When you look at many wild edible plant lists you may run across plants you’ve never heard of or seen (like fireweed and monkey flower for instance). Or worse, they list things that most of us are unlikely to want to eat and savor. If you know where to look, this middle-of-the-road swath of green contains a minimum of five edible plants. If you look closely (enlarged photo here) you can see Burdock, Dandelion, Red Clover, Plantain, and Chickory. All edible.
1. Burdock. Prized by the Japanese (although a different variety than the wild version), the roots can be cut up and used in soups to give a very nutritious and gently medicinal element to your hearty meal. Grows everywhere in our region.
2. Red Clover. The small pinkish clover heads can be added to salads, made into an infusion (tea), or just eaten raw. They are delightfully flavored, beautiful, and nutritious.
3. Dandelion. Good for the liver, these bitter leaves are better before the bloom and used as a stir-fry or addition to salads. Roots are edible as well and can be chewed on or made into a strong drink.
4. Chickory. Often used as a coffee substitute, the roots of this gorgeous plant can be harvested, dried, and saved or used fresh for a deep, rich, and delicious drink.
5. Plantain. Can be used much like collards and kale are used. Steams or stir-fried with garlic. Be sure to take the stringy parts out first.
6. Elder. The myriad uses of elder. Flowers, leaves, and berries are used for cordials, medicine, syrups, and food of all kinds. Do some research and get creative.
7. Daylillies. Some folks like to eat the sprouts, tubers, flower buds and flowers. Great article here.
8. Wineberries. A delicious edible raspberry-like berry. They grow like crazy on road edges, tickets, and in other places. Find your best spots and pick in June & July.
9. Chickweed. Probably the tenderest and tastiest of the edible wild greens, this plant loves cool weather to keep it succulent. So look for it in spring and fall.
10. Serviceberries or Juneberries. Most of the trees or shrubs that local folks harvest berries from are probably cultivated. So this is somewhat cheating. But they are native and they do grow wild, as do blueberries, in our region. The cultivated varieties are often producing more reliably and larger fruit. Find your trees and keep them secret. There are plenty of wild food foragers in the region who take advantage of these remarkably sweet berries.
Author: Lee Warren
Lee Warren has been homesteading and farming for more than 25 years. She is the former Executive Director of Organic Growers School and the manager of Imani Farm, a pasture-based cooperative farm in Rutherford County, NC. Lee is also an herbalist, writer, teacher, and food activist, with an avid interest in rural wisdom, sustainable economics, and social justice issues.