Edible Wild Plants for Survival

The ability to find, properly identify, and know how to consume wild edible plants is one of the most valuable survival skills there is. Eating any berry, fruit, or plant of any kind without knowing exactly what it is and what it does is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. This guide is for entertainment purposes, and has been created to add to the knowledge of a thorough study of edible plants that should always be undertaken before consuming any wild plant.

Many wild and edible plants are common, easily identified, and harmless. Read through the list we have collected to see what may be growing in your area.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Many plants have natural defense mechanisms to prevent wildlife from eating them. Some of these defenses include compounds that can be harmful or even fatal to humans. Sometimes these plants have more than one method of protecting themselves, and the presence of certain characteristics can help you identify potentially poisonous or dangerous plants.

As a general rule, always avoid consuming any plant that has the following attributes:

  • Thorns, fine hairs, or spines
  • Bean-like seeds within pods
  • Brightly colored or glossy seeds or seed pods
  • Milky or sticky sap
  • Fine fern-like foliage
  • Pointed three-lobed leaves
  • Almond fragrance to wood or leaves
  • Bitter or astringent taste
  • Pink, purple, or black leaves, leaf edges, seedpods, or flowers      

Edible Plants

Amaranth (Amaranthus species)

Amaranth is a Native North American plant that grows in many other areas such as South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and parts of Europe. Amaranth can be eaten raw or boiled and all parts of the plant are edible. Boiling Amaranth removes the oxalic acid from the spiny leaves, and the water used should be discarded. While not poisonous, the acid can be irritating.

Wild Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Wild Asparagus has a very skinny stalk that is about the diameter of a drinking straw. The plant grows wild in Europe, Africa, North America, and Asia. You can eat it raw or cooked, and it is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. It tastes just like store-bought Asparagus, and the tops have green, wheat-like seed tufts.

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Burdock has large green leaves and spiny, purple flower heads that cling to clothing and can be a nuisance to cattle and horses, where the sticky seedpods cling to their fur, like the hitchhiker weed seeds you find stuck to your trousers after a summer walk. The leaves and stalks are edible, but the stalks should be peeled. Boil the leaves, stalks, and roots twice, discard the water to remove the bitter taste, and eat the cooked plant.

Cattail (Typha)

The common cattail plant, found growing on pond shores and river banks, is a traditional food source of Native Americans. The roots are edible, as are the tender, white, insides of the stalk bottoms. The roots, leaves, and white stalk bottoms can be boiled. The young brown cattail flower spikes that appear on the top of the stalks in early summer can be eaten raw. Once the brown flower spikes mature their texture becomes pithy and dry, but when young they are crunchy and have a taste similar to fresh raw corn.

Clover (Trifolium)

The ubiquitous clover plant is one of the most widely available edible wild plants. Clover grows in almost every country on the edges of open fields, in sunny forest glades, and along the grassy slopes of roadways or paths. Clover can be eaten raw or steamed.

Chicory (Cichorium intybus)

Chicory is a leggy shrub with blue or light purple flowers that grows in Australia, North America, and Europe. The flowers can be eaten raw. You can boil the roots to make a strong tea-like drink, and the boiled roots can also be eaten. All parts of the Chicory plant are edible.

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Chickweed grows wild in arctic areas and temperate zones. It has thick, dense, sturdy leaves and tiny white flowers. Chickweed is packed with vitamins and the leaves can be eaten raw or boiled. The tender green stems can also be eaten, but the older woody stems tend to have a more bitter flavor.

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus)

Curled Dock is found in the Americas, Europe, and Australia. This wild plant often grows among the taller grasses and weeds that spring up along the borders between forest edges and open fields. The red stalks can be up to three feet tall, and can be eaten raw or cooked. Peel away the first few outer layers before eating or cooking. The leaves are also edible, but boil twice and discard the water to remove their bitter taste.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is a common weed and its flowers, leaves, and roots are edible. The good thing about finding Dandelions in the wild is that these edible greens usually grow in colonies of multiple plants. Mindful foragers will identify several of the strongest, most established plants and leave those to produce more Dandelions for the future. Harvest just enough Dandelions to boil the roots and add them to a salad made with the plant’s leaves and flowers and you have a nutritious wild meal.

Field Pennycress (Thalspi vulgaris)

Field Pennycress grows wild in may countries with the exception of the most tropical climates. The plants appear from spring through late winter and the seeds and leaves can be eaten raw. Field Pennycress can also be boiled or cooked in any way. Use caution when collecting Field Pennycress, because this plant is known to accumulate and concentrate minerals. Don’t eat Pennycress if it is growing near highways, parking lots, or any soil that may be contaminated.

Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)

Fireweed has tall purple-red flower spikes with the uppermost flowers being smaller than the older flowers at the bottom of each stalk. This gives the plant the appearance of holding up bright torches and may be the source of its fiery name. The leaf veins are circular, the leaves are pointed and bright green, and the stalks and stems are yellow-green and sometimes red. The young leaves, flowers, and seeds can be eaten raw or boiled. The peppery tasting plant contains both vitamin C and vitamin A.

Green Seaweed (Ulva lactuca)

If you have ever had Seaweed Salad in a sushi restaurant, then you have probably eaten Green Seaweed. Green Seaweed grows on rocks and corals in warm tidal pools and can be collected from shore in many coastal areas without deep diving. The leaves are smooth and have a slightly rubbery texture. It can be rinsed and eaten raw.

Kelp (Alaria esculenta)

The California coast is famous for large beds of kelp that can be seen waving in the green waves. Kelp is a type of seaweed that can be eaten raw or boiled. Kelp grows from the sea floor and reaches up to the brighter, sunlit surface. The plant has a distinctive orange-tan color and is packed with vitamins and minerals.

Plantain (Plantago)

The Plantain plant grows mainly in boggy wetlands and marshes, but can also be found on higher ground. It has oval leaves and short stems and the plant grows very low to the ground. These plants have no relation to the large banana-like tropical fruit that shares the same name. Plantain leaves can be boiled or eaten raw and the young leaves have the best taste.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia)

The Prickly Pear is a cactus that grows in North American deserts, rocky dry terrain, and even southern states such as Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. The flat palm-like “leaves” of this cactus can be peeled, cut into strips, and cooked. They are said to have a taste similar to green beans. The red fruits can be eaten raw. Remove the spines from the fruit or leaves before handling and eating.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)

Purslane is sometimes sold as an ornamental succulent, and it can also grow as a wild weed. It is common in the U.S., and contains vitamins, minerals, and is a source of some water. Purslane has flat, oval leaves and its flowers can be yellow, red, orange, purple, and pink. It can be added to other greens and eaten raw, or boiled. Raw Purslane has a sour taste, and boiled Purslane is more bland.

Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)

Originating from Europe, but now growing wild in North America, Sheep Sorrel grows in grassy pastures, grasslands, sunny woodlands, and along the edges of many forests and rivers. It grows well in acidic soil, so you can often find it under pine trees. The raw leaves have a lemon taste. The plant does contain oxalates so do not eat it in large quantities.

White Mustard (Synapsis alba)

White mustard grows wild everywhere from coastal areas to inland prairies. It has bright yellow flowers that bloom between February and March. All parts of the White Mustard plant can be eaten. Mustard root paste is also a traditional remedy to prevent infection in cuts and wounds.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis)

Wood Sorrel grows in all areas of the globe and has been used for nutrition and medicinal purposes for ages. It is used for hydration, to remedy mouth sores, and is a good source of vitamin C. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the roots can be boiled and eaten. The roots are starchy and a good source of carbohydrates. ▲15