Organic grocery stores may be all the rage – but we would argue that no one has a better collection of organic produce than Mother Nature herself.
In fact, the woods, fields and rivers that so graciously cover our planet are full of tasty treats there for the taking – as long as you know what you’re looking for.
Born to be Wild
Foraging plants from the wild is a wonderful way to round out your diet – and enjoy some of the best qualities we hope for in food: deliciousness and nutritious-ness.
Still, it’s important to note that, while every plant you see can, technically, be eaten, not every plant you see is edible.
Strictly speaking, you should really only eat something if you’re totally sure of what you’re about to ingest. Some plants are tricky, taking on traits that look like less harmful buds but could lead to much different outcomes. And while the best-case scenario of a bad choice is spitting out something that doesn’t taste good, the worst case could be as extreme as death.
And even if you’re sure of what you’re about to consume, it’s important to also keep in mind where you’re foraging from. Many areas may treat their trees or flowers with chemical fertilizers or other unnatural products that could be dangerous to consume.
But, as long as you make sure to play it safe, you can come away from an average hike with not only a great workout – but half your dinner ingredients!
The Best Wild Plants to Eat
Now that the safety warning is up, it’s time for the best part: Actually getting to eat!
Some of the best wild plants to add to your menu include:
One of nature’s most delicious wild plants is, thankfully, also one of its most commonly found.
Wild onions can be easily identified by their oniony smell. Above-ground, they won’t look like the onions you’re used to—their signature white bulb actually grows underground. But besides the smell, you should be able to tell by their thick, green shoots and small burst of white and purple-striped flowers.
Now, if only we had wild ketchup, we could make ourselves a sweet hotdog stand!
Garlic mustard is typically considered a weed – but don’t let the haters fool you! This entirely edible plant (that is, roots, stems and leaves) actually tastes a lot like its namesake.
In the wild, garlic mustard has large, scalloped leaves, and, if you’re unsure, you can always try crushing one. If you have the right plant, it should smell like garlic, too.
Another one of Mother Nature’s most flavorful ingredients can easily be found in the wild.
Leeks particularly love the kind of moist soil you can find in the spring, and they also like to grow under trees. Their leaves are flat and broad with a pointy tip – and also entirely edible!
Indeed, some nature enthusiasts have recommended leaving the more-famous bulbs in the ground, as wild leek populations have taken a dangerous hit over the years. But luckily, their leaves are just as delicious!
Funny how many delicious plants end up categorized as “weeds.”
Dandelions are just one more member of that club, with their delicious leaves cooking up just as well as any other type of green. Their flowers can also be fried to delicious perfection, or eaten raw in salads.
But if you choose to forage some, just be careful: Most people try to kill these lovely creations with toxic sprays and other chemicals that could cause some serious harm if ingested.
A plant as heroic as its Hunger Games counterpart, katniss is truly Mother Nature’s Swiss Army knife.
The sweet-tasting plant’s insides, roots and flowers can all be safely consumed – while katniss’ stems can also be used for weaving. It’s thick, beaver tail-looking buds can even be dipped in fat and used as candles!
Not a bad plant to come across during any tests of survival.
While we’re hanging out near the water, we might as well talk about kelp!
Also known as seaweed or sea vegetables, kelp is one of the most famous wild edible plants, thanks to its popular use in healthfood recipes and Asian cuisine.
It looks in the water pretty much how it looks on the plate: Long, brown and slimy. But be careful: Kelp that washes up on shore is often rotting – and not a very great thing to eat.
Another food you may recognize from Asian menus, bamboo makes a fine additive to soups, salads and stir-frys, or can be enjoyed just as well on its own.
You’ll have to crack open the plant’s hard shell to get to the delicious shoots inside – which should taste, for the most part, pretty sweet. (Though, some varieties are much more savory.)
Again, though, proceed with caution: More than 100 types of bamboo are edible, but some varietals can actually be pretty toxic. And no matter which type of bamboo you’re digging into, you should boil the shoots before digging in.
Not technically red – and not technically a clover – but pretty tasty nonetheless!
Red clovers look like little bursts of bright purple flowers that spring from a circle of four or five green, tapered leaves. The entire thing is edible, and carries a refreshing, grassy – and just a bit peppery – taste.
Older leaves should be cooked before they’re consumed, but otherwise, this plant is just as good raw, and a great additive to salads and other fresh-tasting dishes – or even cocktails!
You may recognize this plant as: Those ugly, scraggly weed-things popping up from every crack of disheveled asphalt.
But one taste will likely change the way you feel.
The long, scraggly looking leaves – which all sprout from a centralized point – carry a flavor almost like spinach, but a bit more on the sour side. They’re best enjoyed in similar ways as spinach, as well.
Still, just like with dandelions, it’s best to proceed with caution, as many people routinely spray these plants down with toxic chemicals to get rid of their weedy appearance.
Queen Anne’s Lace
A dainty, white flower that truly lives up to its name, these plants are equal parts tasty and beautiful.
But despite its delicate appearance, Queen Anne’s Lace actually carries quite a robust flavor, coming out something like carrot, though slightly sweeter.
Just be careful. This plant mimics the look of wildly poisonous wild hemlock – so it’s extra important to double- (and triple!) check before digging in.
But, as always, once you’re sure of what you’ve got, you should be able to enjoy Mother Nature in entirely new ways!