Which Wild Plants Are Edible?

Long before the dawn of agriculture, people harvested wild plants for food. Today, wild crafting, or foraging for wild edibles, is a popular hobby that can add nutritious foods to the family larder for free, and better yet yields gourmet edibles not available in any grocery store. Knowing which wild plants are edible allows you to safely harvest delicious seasonal foods.


Native Americans harvested more than 250 species of wild berries, according to the Oregon State University Cooperative Extension Service. Among the edible wild berries harvested today are tiny wild forest strawberries, blackberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries and wild cherries. Although there are poisonous or unpleasant-tasting berries growing wild that should be avoided, these wild berries are similar enough in appearance to their supermarket cousins that most casual foragers should be able to safely identify them.

Spring Greens

The earliest wild spring greens bring a welcome relief from the stored root vegetables of winter. Young dandelion shoots and the tightly curled heads of emerging fiddlehead ferns are two quite popular wild spring greens. The Ohio University Department of Environmental and Plant Biology lists more than two dozen other kinds of edible shoots and greens harvested in early to mid-spring. These include pigweed, milkweed, chicory, coltsfoot and many varieties of cress. These greens are often quite bitter if eaten raw; traditionally they are blanched in boiling water and then dressed with butter or vinegar or put into soup with wild leeks and new potatoes. Many early spring shoots resemble each other and may not look like the plants' later-season growth, so be certain to accurately identify any wild greens before you eat them.


Autumn wild crafting includes gathering edible nuts for fall eating or holiday baking and gift-giving. The Brandeis University Taste of the Wild guide particularly recommends shagbark hickory nuts; these nuts are tasty and relatively easy to remove from their shells for use, and the trees are also easily identified by their peeling slabs of scratchy-looking bark. Other edible nuts include butternut and black walnut. Acorns and several other varieties of nuts are edible but exceedingly bitter and must be blanched in boiling water before they can be put to practical food use.

Keywords: edible wild plants, wild crafting, wild plant foraging

About this Author

Cindy Hill has practiced law since 1987 and maintained a career in freelance writing since 1978. Hill has won numerous fiction and poetry awards and has published widely in the field of law and politics. She is an adjunct instructor of ethics and communications.