk may be bitter at times. You can also extract the juice of this plant to make burdock root beer.
If you have never heard of a clover, you must be living in a bush! This lush plant is commonly referred as to many as being “lucky” if you should find one with four leaves.
Common Name: Trifolium spp.
Location: This is a worldwide species of plant you can find just about anywhere. They can live in just about any soil, and most people can even find them growing right in their yard. You will not find clovers for sale in general markets.
Description: This is a herbaceous weed that contains tiny little leaves, each bearing about three leaflets. There is no weed as substantial in most people’s lawn as the close. There are many species of clovers that are known, but the most frequent types are green, red and white clovers.
When to Find It: The tri-parted leaves often make their first appearance during the start of spring followed by red or white colored flowers. The white clovers are the most prevalent until frost and the red clovers usually vanish after flowering.
Eating the Plant: Anyone can safely gather a clover’s leaves and flower heads by using their hands, but you can also use scissors. Once you wash them clean, you can add them to any salad. The flowers of the clover are often used for tea beverages or as jelly.
Most people that are gardeners or enjoy the beauty of their plants in their yard will often travel with their favorite plant to their new home. If they are planning to travel abroad, some people will find a similar plant to collect and cultivate for their enjoyment. It is a usual case with the Arrowhead, which is a popular houseplant. This plant is also known as ‘duck potato’. When the Chinese visited North America and found a local species in the state of California, they decided to take the duck potato like a duck to water. When sold in the Chinese markets, they are called ‘Tseegoo.’
Common Name: Sagittaria spp.
Location: This is a perennial plant you will see all throughout the Americas. It is also found in areas like Asia and northern Europe. This plant enjoys aquatic habitats and grows in ponds, marshes, swamps, streams, and shallow rivers.
Description: A tiny, one to two feet plant of pond margins, possess pointy shaped leaves that have distinct adjacent veins and bundles of tri-petaled white colored flowers. The corm is quite fleshy at the base. They can be confused with arrow-arum because the leaves are shaped very similarly. However, arrow-arum plants have a marked midrib and side veins, unlike the arrowhead.
When to Find It: These plants can be seen throughout the duration of summer. The flowers of the arrowhead bloom during the months of July to September.
Eating the Plant: Make sure to gather the plant in an unpolluted area and use your hands to pull out plants. The potato tasting part of the plant grows within the mud of ponds so you will want to clean and then cook the corm by boiling, roasting, drying, steaming or frying it. The fleshy corm is an excellent potato substitute.This plant can be uses as flour when it is ground or candied with maple syrup. Arrowhead is best cooked, but the tubers and roots may be consumed raw. Tubers are high in starch and phosphorus.
There are over sixty varieties of seaweed that is used as food around the world. This plant is most familiar to Japanese citizens, where there is a surplus amount of seaweed along the shoreline. The infamous sushi, especially Nori, is made of rice that is wrappedin red seaweed. The brown, spiky seaweed known as Hijikiis often sold in stores and takeout. The red seaweed, known as dulse, is dried and made as a substitute for potato chips. Another red colored seaweed called Irish Moss is primarily used as gels in some meals, like ice-cream, to prevent any separating. Many of the green seaweed are either dried or powdered and used as seasoning in markets. Seaweed is a huge part of life in the East, which may come as a shock to people living in the West. In Korea, instead of celebrating your birthday with a cake, it is celebrated with seaweed soup made of wakame.
Common Name: Ulva lactuca
Location: This is a cosmopolitan plant and is seen everywhere around the world.
Description: Seaweed is very similar to what lettuce is shaped as for people who add it in their sandwiches. This plant can, at times, form mats that are thick or it covers a decent amount of area along the edges of the beach. Seaweed is often green, but can come in other colors like red, purple, and brown.
When to Find It: You will find them during the spring and fall seasons within ocean beaches, or you can purchase it in food stores and catalogs.
Eating the Plant: You can easily grab a hold of this plant when you visit most beaches, Just make sure you wash the seaweed thoroughly prior to consuming it. They are great for using as a salad, in soups, powdered as seasoning, in teas, and even in some desserts.
Wild horseradish a type of garden plant that you will want to ensure you properly monitor the plant so that it does not overtake the area. It could become somewhat of a nuisance if it were to take over although it serves a great purpose as a condiment. Horseradish root are sold at grocery stores, but most people are likely more familiar with in as a bottled condiment that adds a pungent flavor to bland meals. Unlike most root veggies, this plant is not a cooked-root food, so when you collect them while foraging, you only need a small amount.
Common Name: Armoracia rusticana
Location: Wild horseradish is throughout a majority of the United States, western Asia, and southeastern Europe.
Description: The basal leave of horseradish are like dock leaves in the sense they are similarly oval shaped. Nonetheless, this plant has leaves that possess rounded teeth along the sides. The stalk of the plant rises and makes little, white flowers that are four-petaled.
When to Find It: During the times of early summer, you will find the leafy, and clearly rounded tooth characteristics are visible.
Eating the Plant: When you are ready to collect the plant, you can unearth it by shoveling up the root. Wild horseradish is mainly for use as a condiment, and the root of the plant is grated in moderation.
There are some plants that are more for decoration than to eat, and violets are common weeds that most people tend to sprinkle over their cooked dishes or salads as a visual aid. The beautiful flower has some species of violets that is also used for making fragrances when the juice is extracted. They are also termed as pansies.
Common Name: Viola Spp.
Location: Cosmopolitan plant that exists nearly worldwide
Description: This basal plant is one that grows low on the ground. The flowers are heart-like shaped, and the leaves are toothed displaying about five petals each. The shade of these flowers ranges from a blue to purple hue.
When to Find It: Violets are a spring flower, and you will find them during those months. They are located in most people lawns and yards and can survive in most types of soil. Pansies are also sold as a confection in most general markets.
Eating the Plant: You can collect these plants just by picking them with your hands. Violets are very frail so you will want to refrigerate the plants as soon as you can after collecting them. Most like to admire the beauty of these plants and use them as decorations in their foods; it is also used as a potherb too. The fragrant species are also used to create syrup when the plant is crystallized to make the sugar.
This plant is especially popular for monarch butterflies when they are on their annual long migration and travel from Mexico to Canada. These insects will lay their eggs on the plant, which hatch and become caterpillars that love them. Milkweed is not a plant of choice to most birds because of its bitter taste.
Common Name: Asclepias syriaca
Location: This plant is a common New World plant and is now growing in some areas of Asia
Description: These plants have unbranched stalks with opposing, wide oval-shaped leaves that have smooth edges. If you were you break open a segment of the plant, a sticky white residue would surface. Violets have a greenish, broccoli looking bud cluster and an array of pretty pink flowers. Their green pods are short, fat and have a soft-scaly feeling to it.
When to Find It: Milkweed buds like similar to broccoli and appear during the end of spring and early summer where the flowers are made soon after. You are likely to find this plant in just about any garden in areas that are dry. Common dogbanes are dubbed as a lookalike and have opposite leaves and milky sap. They, however, have branching stalks where the milkweeds do not and the flowers appear different.
Eating the Plant: You can pick and clean the shoots, buds, and pods of the milkweed to use as potherbs, but it is the buds that are the best. When this plant is cooked, it is a popular wild vegetable to eat among foragers. The safest part of the plant you can consume is the bud clusters. When this plant is served, it is often coupled along with a seasoned butter sauce.
Beach beans and beach peas are a familiar plant food to many people, but maybe you are not aware that you eat it. This plant makes us food like lima beans, fava beans, green beans, sugar snaps, and peanuts. The bean family creates its toxins to protect itself from prey. Those sold in general markets are safe to consume, except those people who are allergic to it. Wild beans are very common, but it is not a plant that is usually eaten by people. This plant is an exception to those rules.
Common Name: Lathyrus japonicus
Location: Beach peas are everywhere throughout most of the United States, down to the Pacific coast. This is a Native plant of North America.
Description: This herbaceous plant grows and scatters everywhere. The leaves are oppositely pattered, compound and are oval shaped with smooth edges. The flowers are like peas and have a pink tint to them, and the pods of the plant are green.
When to Find It: From its name, you can guess where it grows: the beach of course. You will find them at the start of the summer while the plants are visible and flowering. It is not located for sale in markets.
Eating the Plant: The plants’ young pods can be gathered by picking them with your hands and washing them afterward. When cooked, the pods are safe to consume while they are young. The pods that are tough can be shelled to extract the ‘pea’.
Sheep Sorrel is a common plant that most people tend to grow in their gardens. This plant is a wild relative that is a popular because of its spreading arrangement. It possesses a nice tangy and zesty flavor for those who eat it.
Common Name: Rumex acetosella
Location: You can find sheep sorrel just about everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. They also sell in some grocery stores.
Description: The plant is quite small and fragile to the touch. Sheep sorrel has long, oval shaped leaves that have two small rabbits like earlobes that are at the base. The plant is a vibrant green, and the roots are a deep brown.
When to Find It: These plants are perennial and appear during the spring season and throughout the summer where you will see them in areas that provide them with nice shade. It can get mistaken for woody nightshade, which is a wood vine that has pretty purple flowers and reddish berries where the leaves are alike. However, it does not have that tangy flavor to it.
Eating the Plant: You can gather this plant by hand, or you can use scissors to cut better accurately the leaves and tips of the plant that are edible. You can eat this plant raw or cook it.It has a lemony flavor so many people enjoy to add it as a nibble to their salads, stuffing, and soups. In soup products that are sold in stores, it is found bottled in a soup product known as schav.
This small plant has a clover-like weed contains oxalic acid, so although it is an edible plant, you do not want to consume a lot of it, and on a regular basis.
Common Name: Oxalis spp.
Location: This weed is common to find in Asia, Europe and most parts of the United States.
Description: Wood sorrel is a little, low growing plant that has heart shaped leaves resembling a clover. Each flower has five petals, and the color varies depending on the exact species; they come in white, yellow or in pink.
When to Find It: They will appear during the times of spring through the fall. The wood sorrel is a plant you will see in flower throughout most of the year. No need to venture out too far to get this weed, it probably already grows in your lawn. They are also found in gardens and along the street or pathway that contains soil. It is not sold anywhere in stores.
Eating the Plant: Gather these plants by using your hands or use scissors if you would rather cut than pull out the wood sorrel. This plant, like the sheep sorrel, has a tangy flavor to it and is used in salads, as nibbles and soups. The juice of the flower can also make an excellent tasting lemony beverage.
Wild Onions, Leeks, and Garlic
This is the family of all chives, onions, scallions, shallots, leeks, and garlic where every Marketplace stocks these foods, especially the Asian markets that abundantly use these foods in their diets.
Common Name: Allium vineale
Location: This is nearly a cosmopolitan plant located everywhere; it is especially abundant in the Northern Hemisphere.
Description: These hollow grass like leaves range between 6-14 inches in height. The flowers are above the top of the stalk along with trails of small headed bulbs. All segments of this plant, as well as the taste, is very strong.
When to Find It: The leaves tend to appear at the end of winter, the start of spring, and once more in early fall. The flowering tops are visible during early summer.
Eating the Plant: Once you pick and clean the plant, you can use the young shoots in your salads, and the bulbs in many portions of soup, French onion soup, in particular, is popular. Use the fruit of the head and crush it for garlic.
Wild Leeks (also known as Ramps)
Common Name: Allium tricoccum
Location: This plant is found in many areas; Europe, Asia and North America; especially in areas with temperate zones.
Description: Wild leeks have two to three light green leaves that are soft to the touch and about five to fourteen inches ling. There are parallel veins, usually a reddish-purple, that you can see a emerge out of the bulb. They also have a strong odor when touched or consumed with a terminal flower that will not grow until the leaves are a shade of yellow and died back.
When to Find It: You can find them at the end of spring, up until the start of summer. Those seasons are usually around the months of April and May.
Eating the Plant: Pick the plants bulbs and greens. Clean them to consume it preferably cooked.
This plant is available in most markets nearly at a month to month basis throughout the year, they bundle together with a rubber band when sold. Most people have tried this plant at least once, or as seen it.
Common Name: Nasturtium officinale
Location: This plant can be found in Europe, Central Asia, and North America
Description: This rich green plant can grow very densely and rapidly. It makes has small, white flowers that have four petals each. It also has needle-shaped seed pots.
When to Find It: Watercress are found during the spring when the leaves start to sprout in flowing streams. As the name states, this plant grows in water and will not be found in soil alone. You can find it in a lot of major cities.
Eating the Plant: It is simple to gather these plants by using sharp pair of scissors. There are various recipes people make with watercress, but the most common is using the young leaves with salads. Watercress is one of the tastiest salad greens available.
In contrast to its name, the mountain mint is a wild plant that is grown at sea level. Some of its species are now even used as ornamentals in butterfly gardens. This plant has a powerful minty flavor.
Common Name: Pycnanthemum spp.
Location: It is found in most of the United States; this plant is native to North America and not found much in other areas.
Description: The mountain mint has square shaped stalks and its leaves, which are smooth edged and tapered, are patterned oppositely. There are other species that have wider and jagged shaped leaves. This plant has somewhat of a flat surface possesses terminal bundles of little white flowers. It has a very strong scent when you are within distance to it.
When to Find It: The best time to spot this plant is during the months of summer when the plants are flowering and fruit. This type of plant does not sell in food markets because they are not there.
Eating the Plant: Mountain mint leaves and their fruit tops can be picked easily just using your hands. This edible plant may be consumed while it is either cooked or raw. Since it has a nice aromatic minty scent, it is often made with tea beverages. It is also very enjoyable to eat in salads. You can extract the juice of the mountain mint where it is added into ice-cream.
The Foragers Bible
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