He said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you."(Gen. 1:29)
Ever since the beginning of mankind, plants have been harvested for food. Yet, each year, emergency rooms across America treat countless numbers of people for poisoning due to consumption of wild plants. As a matter of fact, more than a hundred Americans die every year from mushroom poisoning alone.
Even though there are thousands of different wild plants known to be safe for foods and beverages, the intent of this article is to introduce you to just a few of the easily recognized and good edible wild plants to be found in yards, fields, and forests.
So, unless you are a plant expert--leave wild mushrooms where you find them, in the ground. Avoid them. Shun them. Now take a look at some of the edible wild plants you can forage for without running the risk of being poisoned. These plants are familiar to many of us, either because many of them grow in our own yards or because we buy their similar-appearing domestic counterparts and sometimes even the wild plants themselves in our stores every day.
Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries: There are a different number of species of these berries growing wild. They resemble the domestic varieties you have been buying so closely that you will recognize them at once. Enjoy them just as you would the ones you buy, and be prepared for a taste bud treat.
Cattails: Cattails are usually found standing tall almost anywhere there is a natural body of water. It is a wild plant but, because of it's unique and striking appearance, we are all familiar with it, although perhaps by another name: cossack asparagus, wild corn, cat-o-nine tails, rush, or bull-rush. Some of you may even know it by the name of flag. Whatever name you may know it by, it is a tasty edible wild plant. And amazingly, in every season, it is a different dish and has a different taste.
In the spring, when cattails are young, the first foot or more of the stem is good eating. Simply peel and eat it raw, or cook it the same way you'd cook asparagus. Early summer, gather the yellow-green flower spikes before they become heavy with pollen, husk them as you would corn, and cook them in the same way. Some people like to load them with butter or margarine and have a feast. In the fall and winter, dig up the roots, wash and peel, boil, and serve as a vegetable.
Dandelions: Instead of cursing and dreading the appearance of dandelions when they start poking up through the dirt in your yard in early spring, you should consider them vitamin-rich all volunteer vegetable garden that needs no work at all on your part. Just pick them and cook them the same way you would any other green leafy vegetable. To avoid the tough or bland taste, try the young dandelion leaves and unopened flowers. However, don't overcook them.
Many folks don't know this, but dandelion roots brew up an excellent cup of tea. Simply dig deep around the root to take them out of the ground; wash and chop them into tiny bits; roast in a shallow pan until dark brown; put half a teaspoon into a pot; cover with a cup of warm water and simmer until it acquires the flavor you prefer, weak or strong. Makes a very nutritious and warming tea. Some of the old-timers can tell you how to make a mean dandelion wine if that is your cup of tea.
Last, but not least, for the purpose of this article--there's Rose Berries, or Rose Hips if you prefer. The wild rose is not as beautiful as its domesticated cousin, but the thorny stem and the shape of the leaves are quite similar. The berry is the round pod that forms after the blossom die. You don't have to forage in the wild to find them because the roses in your yard, or neighbor's yard may have these pods. The little fruits are red in color when ripe. Simply break open the round pod, discard the inner seeds, and eat the outer covering. And, believe it or not, they're very high in vitamin C.
There you have it; a few easily recognized edible wild plants to enjoy.