The 15 Best Wild Edible Plants

Knowing what wild plants you can eat or use in other ways is a survivalist must. Finding edible plants can be a life-saving skill. However, one mistake when eating a wild plant can have severe, even deadly consequences. Eating wild plants is never an undertaking for a beginner. Always consult with a local expert and extensively and positively identify any wild plant before eating or using it in any way. This guide is a list of known wild edible plants, and is written to help add to an exhaustive research program that you should always employ before sampling any wild growing thing in any way.

1. Alliums

Onions are a variety of Allium, and many kinds of Alliums grow wild and are indeed edible. One of the best ways to identify wild Alliums is by smell. Wild Alliums smell like onions or garlic, and other plants that look the same do not have that same smell.

2. Asparagus

Asparagus that grows wild can be found in damp but not soggy ground in woodlands and along field edges. Wild Asparagus stems are far narrower than the ones you buy in the store. They have wispy tops that resemble wheat seeds and often grow in dense clusters.   

3. Bamboo

Young Bamboo shoots are tender and edible if you can find and identify an edible variety. Edible Bamboo tends to spread and run in leaps, as opposed to clumping in tight fountain-like tufts. Consult with an experienced local edible plant guide and only try shoots from Bamboo you know to be edible.

4. Berries

Many wild Berries are edible and delicious. Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, and Strawberries all grow wild in many parts of the country. Mulberry trees are easily identified and tend to grow enormous trees in the wild. If you find one, you may have to climb, but the reward will be worth it.

5. Cattails

Those brown, sausage-shaped seed pods that grow atop bright green wide-bladed grass along lake shores, ditch banks, and in wetlands are indeed edible. The younger seed pods are best. Older dried pods can be used as kindling to start fires, and the roots are also edible. Be sure the water you are harvesting Cattails from is not polluted, as the plants readily absorb local toxins.

6. Chicory
All parts of the Chicory plant can be eaten. Flowers, leaves, stems, and roots can be boiled and eaten. The flowers and youngest leaves can be eaten raw. Also the roots can be dried and steeped in water to make a flavorful tea.

7. Clover
The bright green ground cover, Clover, can be eaten raw or boiled. Fresh raw Clover tends to have a bitter taste, but cooking it or boiling the leaves removes much of this bitter flavor.

8. Dandelions
Dandelions have bright yellow flowers and wide leaves. They grow in groups and you can eat the leaves, blooms, and roots. Boil the roots and add them to a salad of the fresh leaves and flowers for a wild treat.

9. Fireweed

Fireweed has bright lilac or purple blooms that grow in arrow-shaped clusters. The colorful flowers and the red stalks that hold them up are edible raw or when cooked. Younger, smaller plants tend to be less bitter, and Fireweed often grows in areas that have been burned by wild fires. This makes it valuable since other edible plants in a burned area may be far slower to rebound.

10. Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle has oval flower pods and purple blooms. The entire plant, from roots, to leaves, to flowers, is edible. The stems should be boiled or cooked thoroughly, and all spines should be removed before eating.

11. Mustard

The fern-like foliage and bright yellow flowers distinguish the Mustard Plant from other weeds that tend to grow among it. The entire plant can be eaten raw or cooked. Add the young stalks to other dishes for a classic dill flavor.

12. Pine Nuts

Pine Nuts come from pine cones and they can be eaten raw or roasted. Pine nuts are best when harvested from green or fading green cones, because once the cone is fully brown, the nuts inside are often rotted. Be mindful of persistent sap when prying open cones, and use a cloth or gloves to avoid having the sticky residue on your hands for days, especially if you are in the wild with no way to clean it away.

13. Prickly Pear Cactus

The Prickly Pear Cactus grows in many areas around the world and the red fruits and flat hands of the cactus are edible. Be sure to remove all spines and peel the flat pads before eating. The red fruits can be eaten raw, and the flat pads can be boiled or cooked over an open fire.

14. Purslane

Purslane is a succulent, rambling little creeper that can be eaten raw and has a lemony, but bitter taste. You can eat the flowers, the oval shaped leaves, and the tender stems. Purslane also grows easily from cuttings, so if you find it growing and you are in a true survivalist situation, you can actually plant your own crop and have it in abundance.

15. Kelp

Kelp grows on the sea floor and reaches up to the surface along many coastlines around the world. California has extensive Kelp beds. Don’t eat Kelp that has washed ashore and turned dark brown because it rots quickly. Harvest fresh at low tide or pick it up immediately after a storm washes fresh bunches up on the beach.