Oregon's diverse landscape of mountains, forests and coastlines offers a rich bounty of edible wild plants. From wildflowers to berries to grasses to kelp, you can find a host of nutritious, flavorful foods growing wild in areas throughout the state. Learning to identify edible plants in your area, as well as how to prepare them, is a delicious, nutritious way to reconnect with nature. Just take care to choose only plants that you are sure are safe, as many poisonous plants can look quite similar to edible ones. For beginners, a detailed guidebook with clear photos or illustrations can be an invaluable tool.
Coltsfoot is a perennial herbaceous plant often used as a cough suppressant, though it has several dietary qualities as well. For instance, its leaves can be burned and used as a salt substitute, or they can be cooked and eaten like spinach. The young, flowering stems can be eaten as well--stir-fried, roasted or boiled. Coltsfoot varieties commonly found in Oregon include arrow-leaved coltsfoot and sweet coltsfoot found in the plains, foothills and mountainous regions of the state.
Often seen as a pesky lawn weed, dandelions are a great source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. All parts of the dandelion are edible raw, and most can also be cooked and eaten as well. Dandelion roots make a delicious coffee substitute when roasted, and the seeds can be ground and used as flour. Their uncooked leaves make a nice addition to salads.
Found along the shores of Oregon's ponds and lakes, cattails are versatile, edible plants. Their rhizome's white core can be ground and used as flour, as can their pollen. The white, fluffy rhizome core can also be boiled down into a syrup, as well as dried or baked. The roots can be boiled down to create an edible starch, and the flower spikes are edible as well.
Oregon's shoreline offers a wealth of giant and bull kelp. Both kelp varieties are edible and great sources of dietary fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, zinc, manganese and copper. Kelp can be eaten either raw or cooked, added to salads, or used to make relishes or pickles. Kelp is best harvested offshore in its rooted state but can be gathered along the shore after a storm as well.
Oregon offers a plentiful supply of wild blackberries. In fact, some varieties, such as the Himalayan blackberries, are considered invasive in many areas. Nonetheless, blackberries are flavorful and are great sources of dietary fiber, manganese and antioxidants.