Native Edible Plants of Oklahoma
The first Oklahoma settlers probably learned what to eat off the land from Native Americans, who still use native plants for food and medicine today. These plants will grow in any Oklahoma garden. But, if you're tempted to forage for them in the wild, then take someone along who can recognize what's safe to eat. Relying solely on a field guide with a brief description and a small photo may put your well-being at risk.
The Jerusalem artichoke is prominent in central Oklahoma, with some presence in other parts of the state. It produces bright yellow flowers that resemble small sunflowers. You can prepare the plant's tuber the same ways you'd cook a potato.
Dandelion is a perennial weed. Its growth slows down in winter, but never stops. While the plant has the power to choke your lawn, young dandelion leaves and buds also offer you a good dose of beta carotene and vitamins A and C. Add them to salads and smoothies.
The violet belongs to the viola plant family, and it is related to pansies and Johnny jump-us. Its petals are flavorful lightly steamed like spinach, or raw. Add them to salads, ice cream, and to the icing on a cake for a beautiful edible design.
A USDA plant guide on the cattail notes that the raw shoots have the same flavor as cucumbers. You can even pickle them. However, if you steam them, then they taste like cabbage. Go down to the base of the stem and eat it boiled or roasted. Pull the part of the stem that's underground, the rhizome, out to enjoy a sweet flavor. Eat it raw, baked or broiled.
Whether it's a salad or a soup you're having, this edible weed can add some texture and flavor to it. Use only the young stems and leaves. Mature ones tend to be too tough to eat raw, and by the time you've cooked them to tenderness, they'll have lost their flavor.
The prickly pear cactus produces a yellow flower, but the part of the plant you eat is the green spiky pad. It's rich in fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamins A, B and C. It tastes particularly good in spicy hot soups.
There are three types of cress in Oklahoma: watercress, spring cress and lyre-leaved rock cress. All three varieties have high vitamin C content, but are used in different ways. The lyre-leaved rock cress is both a condiment and a green vegetable. Watercress is good in salads, and you can also use the seeds the same way you use mustard seeds. If you like horseradish, then you'll enjoy the similar flavor of the spring cress root.
- Oklahoma Wildcrafting: Oklahoma Edibles
- The National Gardening Association: Oklahoma City, OK: Dandelion
- Oklahoma State University: Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom: Oklahoma's Roots—and Leafy Greens
- What's Cooking America: Edible Flowers
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Guide: Broad-Leaved Cattail
Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.