Edible Wild Plants in North Carolina
North Carolina's varied terrain and climate allows an abundance of edible wild plants to grow. Eastern North Carolina has the Atlantic Coast and coastal plains, while the Western part of North Carolina has the Appalachians and foothills. Being able to identify the edible wild plants that grow in North Carolina can be beneficial for snacking or survival in the wild.
Oak trees and pine trees are plentiful in North Carolina. Oak trees can generally be identified by the acorns that grow abundantly on its limbs. The white oak has the tastiest acorns, but all oak trees have edible acorns. The acorns from the white oak can be shelled and eaten raw. However, it is advisable to shell and then rinse acorns from other oak trees several times to rinse the tannins out of them so that they are palatable. Pine trees have several edible parts to them. The pine needles themselves can be eaten raw or boiled into a tea. The inner tree bark can also be eaten, as well as the seeds from inside the pine cones.
Wild, edible berries are plentiful all over North Carolina. Blackberries are found on bushes that are covered with thorns. The leaves on blackberry bushes are toothless and red flowers bloom immediately before the fruit appears. Mulberries, which grow on trees, not bushes, are sweeter than blackberries. The leaves are rough on the top and hairy on the bottom. The fruit of the mulberry tree starts out red and turns purple when ripe. Never pick berries from a berry bush next to a busy roadway as it could be covered in dangerous pollutants.
Dandelions are a common, edible weed that grows throughout North Carolina from March through September. Each dandelion plant has a single flower that soon turns into a downy, white, seed-ball. The leaves consist of sharp, irregular lobes and the stems contain a white, milky substance. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked but are best when picked young, before the flower appears. The flowers can be dipped and fried, or the petals can be separated and mixed into a salad to add both flavor and color. The roots can be dried, then broken into tiny pieces and boiled to be used as a coffee substitute.