Wild edible plants are found in all climates and terrains of the United States. Although most people don't choose to eat wild plants, there are rare occasions when the need arises. There's also a new trend known as "foraging," where people called "freegans" search for wild edible plants, not only to survive tough economical times, but also to be green and environmentally friendly. Some wild edible plants can be found even in urban neighborhoods.
Wild edible plants come in various forms, such as berries, roots, greens, flowers and nuts. Rather than guessing if a plant is edible, it's essential to know which ones are harmful or even deadly and which are suitable for eating. When exploring or hiking in the woods, carry a field guide for plant identification to ensure a plant is safe to eat.
Wild strawberries are low-growing plants with hairy leaves that grow in patterns of threes. Found mostly in eastern North America, they contain white flowers and produce red fruit that can be eaten raw, cooked or dried. Blackberries are tall and have drooping bushes with thorny limbs. Besides eating the fruit, you can use the leaves to make tea. Cranberries are found in colder regions and are edible raw, although they are tart.
Greens and Flowers
Greens such as asparagus grow in cooler areas. Steam or boil asparagus, because eating it raw may cause stomach irritation. Sassafras, found in the eastern United States, has leaves and twigs that you can eat raw or add to soups. Wild roses provide rose-hip fruit, which is eaten either raw or boiled, while the leaves are good for making tea.
Many different wild tropical plants produce edible food, such as the coconut plant. Growing in tropical coastal regions, the coconut palm produces not only coconuts as fruit, but also coconut milk. Banana plants produce bananas as fruit, and flowers that you can boiled for consumption. Other tropical plants with edible fruit include almond, mango and papaya trees.
Different cactus species provide edible food in desert regions. Other edible wild plants in deserts include acacia, agave, date palms and desert amaranth. Many desert seeds provide a rich supply of energy. For millions of years, ancient desert natives fed on these seeds. Nuts, which are seeds, can be stored for long time periods. Another common desert food is the dandelion, which makes a tasty addition to salads and is also brewed as teas.
Know exactly what a plant is before you eat it. For instance, plants with discolored or milky sap are not edible, as well as those with fine hairs, thorns or spines. Other inedible plants include those with three-leaved growth patterns, with parsley-like foliage or with seeds inside pods. Plants growing in or near water may be contaminated. Also avoid fruit that's beginning to show signs of mildew.