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Plants You Can Eat (and a few you shouldn't).

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After watching a few survival shows on TV that my sons love, I decided to Google a bit and see what sorts of plants we could eat if we really did have to forage for ourselves for a short period of time.  Here are some of the results.  I did make sure that all can be found at least in North America.  As always, do your own research and be very careful.

Amaranth - You can eat all parts of the plant, but be careful of spines that appear on some of the leaves.

Asparagus - Yup, you can find these in the wild.  It does have a thinner stalk than what I might find at Safeway.

Burdock - You can eat the leaves and the peeled stalks of the plant either raw or boiled. Leaves are bitter so a little boiling helps a lot.

Cattail - I remember seeing this growing up and it never occured to me that I could eat them!  You can boil or eat raw the rootstock, or rhizomes, of the plant.

Clover - Another common plant that it would not have occured to me to eat.  Better boiled but you can eat 'em raw as well.

Chicory - My uncle used to add this to coffee, along with a pinch of salt, for flavor.  From the site where I found this, "You can eat the entire plant. Pluck off the young leaves and eat them raw or boil them. The chicory’s roots will become tasty after boiling. And you can pop the flowers in your mouth for a quick snack."

Chickweed - You can eat the leaves raw or boiled.  I have seen these but did not realize you can eat them.

Curled Dock
- Wasn't aware of this plant but will keep my eye out for them.  You can eat the stalk raw or boiled. Just peel off the outer layers first.

Dandelion - I do remember eating these as a kid but I wasn't sure it was okay. The entire plant is edible- roots, leaves, and flower. Eat the leaves while they’re still young; mature leaves taste bitter.

Fireweed -  Doesn't sound very edible!  "It’s best eaten young when the leaves are tender. Mature fireweed plants have tough and bitter tasting leaves. You can eat the stalk of the plant as well. The flowers and seeds have a peppery taste."

Plantain - These always looked like lettuce to me but I never tried eating one.  It’s best to eat the leaves when they’re young.

And, a few things to avoid . . . . . . .

  • Milky or discolored sap
  • Spines, fine hairs, or thorns
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods
  • Bitter or soapy taste
  • Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley-like foliage
  • “Almond” scent in the woody parts and leaves
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs
  • Three-leaved growth pattern

Please share your thoughts, corrections, etc., in the comments section.
erick99 posted Mar 16, 2013

Almond scent is cyanide. It's very common in seeds and immature fruit.

fluffy (rep: 2.2k) posted Mar 16, 2013


Well this is interesting! I like to learn about unique information like this:)

LokaFreeThings2 (rep: 3k) posted Mar 16, 2013


Lots of wild asparagus along the irrigation ditches here. It looks the same as the grocery stores. You find it by recognizing the golden, dried last year's stalks...think asparagus fern so often found in bouquets of roses, and remember where it was growing, then in spring the asparagus is easy to find.
Another use for cattails are as faux down filling for pillows etc. (the dried heads explode to huge amounts of fluff) I think it was WWII (maybe different war) there was a shortage of goose down, and cattails were used in life vests.
Your reference on what to avoid "Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley-like foliage" is because wild carrots, Queen Anne's Lace, Dill are easily confused with Water Hemlock which is deadly.

glwrks (rep: 124k) posted Mar 16, 2013


For the most part it's all correct, though a surprising amount of these listed plants can be toxic to animals.

cid681 (rep: 1.1k) posted Mar 16, 2013


@fluffy - Sorry, had my poison's mixed up. You hear the bitter almond phrase for cyanide in Sherlock Holmes in most of his stories and I forgot :(

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Mar 16, 2013


We have the Curled Dock all over in our fence line here in the South. Really tough to kill. Never thought to eat it. We also have Kudzu vines everywhere. Apparently, it is edible. Thought about trying to harvest the grape scented leaves for jam, but most of them are out of reach. Thanks for the info.

LindaKNor (rep: 22.8k) posted Mar 16, 2013


You shouldnt eat Nightlock berries either!

tylerhews (rep: 140) posted Mar 17, 2013


We have Dandelion festivals around here in the spring. Lots of Dandelion and Hame as well as Dandelion wine.

Acidbaby (rep: 7k) posted Mar 17, 2013


@tylerhews what is a nightlock? Sounds like a mix of a hemlock and a nightshade.

cid681 (rep: 1.1k) posted Mar 17, 2013


I used to make dandelion necklaces when I was younger but it never occurred to me to try tasting one. Or clover. Very interesting article, thanks for sharing!

shopange08 (rep: 15.8k) posted Mar 18, 2013


like this! but believe that is lavendar, not asparagus in the picture

dddsss (rep: 22.9k) posted Mar 18, 2013


Wild asparagus is thin and does look like lavendar :)

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Mar 18, 2013


We used to chew on clover. Never ate it. It has a sour flavor to it.

Nice page erick.

nthsll (rep: 12.5k) posted Mar 18, 2013


ok, the stalks appear a bit thicker than lavender--would love to try it!

dddsss (rep: 22.9k) posted Mar 18, 2013


@nthsll: If it tasted sour, it wasn't clover, is was oxalis, which looks very similar.

fluffy (rep: 2.2k) posted Mar 18, 2013


You gave almost the good and other plants in the list. What else remaining?

ukaran (rep: 2.2k) posted Mar 18, 2013


Very helpful info,

earltaylorjr (new user) posted Jan 22, 2014


but where to get them

jannywright06 (rep: 230) posted Jun 10, 2014