A Guide to Foraging for Food: 20 Tasty Wild Plants


From gardening to urban foraging, home-grown greens to composting, it’s all about getting creative (and local) with your meals. I decided to research foods I can forage in my own neck of the woods, but there are plenty of options wherever you are, too. Go forage!



Before you begin gathering wild mushrooms, identify any poisonous species that grow in your area. Although most are edible, it’s better to play it safe. Also, never eat them raw and stay away from those that have been damaged by insects.



This pungent perennial potherb typically grows near bodies of water, so make sure the water source is clean before consuming it. Since watercress can be eaten raw, all you have to do is cut the stem off and rinse it with cold water.

Common Chickweed


Widespread throughout the country, this annual plant yields a distinct star-shaped flower. Its leaves and stems are edible and can be eaten raw. Typically dismissed as a pesky weed, common chickweed is a rich source of potassium and calcium.

Wild Rice


These tall grasses flourish in large colonies in rivers and streams and can easily be foraged with the help of a canoe or small boat. Similar to reeds in appearance, wild rice is a great source of protein, and its stems, root shoots and grains are all edible.



This cosmopolitan genus is easy to find in the wilderness. Its seeds are edible, and its dried flower heads can be used to brew tea. You can eat its leaves raw, just immerse them in salt water first to help with digestion.



These biennial thistles thrive in open meadows and gardens, but they are not useless weeds. You can peel the leaf stalks and eat them raw, and their taproot is edible as well. Be careful not to mistake this plant for the belladonna (deadly nightshade), which is poisonous.



This flowering weed runs rampant throughout the country, and its seeds, crowns, roots, leaves and flower petals are all edible.



Milkweed is edible but can potentially contain cardiac glycosides, which are toxic. So, it’s critical that you prepare this wild plant with care before consuming it. Steep the whole plant in water and rub the wool off young shoots. You can then boil them. The seed pods are edible, too.


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These flowering plants grow in the wild on open fields throughout the country. Distinguished by its spiky leaves, thistles can serve as a tasty potherb. Just cut off the leaves’ sharp tips, peel the rind off the root and use salt water to boil these parts of the plant.



These tall monocots flourish in or near bodies of water. Peel away the outer layer of the shoots to reveal a white core, use clean water to rinse them off and eat these tender shoots raw or cooked. High in starch, their roots are also edible.



Yucca is most common in arid climates, and its petals can be eaten raw. The fruit found on its stalk can also be eaten raw, as long as the inside appears white.



Considered “the fruit of the gods” by the ancient Greeks, this orange fruit typically grows on trees in temperate climates. Soft when ripe, persimmons can be eaten raw, and you can also roast its seeds to make coffee.

Prickly Pear


This cactus-like plant flourishes in dry soil in southern regions of the country, and both its pad and pear are edible. To eat the pad, cut off the spines using a paring knife, roast them and peel away the outer layer. To eat the pear, just remove its spines and skin.



Bulrush typically grows in or around swamps, and its roots, stems and seeds are all edible, whether cooked or raw.

Lamb’s Quarters


Many people mistake this fast-growing annual plant for a worthless weed, but lamb’s quarters are actually edible and quite nutritious. The seeds are a healthy snack and the leaves and stems taste similar to spinach when cooked.



Resembling onions in appearance and smell, wild leeks commonly emerge during springtime deep in the forests. Both their leaves and bulbs are edible and can be eaten raw, steamed, fried or baked.

Wild Carrot


Though tougher and woodier than those you buy at the grocery store, the wild carrot grows in dry fields, and its roots are edible. Just be careful not to mistake it with similar poisonous species like water hemlocks and fool’s parsley.



Arrowheads typically grow sparsely in stagnant bodies of water. Attached to the root of this aquatic plant, the tuber resembles a potato and is best peeled and roasted.

Spring Beauty


Emerging at the start of the season, spring beauty thrives in moist woodlands. Just pull the narrow leaves that protrude from the ground to reveal its fleshly corms, peel away the outer layer, rinse off the corm, cook it or consume it raw.

Wild Onion


Found on various landscapes, such as rocky slopes, prairies and forests, the wild onion smells and tastes similar to its domestic counterpart. Just peel off the outer layers and boil the bulb in a pot of salt water.

For more information about edible plants, check out parts one and two of Common Edible Wild Plants, browse through this comprehensive list of Edible Wild Plants or search the Edible Wild Plants Index by environment, season or food type.

What wild fruits, vegetables, roots or grasses grow in your area?

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