Jerilee knows a thing or two about edible wild plants and where to find them.
A Guide to Edible Wild Plants
Sitting at nature's dinner table, most would be surprised at the goodness and variety of the bounty. By learning about just a few wild edible plants, you'll soon be able to recognize them; then, you'll never have to be worried about being hungry again, as many wild edible plants are commonly found around the world.
Don't try to learn them all in a short time, though. Learn a few well, and add them to your dinner table from time to time.
14 Edible Wild Plants Commonly Found in Nature
- American Pawpaw
- Nut Grass
- Spring Beauty
- Solomon's Seal
- Water Chestnut
- Water Lilies (Lotus)
- Wild Onion
- Wild Potatoes
- Wild Sweet Potatoes
- Wild Rice
1. American Pawpaw
- Found: In the United States, this tree is found along streams. It is related to the custard apple family, which is also found throughout the tropics.
- Eaten: Banana-like tasting fruit, skinned and eaten raw. It is black or yellowish-green when fully ripe. You'll know it's ripe when the fruit is heavily perfumed in sweetness, and the fruit yields when squeezed.
Interesting facts about the American Pawpaw:
- It is also known by the common names of Poor Man's Banana and Hoosier Banana.
- Thanks to Indigenous Americans, the paw paw was spread across the Eastern United States into Kansas, Texas, the Great Lakes, and almost to the Gulf of Mexico.
- Bees don’t like the paw paw flowers, so it’s left up to flies and beetles in nature to pollinate the fruit, which isn’t the most productive method. If you are intent on growing them yourself, understand that optimum harvest, you’ll need to hand pollinate (so get out your artist’s brush). Alternatively, there is a bi-sexual variety that doesn't need pollination helps.
- Found: This small aquatic plant is found in North America, Europe, South America, and Asia. In the United States, it is found year-round. Just follow the thread-like root down to the bulb, as that is the part of the plant that you are looking for. It grows in wet ground and shallow water.
- Eaten: Best boiled, frying, or roasted. It can also be dried and made into a flour. It tastes like a potato according to some, others claim it takes like a chestnut.
Interesting facts about Arrowhead:
- It is also known by the common names of Five fingers, Nephthys, Broadleaf arrowhead, duck potato, Indian potato, wapato, and Goosefoot.
- It’s related to the philodendron and has been grown as a common house plant for the past two centuries.
- In many places, it's considered to be an invasive weed.
- Found: This tall plant is native to North America, Africa, Australia, East Indies, and Malaya. It is found in the U.S. year-round in wet and swampy areas.
- Eaten: The roots and white stem base are the parts to eat, both raw or cooked.
Interesting facts about bulrush:
- It is also known by the common names of club-rush, deer grass, or grass weed.
- The stems of the bulrush plants are often used in some cultures to weave mats, baskets, chair seats, and bed supports.
- Bulrushes are thought to act as a natural filter to suck up poisonous and unwanted pollution from water.
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- Found: These tall aquatic-like plants are found throughout Europe, northern Asia, North America, Africa, Australia, and in some Pacific islands. Wherever they grow, they are generally found year-round, and always near or in water.
- Eaten: They are best baked or roasted (the roots) and you can chew out the starch for nutrition, spitting out the fiber. They can also be eaten raw. The white part of the new shoots and flowering spikes are also edible, but only before blooming.
Interesting facts about cattails:
- Cattails are so rapid growing and spread so fast that they can overtake a pond or other body of water very quickly. A lot of people view them as invasive because it makes other aquatic plants struggle to survive in the same waters.
- Cattail pollen is equal to bee pollen in terms of minerals, enzymes, protein, price, and energy.
- Cajun traitueses and Native Americans have used cattails as herbal remedies for a variety of ailments for centuries. Most commonly, a jell is made from the young leaves of the immature cattail for healing wounds, sores, boils, etc. It also has some pain reduction properties.
- Cattails have also used for more than the modern-day use of decorative flower arrangements. In the past they were used to thatch roofs, weave baskets, seating for chairs, mats, and bedding.
- Found: These small trees are found in North America, northern Asia, and in Europe, generally in forested and mountainous areas. Look for them in the U.S. during the summer and early fall.
- Eaten: These small purplish fruits, are best eaten fresh or dried.
Interesting facts about Juneberries:
- It is also known by the common name of service berry.
- The berries have a crown, this is important because no berry that has a crown is known to be poisonous.
- The berries once were very popular and seem to be a forgotten fruit that have a sweet nutty flavor.
- Most Cajun faith healers, native Americans, and the Chinese are very familiar with the healing properties of this wild edible plant. It’s been used for a variety of remedies, including pain reduction, worming, and miscarriage prevention (a root and bark tea).
6. Nut Grass
- Found: This plant is found worldwide and is commonly available in open ground as well as along riverbanks. Look for it in the U.S. during the summer, fall, and winter.
- Eaten: The small hard nut-like tubers are best eaten raw or cooked.
Interesting facts about nut grasses:
- It is also known by the common names of yellow nutsedge and chufa flatsedge.
- In traditional healings, the roots have been used to treat coughs and colds. Others have chewed the roots in cases of snakebites.
- They often have a bitter taste but have excellent nutritional value.
- Wild nut grasses were popular food sources for Native American peoples, especially the yellow nut grass.
7. Spring Beauty
- Found: These small plants are found in Africa, Europe, Australia, southern Asia, and North America. They are available year-round but may be difficult to find in the winter. In the United States, they are commonly found in the woods.
- Eaten: The bulb may be eaten raw or cooked. It's important to be familiar with this species of wild edible plants, as with some varieties, only the leaves may be eaten.
Interesting facts about Spring Beauty:
- Spring beauty has long been used as both a medicine and a food among Native Americans and folk medicine healers.
- The edible part of the tuber has a sweet chestnut-like taste.
8. Solomon's Seal
- Found: These small plants are found in North America, Europe, northern Asia, and Jamaica. In the United States, look for them in the spring, or summer.
- Eaten: The fleshy roots are usually boiled or roasted. They taste like parsnips. The young shoots are also edible.
Interesting facts about Solomon's Seal:
- Solomon’s Seal has centuries of herbal uses, far too many to mention every one of them.
- It has been used as a wine, a painkiller, digestive aid, and for headaches.
- The berries and leaves will induce vomiting and nausea.
9. Water Chestnut
- Found: They are found in many parts of the world, particularly in southern Asia, North America, and in the Pacific islands. The plant grows wild in some freshwater swamps, especially in the U.S.
- Eaten: The tubers are eaten either raw or cooked. However, it is recommended that they be cooked, as they can carry intestinal fluke.
Interesting facts about Water Chestnuts:
They are non-native to the United States and extremely invasive.
10. Water Lilies (Lotus)
- Found: These aquatic plants are found worldwide and year-round wherever they grow.
- Eaten: the fleshy rootstock, tubers, and seeds are both eaten raw or cooked. However, remember that the rootstock can be bitter in some varieties, which then makes it necessary to cook them for long periods of time.
Interesting facts about Water Lilies (or Lotus):
- In folk remedies, water lilies are boiled into a tea or broth (the root) and given to patients with diarrhea or those ill with severe sore throats.
- As with all wild plants, it's important to know your water lilies, as some are poisonous in certain parts of the world.