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Spring Wild Edible Plants

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March 24, 2011
Spring Wild Edible Plants - 9

Our ancestors both hunted animals and gathered food in the form of wild plants. But when I ask people today what they would eat if they were stuck in the woods, they mumble something about hunting, snares, fishing, bugs and so forth. Very few people ever know what plants are available to eat or where to find them.

That’s a shame, because wild edible plants abound in the northern hemisphere—especially in the springtime. Just think of all that food that cannot run, fly or swim away.

Spring offers us a great variety of wild greens, shoots, tubers and roots.  Some of my favorites are dandelion greens and flowers; chickweed salad; spring beauty bulbs; trout lily leaves; and sassafras roots, which I use for tea and homemade root beer. These are delicious things, fresh from the wild. 

But how do you know which plants are the right ones to pick and eat?
Well, here are a few guidelines that will help you:

• Make positive identification by using a good book, like the Peterson Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants.

• Know the poisonous plants and warnings about plants in your region.

• Know how to use the plants, what parts to use and when to use them.

• Wash your weeds to avoid the pathogens in the dung of birds, insects and other animals.

• Don’t collect near roads, dumps, power lines, train tracks or other contaminated areas.

• Eat only small amounts of plants that are new to you, and only after you have positively identified them. 

• Try just one plant at a time at first, to determine any allergies you might have.

• And last but not least—if you are in doubt, DON’T eat it!

What are some of your favorite springtime wild edibles? Let us know in the comments.

Comments (9)

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from fuglybugger 10/22/2012 at 08:18pm

I used to like the term "Buckeye" till i learned from Tim that there's a nut out there that makes you sick.

I forget which nut it was... but I'm sure he's running for president...

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from dlawton18 5/19/2011 at 04:05pm

Morel Mushrooms!!! YA BUDDY!

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from 23 4/22/2011 at 02:25pm

If you want to check for allergies, crush the plant between your fingers and rub the plant on the inside of your wrist about 1 inch from your palm. Don't rub hard, if your wrist turns red with in 10 minutes you are probably allergic. If it doesn't turn red place a tiny pinch in your mouth, chew for 10 seconds and spit it out. Wait for 10 minutes to notice any swelling, tingling, itching ect. If nothing, eat a teaspoon full, chewing slowly.If no problems, enjoy....Again, never, never, never eat anything you are not SURE about.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tc505 4/7/2011 at 12:24am

you can go to your local ag extension office and see if they have books on edible plants in your area. the only way to find out if you are allergic to stuff is to try a tiny bit of it at home so that if you do have a reaction you can get to a hospital. cattail tops green and the roots can be roasted or boiled like a potato. the older roots are not good because they get stringy. the pollen on top of the green top can be used as flour or to thicken stews. the stems are used to weave with. watercress is good to eat as well. medicinal plants need to be looked at too. the weeping willow (also the water willow) green cambrian bark can be chewed for headaches and fever due to aspirin being derived from it.

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from Bugger-me 4/6/2011 at 09:16pm

I have food allergies. What can I do to make sure I'm not allergic to these wild foods BEFORE I eat them?

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from mesarich 3/31/2011 at 01:02pm

Pokesalad, lambsquarter, morels, a mushroom tha my mom called a hickory chicken that grows on dead wood, wild onions, cattails, dandelion greens, and I could go on and on. My family has always gathered wild plants to eat, and now I am passing that knowledge on to my children.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnT 3/26/2011 at 06:57pm

Sliced and fried puffball mushrooms have been a favorite in my family for generations. Just make sure they are all-white inside.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tmjmmm 3/25/2011 at 11:54am

Dandelion fritters - yummy - take some dandelion flower heads, coat them with corn muffin batter then fry.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from pineywoods 3/24/2011 at 06:46pm

Fiddlehead ferns and young clover make a fine salad. Clover is also good boiled with seasoning.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report

Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):

from tmjmmm 3/25/2011 at 11:54am

Dandelion fritters - yummy - take some dandelion flower heads, coat them with corn muffin batter then fry.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from mesarich 3/31/2011 at 01:02pm

Pokesalad, lambsquarter, morels, a mushroom tha my mom called a hickory chicken that grows on dead wood, wild onions, cattails, dandelion greens, and I could go on and on. My family has always gathered wild plants to eat, and now I am passing that knowledge on to my children.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from 23 4/22/2011 at 02:25pm

If you want to check for allergies, crush the plant between your fingers and rub the plant on the inside of your wrist about 1 inch from your palm. Don't rub hard, if your wrist turns red with in 10 minutes you are probably allergic. If it doesn't turn red place a tiny pinch in your mouth, chew for 10 seconds and spit it out. Wait for 10 minutes to notice any swelling, tingling, itching ect. If nothing, eat a teaspoon full, chewing slowly.If no problems, enjoy....Again, never, never, never eat anything you are not SURE about.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from pineywoods 3/24/2011 at 06:46pm

Fiddlehead ferns and young clover make a fine salad. Clover is also good boiled with seasoning.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnT 3/26/2011 at 06:57pm

Sliced and fried puffball mushrooms have been a favorite in my family for generations. Just make sure they are all-white inside.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bugger-me 4/6/2011 at 09:16pm

I have food allergies. What can I do to make sure I'm not allergic to these wild foods BEFORE I eat them?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tc505 4/7/2011 at 12:24am

you can go to your local ag extension office and see if they have books on edible plants in your area. the only way to find out if you are allergic to stuff is to try a tiny bit of it at home so that if you do have a reaction you can get to a hospital. cattail tops green and the roots can be roasted or boiled like a potato. the older roots are not good because they get stringy. the pollen on top of the green top can be used as flour or to thicken stews. the stems are used to weave with. watercress is good to eat as well. medicinal plants need to be looked at too. the weeping willow (also the water willow) green cambrian bark can be chewed for headaches and fever due to aspirin being derived from it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dlawton18 5/19/2011 at 04:05pm

Morel Mushrooms!!! YA BUDDY!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fuglybugger 10/22/2012 at 08:18pm

I used to like the term "Buckeye" till i learned from Tim that there's a nut out there that makes you sick.

I forget which nut it was... but I'm sure he's running for president...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):