Do you know how to collect resources in the wild? You might already be familiar with, or even a skilled professional hunter of animals—but can you identify the safe wild plants to eat like berries, nuts, herbs, or mushrooms? Foraging is something many life forms have adapted to in the wild. Everything from black bears to bumblebees has a unique foraging system that allows them to find the food they need to survive.
Learning to forage safe wild plants to eat is an instrumental skill to have, and not just for survival purposes, but we can't deny how useful it can be during the most extreme worst-case scenarios. While foraging for safe wild plants that are edible looks different all over the world—for instance, learning what to forage in Alaska compared to what to forage here in America is not the same—knowing about safe plants and edible resources is also essential for future sustainability.
So how do you know which plants are safe to eat? While we can't possibly list every single one, we can certainly cover the easiest and most plentiful found here in North America.Before You Begin
Before you start experimenting with finding and trying wild plants, its important to remember how to protect yourself before hand.
- Do research. Bring a map or GPS if needed to avoid getting lost, and, to aid you in identifying the right plants, read on how to identify berries and plants you might be looking for. Additionally, if possible, bring a book with clear images so that you can double-check and compare.
- Be aware of your surroundings! Bears and other animals love eating plants and berries as much as we do. You might encounter some wildlife while you forage.
- Take what you need and leave no trace. To help preserve the beauty and plant community, pick only what you or your family needs to eat to sustain the berry and her population, so humans and the wildlife can enjoy the bounty.
The very same nutrients that the squirrels can be seen rushing around in the fall together are as beneficial to us as humans. In fact, as humans, we have been foraging and cooking with acorns for thousands of years. The fruit of an acorn is a complete protein that also contains starches and fats.BlackBerries
Look for blackberry bushes in unkept areas along the edge of wooded areas or even along fence rows. Blackberry bushes prefer full sun but can thrive in partial shade as well. Even better, blackberries have no poisonous look-alikes, so if you find them, you can pick and consume them without fear.Wild Blueberries
Wild blueberries can be found in abandoned fields alongside the road, forests, and mountains. All wild blueberries will produce blue-black, round fruits. To ensure that they are, in fact, blueberries, you'll find a five-pointed crown on the underside of the blueberry, and the plant itself will have thin branches with green, broad leaves with a defined point that will turn bright red in the fall.Burdock Root
Burdock plants tend to be found along the edge of walking paths where both humans and animals can help pick up and deposit their seeds. The prickly heads of these plants turn into burrs which easily catch on fur or clothing. They generally have large, coarse, and ovate-shaped leaves, with the lowest leaves being heart-shaped and wooly underneath. It is the roots of young burdock plants that can be harvested and eaten as a root vegetable. Burdock root has been described as tasting either mild and sweet or pungent with a bit of muddy harshness that can be reduced by soaking the shredded or cut root in water for five to ten minutes, and the roots have been used as a potato substitute in Russia.Dandelion
Yes, that pervasive weed that many homeowners have battled to rid their front yards for years is also a safe, wild plant to eat. You can harvest the tops of dandelions with a knife to slice the plant a few inches below the top of the root, keeping the leaves together. Cut the flower above the green base as the flower is sweet, but its green base is usually bitter. To harvest the root, using a small shovel is the easiest. The youngest leaves closest to the center tend to be sweet, and the older outer leaves can be the most bitter. Of course, we don't necessarily recommend foraging and eating dandelions from your front yard—especially if you tend to treat your yard yearly with pesticides as dandelions can collect toxins.Red Clover
Often dismissed as another weed, this small plant has been used for years for its edible and medicinal properties. A red clover plant has compound leaves with three oval leaflets, and if you look close enough, you'll see the leaves have a light v-mark pattern. When red clover blooms, its flowers are light to dark pink and have round heads. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible, but the flowers are more commonly consumed. It's recommended to avoid eating stems or the red clover if it is discolored or unhealthy lookingWhat Are Some Other Safe Wild Plants to Eat?
- American Elderberry
- Bull Thistle
- Cow Parsnip
- Garlic Mustard
- Miner's Lettuce
- Prickly Pear
- Sheep Sorrel
- Stinging Nettle
- Wild Garlic
- Wild Ginger
- Wild Mint
- Wild Onion
- Wild Rose
- Wild Sarsaparilla
- Wood Sorrel
- Wild Strawberry
There are of course, thousands of different plants and berries that crop up depending on the season and where you live in the world. For more in-depth study and to learn more about foraging for personal and survival use, lucky for all of us, countless fantastic sources can go more in-depth are widely accessible.
There are so many great reasons why learning to identify and forage for safe to eat wild plants is an important skill. Shortages in the safe food supply are a genuine worry for some people. Man-made disasters or natural disasters could shut down the supply chain at any moment. If you should suddenly struggle to pay bills and need food, or if you become lost in the wild, knowing which plants are edible and which are not could mean the difference between life or death.