8 surprising wild plants you can eat

Cattails grow in marshy areas, so be sure to clean off all the mud before you eat them.
© Brice Lan / Shutterstock

Whether lost in the wilderness or just foraging in the woods for delicacies, all of these plants can be safely consumed.

When you're in the woods, think of the greenery around you like a salad waiting to be made. You just have to choose your ingredients very carefully, because the wrong ones could make you sick.

These plants, which are pretty recognizable in the wild, are generally safe to consume:

1. Cattails

The brown tops of these plants (pictured above), which grow in swamps and marshy areas, resemble a cigar or vegan hot dog. The entire plant is edible, but make sure you wash off all the mud first. Also, the fibrous stem, leaves, and roots are more palatable when cooked.

2. Clovers

Purple clover © Mad World / Shutterstock
The pretty red and purple clover you may find in fields or grassy meadows is considered edible. You can eat both the flowers and leaves raw; some people find the flowers especially tasty.

3. Dandelions

Yellow dandelions in a field© Ann Kupchik / Shutterstock

The common yellow dandelions (Taraxacum) that dot our lawns and plant beds each summer are entirely edible. You can safely chomp down on the flowers, leaves, stems, and roots if you like.

4. Redwood sorrel

Redwood sorrel© Peter Turner Photography / Shutterstock

Part of the wood sorrel family, the leaves of Redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) are edible. However, the clover-like leaves should be eaten in small amounts only, as they contain a mild toxin called oxalic acid. Often used as ground cover, this plant is found in grasslands along the Pacific coast and may have pink or white flowers.

5. Prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactus© schreiber_studios / Shutterstock

If you're ever in a desert in the Americas, you may find a prickly pear cactus. They grow as shrubs or trees and produce pear-shaped fruit in shades of red, orange, or purple. It's all edible, just be sure to carefully remove any spines before eating.

6. Pickerelweed

Pickerelweed© Karyn Honor / Shutterstock

This plant is found in wetlands, ponds, lakes, and streams from North America to South America. It has glossy green leaves, which you can eat raw if they're young. If the leaves are older or thick, boil them first if possible. The seeds are edible, too — you can shake them into your hand and eat them raw, or you can roast them (which makes them taste a little better). In the summer, small violet flowers make this plant easy to identify.

7. Sunflowers

Sunflowers© Fburnette / Shutterstock

Sunflower seeds are the ultimate tasty snack for foragers. Their seeds can be eaten raw or roasted, though you may find wild sunflower seeds to be smaller than what you find in grocery stores. Other members of the sunflower family, such as arrowleaf balsamroot, also have edible seeds. These are smaller than sunflowers but have similarly bright yellow petals.

8. Broadleaf plantain

Broadleaf plantain© Bubushonok / Shutterstock

It's found throughout the world, but you may even have broadleaf plantain in your backyard. It's as common as dandelions and equally as nutritious and hardy. The leaves are best when they're small and young, but you can eat the tougher older leaves, too — they'll just taste more bitter. The asparagus-looking offshoots are edible if you have the patience to shake out and eat the tiny seeds they contain.

Note: These suggestions are not meant as a field guide – before you eat wild plants, make sure you have correctly identified them as edible.

8 surprising wild plants you can eat
Whether lost in the wilderness or just foraging in the woods for delicacies, all of these plants can be safely consumed.

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