Edible Wild Plants | Veggiecation© a Culinary-Nutrition Education Program About Vegetables
Wednesday, 13 August 2014 17:35

Edible Wild Plants

If you haven’t been able to tell by now, we love eating plants! We love them for their health benefits, their taste, their texture, and we even love the beauty of them. The plants we work with are the common bunch – carrots, broccoli, peppers, kale, spinach, etc – because that’s what’s readily available in stores and most commonly eaten as food.


But what’s found in a supermarket is not a guide to edible plants. In fact, there are many plants that we don’t eat, but totally could! These include flowering plants, weeds, the bulbs or tubers of certain plants, cacti, and more! You may have come across some of these as the foodie movement has grown and these unique treasts become more popular. For example, ferns, such as fiddleheads, or weeds, such as dandelion leave, which can be found at many supermarkets now.  Today we’re going to go even deeper into the forest and explore the world of edible wild plants.

Here is a list of seven slightly obscure plants you can eat if you’re brave enough to try!

1. Nasturium – A common flowering plant that comes in shades of red, orange, yellow. The oval leaves offer a spicy, pungent taste and are the perfect addition to any salad!

EP 1 - Nasturtium-Tropaeolum

2. Fiddlehead Ferns – Harvested before the “frond” (a large divided leaf) completely unfurls, the fiddlehead greens are tightly coiled and perfectly crunchy. They are also high in antioxidants, fiber, and iron and are commonly featured in restaurants during their short season. They are best whole and sautéed or roasted.

EP - Fiddlehead-fern-feature

3. Dandelion – The greens of this common weed are said to be hugely beneficial for liver detoxification. Like fiddleheads, this leafy green can be found in restaurants and even supermarkets. Bitter in taste, it’s recommended that you blanch/boil the leaves. Next time you weed you garden, make sure to collect and enjoy these nutrient packed plants!

EP - dandelion

4. American Lotus – These water lodged plants can be eaten in various ways! The young leaves can be eaten like spinach; the seeds can be eaten raw if un-sprouted from their tough jacket or roasted like nuts or ground into a flower if more mature and pierced through the jacket; and lastly the tuberous part of the root can be baked like a sweet potato. This plant is certainly as diverse as it is beautiful!

EP - lotus

5. Prickly Pear – A.K.A a cactus! This is actually quite common in the southwest and in the Caribbean. First things first, you do NOT want to eat the bristles! Once removed the fleshy pulp between the skin and the seeds is great chilled, in drinks, or candy. The fruit of the plan can also be used as a soup thickener or cooked veggie! Handle with care, folks! 

EP - Prickly Pear

6. Day Lilies – These common flowers grow everywhere and often in abundance. You can eat various parts of the plant at different points of year/season. Early shoots can be cooked like asparagus and eaten in salads while the young flower buds can be made into crispy fritters. Both the young and old tubers can be prepared like corn; however, it’s recommended to eat only the young, snow-white tubers in their raw form as they are crisp and crunchy. These lovely lilies are great detoxifiers and are high in protein!

EP - Day Lily

7. Purslane – Another dreaded weed, purslane’s succulent leaves and stem are packed with more omega-3 fatty acids than some fish oils! Originally from India, it is a staple in Asia and Europe. The slightly sour and salty flavor profile make it a perfect addition to salads and can be found on many menus across the country!

EP - Purslane

These are just a few of the plants that we can eat but don’t. There are SO many more out there. Explore, create, and share with us some of the ways in which you’ve eaten these or any other strange plants. We love hearing your food stories!

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