If you were hunting this weekend and got lost, would you know what you could eat? Knowing what plants are edible and which ones are not, can be the difference between life and death.
Identifying edible plants
The first rule to follow is that if you can’t positively identify a plant, don’t eat it. A plant could be poisonous and if you identify it incorrectly, that could be a bad end.
To complicate things, some plants are fine to eat when they are young but become poisonous later on in their growth. Some plants are poisonous during certain seasons. Others just have certain parts of the plants that are poisonous.
While some of the plants below will not fit these descriptions, as a general rule of thumb, avoid plants that have:
• spines, fine hairs or thorns
• beans, bulbs or seeds inside the pod
• a grainy head with pink, purple or black spurs
• a three-leaf growing pattern
Where to find edible plants
If you are in a humid region, most of the plants will be in sunny areas. If you are in a dry region, the majority of the plants will be found near water sources.
It’s a good idea to locate a local plant guidebook and familiarize yourself with it before you go out. You might also consider making it a part of your pack.
Wild asparagus is common in many parts of North America, Europe and West Asia. It is very similar to asparagus that you find in your grocery store but has a lot thinner stalk. It typically resembles a cluster of green fingers. The mature plant is fern-like with red berries. The plant’s flowers are small and green in color.Wild asparagus is most common between March and June. It is a great source of Vitamin C, thiamine and potassium. You can eat it raw or boil it.
These plants are known as cattails or punks in North America. They are known as bullrush or reedmace in Europe. They are typically found near freshwater rivers and ponds. They are tall plants that have a brown or bright yellow hot dog-shaped flower on the end.Most of the plant itself is edible. The best part of the plant is the stem near the bottom where the stalk is white. You can boil or eat them stem raw. Boil the leaves to eat them. If you want to eat the hot dog-looking part of the plant, you need to get it at the right time. During the early summer, while the plant is still developing, you can break off the top and eat it like corn on the cob.
Luckyfor you, clovers are edible! However, if you find a four-leaf clover, you might want to keep it instead of eat it.They are typically found in an open grassy area and are better when boiled. You can also eat them raw if you need.
The chickweed is most common in temperate and arctic zones. The leaves are pretty thick and usually have small white flowers on the head. They are most common between May and July.Chickweed is very high in many vitamins and minerals. You can eat the leaves raw or boiled.
It should be pretty easy to identify dandelions. They are the ones that keep popping up in your perfect lawn! Your kids use them to draw with. Dandelion leaves have jagged edges, grow close to the ground and typically grow in bright areas.The great thing about them though is that they are entirely edible. You can eat the leaves while they are still young. The mature leaves aren’t bad but they will taste bitter. To get rid of the bitter taste, you can boil the leaves. You can also boil the roots before eating. You can also drink the water after you boil it.
Fireweed is a pretty purple and pink plant that is common in the Northern Hemisphere. It can also be identified by it’s unique structure of the leaf’s veins. The veins are circular instead of ending at the edge of the leaf.It’s better to eat younger fireweed plants. Mature fireweed is a lot tougher and more bitter. You can eat the stalk of the leaves. The flower and the seeds have a pepper taste.
If you are trapped on a deserted island, seaweed might be your best friend. Seaweed is found in oceans around the world and is very common. After you pull the seaweed from the water, rinse it with fresh water and let it dry out.You can eat the seaweed raw or even include it in some type of soup.
Not to be confused with the banana-like plant, the plantain plant has large spinach-like leaves. You can usually find plantain plants near marshes and bogs. They also tend to sprout up in alpine areas.The leaves tend to grow close to the ground, be large, oval and ribbed. They will also be short-stemmed. The leaves tend to grow 4 to 6 inches wide. Like many plants, the leaves are better the younger they are. Upon maturing, they grow more bitter.
This “Bear Necessity” of Baloo the bear in “The Jungle Book,” is most commonly found in the deserts of North America. It has a great taste and is very nutritional. The fruit of the prickly cactus is typically red or purple.Before you eat the plant, remove the small spines on the outer skin. You can also eat the stem of the prickly pear cactus if the plant is younger.
Elderberry is most commonly found in wet areas like marshes, rivers, ditches and lakes. They are very common in North America primarily the eastern United States.You can identify elderberry by it’s many stems. It has a compound leaf and grows about 20 feet high. It’s flowers are very fragrant, white and grow in flat-topped clusters.
The flowers and the fruits of the elderberry are edible. All other parts of the plant are dangerous and should be not be eaten. You can soak the flower heads in water for eight hours to make a drink. Discard the flowers and drink the water.
What others do you know of?
We’ve only listed 10 weeds that you can eat. What others do you know of? Comment below to share your wealth of knowledge.