If you are reading this there is a good chance you already know some edible wild plants. There are a surprising number of North American plants that can be used for food. As you will quickly learn some plant are extremely dangerous and should be avoided. Other plants have many medicinal and nutritional values. The best thing you can do is to print out the quick reference guide and go see how much food you can actually find in the wild. Knowing what foods are edible and poisonous could save your life someday.

Tips

  • Don’t eat too much of a new food at one time. Give yourself some time to adjust to the new food. Boiling will prevent bloating and some other issues you may experience.
  • Many plants within the same genius can be poisonous making correct identification critical.
  • If a plant is bitter try soaking it in a mixture of water and baking soda for an hour (1 quart water to 1 tablespoon baking soda).

Red Clover
Trifolium pratense
red clover
All clovers are edible and are high in Vitamins and some parts of the plant are high in protein. The red clover is easily identified by the red purple flower and the lighter colored ‘V’ on the leaves. Every part of the clover is edible. To avoid bloating you should boil,roast, or soak clover before you eat it. Avoid any clover that has started to decay as they may be poisonous.

red clover distribution

Oak Acorns
Quercus
acorn with leaf
Acorns are rich in carbohydrates, protein, and fats but contain tannic acid which can make you sick. If eaten raw for an extended amount of time acorns can damage your heart and kidneys. Fortunately raw acorns are naturally bitter (which prevent most peope from eating them raw). The key to eating acorns is leaching out as much tannic acid as possible. Native Americans had a ways to leach the tannic acid from the acorns. One method involved leaving the acorns in a basket in a fast flowing stream for three to four days. Anther method involved burying the acorns in moist soil for three to four mouths. For faster consumption you can boil the acorns many times to remove the acid. Boil and replace the brown water until the water is clear. When the acorns are ready they wont be bitter and will be slightly brown. The will taste similar to water chestnuts. You can eat the nuts wet or slow roast them in a fire for an hour or more. It is possible to make an acorn meal (or flour) by crushing raw acorns and leaching them with standing water. Soak the acorns in water and replace the brown water until the flesh is mild without the bitter residue.

Cattail
Typha latifolia

Cattail - Typha Latifolia


This plant is easily identifiable and can be eaten year round. It is very nutritious and is packed with a lot of carbohydrates. In the spring you can eat new growth and young shoots whole. In the early summer eat the tender stems. When raw they taste like cucumber and if they are cooked they tasted like corn. You are looking for the parts of the plant that are still white (near the bottom of the stem). In mid-summer you can eat the undeveloped seed pods. While they are green you can roast them like corn. Towards the end of the summer the same seed pods will shed yellow pollen. Collect this with a bag to be used to thicken soup, teas, and many other uses. In the fall and winter the cattail moves all its engery stores to it deep horizontal roots. You will need to get in the water and feel for the horizontal roots. If you pull from the surface only the top part will come up. These roots be boiled (replace the water a couple times) or beat into a pulp for a starchy secretion at the bottom of your pot. The cattail has other uses beyond food. The fluffy head can be used as insulation to augment your current clothing or used in a mattress. It can also be used for kindling for starting a fire. It is also possible to use the fresh and old reeds to weave into mats. By far this is one of the best plants you could use in a survival setting.

Cattail distribution in America

Wild Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca Serriola L.

prickly-lettuce-lactuca-serriola

This plant is closely related to the dandelion. It is bitter, creates white sap, and has small spines when mature. Despite these things it is still edible. The leaves change depending on how much water and sunlight it receives. For best results try to pick and eat young leaves that are getting a good amount of water. Young leaves will be less bitter and not as rigid, or spiny, as the hardened adult. Can be eaten raw or cooked. Prickly lettuce is high in Vitamin A and Fiber. Small amounts of other vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Distribution
prickly-lettuce-distribution

Alpine Sweetvetch
Hedysarum alpinum L.

alpine-sweetvetch-hedysarum-alpinum-wide-view
Grizzly bears dig up the roots of the Alpine Sweetvetch and eat them in quantities. They are part of the pea family. Their root is particularly rich in protein and starch. They grow in the vicinity of meadows, streams, rivers, and lakes. The leaves and flowers provide good foraging for wildlife. Sweetvetch provides many of the same nutritional qualities as alfalfa. In addition to eating the root you can make a vitamin rich tea with the leaves and flowers. Early spring before the plant flowers is the best time to eat the root but it can be eaten at anytime. Do not confuse the purple flowers and the plant with the poisonous LocoWeed.
WARNING – Most Vetch type plants are poisonous. Be absolutely certain you’ve identified the plant correctly before you eat anything.
Flowers

Flowers


alpine-sweetvetch-hedysarum-alpinum-l

Distribution of Alpine Sweetvetch

Distribution of Alpine Sweetvetch

Edible Nuts & Fruit

Sweet Water (European) Chestnut
Castanea sativa
sweet water chestnut castanea sativa
This specific chestnut is edible but not very common in North America. The chestnut casing has hair like spikes while the more common Horse Chestnut has a casing that looks like a medieval flail (fewer distinct spikes). Horse Chestnuts (or Buckeye Chestnuts) are poisonous.

sweet chestnut distribution

More Edible Wild Plants

Water Lilly
The root ball (or tuber) and the fruit are edible.

Burdock

Stinging Nettle

Ponderosa Pine

Eastern White Pine Logs

Dandylions

Thistle

Prickly Pear Cactus

Seagul Lilly