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The edible wild plants movement started in the U.S. in the 1970s when a book titled “Stalking the Wild Asparagus” was published by Euell Gibbons, who was an outdoorsman and a proponent of natural diets. His classic book about foraged fare became a bible for the off-grid community. Gibbons played a huge role in turning more people on to this natural way of eating.
Gibbons began foraging for local plants and berries to supplement the family diet during one difficult interval of homesteading. His first book was an instant success and two more followed “Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop” in 1964 and “Stalking the Healthful Herbs” in 1966. His other seminal work “Euell Gibbons Handbook of Edible Wild Plants” chronicled his interest in wild foods.
This article offers information on wild edible plants that Gibbons might have foraged, cooked, and prepared for his family. Some of these plants are often mistaken as weeds and disregarded as inedible. It turns out that they are among the tastiest and healthiest crops for survivalists, backpackers and those who are living off-grid.
Every part of this quintessential garden and lawn weed is edible and tasty when eaten raw or cooked. From the roots to the blossoms, dandelions are delicious and tastes like a slightly bitter arugula. This common weed grows through the fall and is ready for harvesting in the spring. Just a caution, never harvest dandelions from a yard where pesticides have been used or those that grow close to a road.
This weed produces more edible starch per acre than potatoes. Youll find cattails in places where there is a water source. The lower parts of leaves are perfect for salads. You can also eat the young stems, either raw or boiled. The young flowers are also edible and taste great when roasted. Its roots, which provide the nutritious and calorie-dense starch, are the best source of food.
3. Wild Asparagus
Wild asparagus grows without agricultural assistance. It is a perennial wild plant that sprouts in early spring. The spears of wild asparagus should be snapped at their natural breaking or bending point. Though best showcased raw or uncooked, wild asparagus could also be sautéed, steamed, boiled, baked, and fried.
4. Milk Thistle
The leaves and stem of this plant are also edible. You can use them in salads or eaten raw. This amazing wild plant also boasts of medicinal properties. Written records show that milk thistles were used by Romans as a liver-protecting agent. Other medicinal uses of milk thistles include treatment of lactation problems, psoriasis, and gallbladder disorders. Native to Europe, milk thistles grow in the wild in the U.S. and South America.
5. Red Clover
Used for ages as a folk remedy for cancer, red clover is another weed you will see all over the U.S. You can use the flowers as an occasional side dish by cooking them in soy sauce. They can also be sprinkled over rice. Red clovers cousin, the white clover, is also edible. However, the former is the star in herbal medicine.
6. White Clover
White clovers are also edible and delicious. You can use their leaves and flowers to add variety to meals. Raw clover leaves are chopped for salads or can be sautéed. The flowers can be dried for tea. The roots of this herbaceous plant are also edible. You can dry out the flower heads and seedpods to produce nutritious flour.
This common lawn weed should not be confused with the tropical fruit bearing a similar name. The wild plants young leaves can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or sautéed. You can make flour out of the seeds of the plantain.
Bamboo is a grass that grows in certain parts of the U.S. The plant’s young shoots are high in fiber, protein, and potassium. You cannot eat the shoots raw, so you need to boil them uncovered for least half hour to remove the bitterness.
Purslane is often found in shady areas where the wild plant lies close to the ground. This humble garden weed has more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetables. The succulent is a great addition to a salad. Its leaves are also used to thicken soup or stews.
These edible flowers are rich in vitamins A and C, magnesium, and calcium. They can be used in a variety of medicinal and culinary ways. Revelers of old used garlands of its blossoms to dispel wine fumes and prevent dizziness, though we think that a better strategy for dispelling the dizziness would have been to drink less wine. You can use the flowers in salads, for infused vinegar, and for tea-making (the leaves also can be used for tea).
Berries grow everywhere in the northern part of North America. You can find wild blueberries and blackberries in cool and high climates. Loaded with vitamin C and rich in fiber, wild berries may be of great benefit in the wilderness.
Plants To Avoid
Many toxic plants exhibit some characteristics that you need to be aware of. The general rule is “if you cannot absolutely identify it, don’t eat it” – however if you were truly stuck in the wilderness and needed to eat something, you would have to do the best you could. These characteristics should serve as basic guidelines if you are not confident about what you are dealing with in the wilderness. Caution is imperative when a plant has:
• Bitter or soapy taste
• Spines, fine hairs, or thorns
• Three-leaved growth pattern
• Milky or discolored sap
• Grain heads with pink or black spurs
Again, caution is extremely important while harvesting and eating wild plants you find along the trail or in the wild. The location of a plant is one of the factors to consider. Avoid plants that are near roadways or those that are close to farms where they could be infected with chemicals.
Before eating wild plants, rinsing in clean water is imperative. Boiling is another way to kill any possible bacteria. Plants that smell of almonds are always poisonous, as it is a sign of cyanide.
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