Foraging for wild edibles

bull thistle

Bull Thistle

Wild Edibles: There is a wide variety of wild plant life that is both nutritious and delicious. However, there are also many plants that are poisons. As such, it’s of the utmost importance that you know exactly what you are collecting. It is also important that you collect them from an area that is free from any kind of contamination and to know when to forage for food. Different species are best harvested at different times of year.

Bull thistle: The root is the best part of the bull thistle. The flower, stem, and leaves of the bull thistle can be cooked and eaten. It is also important to note that one must be careful to remove all of the thorns from the leaves before eating. The leaves have a bitter taste, so boiling them twice before eating is recommended to remove the bitterness. The root of the plant can also be peeled, boiled, and eaten.

Cat tail: The lower parts of the leaves of the cat tail can be used in a salad. One may also roast the flower on top. Their pollen can be used as a thickener in soups and stews. or mix it with flour for some great tasting bread. The root is also quit nutritious.

Chamomile: The chamomile leaves and flowers are edible. They can also be dried and used to make tea.


New England Aster

Dandelion: When it comes to dandelions, you can eat everything from the leaves, roots, and flower. Dandelions may be dried and stored over the winter months. Flowers can be pressed and made into juice. When dried, one can use the leaves and roots to make tea.        The most important thing to understand about dandelions is when to harvest them. You can harvest and eat dandelions at any time. However, the leaves can often give off a strong and bitter taste. The best time to collect dandelions is when they are still just a bud. That is to say, just before they are in full bloom.

New England Aster: The root has been used for centuries in Chinese medicines. The flower and leaves are also reported to provide health benefits. Flowers can be eaten fresh and added to a salad as can the leaves. When harvesting in September or early October be sure the plant is dry (dew is gone) and cut stem about 10 cm above the ground. Hang upside down in a cool, dark location until totally dried (crumbles easily). Most of the flowers will become white and fluffy but they can still be used. Add dried plant to salads, main dishes or make a cup of tea. New England Aster thrives in open areas, wet thickets, swamps, and fields all over Ontario and most of Canada and in the U.S.

Wild Violet: The flowers and leaves are edible. And contain a relatively high concentration of vitamins.

Watercress: Typically grows on the edge of pools of water. As such, it is important to make sure that the water in which it resides is clean. It is also a good idea that one thoroughly rinse watercress before eating.



Clover: Clover is widely available and relatively easy to identify. It may be dried and used in tea. One may find it advantageous to soak the leaves in salt water in order to aid in digestion. However, it can be eaten raw.

Acorns: Acorns are quit plentiful throughout North America. Acorns must be leached several times to remove bitter tannins.

Chicory: Chicory is a bushy plant with small blue, lavender, and white flowers. You can eat the entire plant. The entire plant is bible raw, but the root in particular improves from boiling.

Purslane: Purslane is quite plentiful and can provide much needed vitamins and minerals in a survival situation. Purslane grows from the beginning of summer to the start of fall. It can have a somewhat sour taste, but this can be improved by boiling.


Miner’s Lettuce

Pine: There are many different kinds of pine. The Native Americans where known to use pine with some frequency do to that fact that it’s rich in vitamin C. As such, it can be used to ward off curvy. The pine needles are edible, and best used for making tea.

Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata): The flowers, leaves, and roots of miner’s lettuce are all edible. Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The young leaves are preferred since their taste grows bitter with age.  Both the stalks and flowers can be eaten raw.

Catnip: Catnip is a perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia but also grows throughout North America. It primarily grows in open areas with little shade. Young leaves can be eaten raw. They has a somewhat mint-like flavor,. Older leaves can be used as flavouring in cooked foods. Catnip leaves and flowers can be used fresh or dried to make a calming herbal tea. If making tea, it should be infused in a closed container in order to preserve the essential oils. Seeds and roots can also be used.


Broadleaf Plantain

Broadleaf Plantain: Every part of this plant is edible. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. They are somewhat bitter and tedious to prepare because it’s generally preferable (though not required) to remove the fibrous strands before use. Many people blanch the leaves in boiling water before using them in salads in order to make them more tender. Once blanched, plantain can be frozen then used later in a sauté, soup or stew. Seeds can be eaten raw or cooked and can be tedious to harvest. The seed can be ground into a meal and mixed with flour. Dried leaves make a healthy herbal tea.

Amaranth: Native to the Americas, but found on most continents, amaranth is an edible weed. You can eat all parts of the plant, but be on the look out for spines that appear on some of the leaves. While not poisonous, amaranth leaves do contain oxalic acid and may contain large amounts of nitrates if grown in nitrate-rich soil. It’s recommended that you boil the leaves to remove the oxalic acid and nitrates. Don’t drink the water after you boil the plant. With that said, you can eat the plant raw if worse comes to worst.

Plantain: Plantain is a common broadleaf “weed.” It has an amazing amount of nutrition. Full of calcium and vitamin A, plantains also provide vitamins C & K. The plantain also has many amazing healing properties. Heal your gut, use as a gentle expectorant for coughs, soothe an insect bite or a rash… it draws toxins from the body with its astringent nature.


Achillea millefolium

Achillea millefolium: Achillea millefolium is known as common yarrow. It is a rhizomatous, spreading, upright to mat-forming perennial that is considered by many to be an aggressive weed. Common yarrow from Europe and Asia was originally introduced to the U.S. during the colonial times, and has since naturalized throughout the U. S. and Canada. Achillea is in reference to Achilles, hero of the Trojan Wars in Greek mythology, who used the plant medicinally to stop bleeding and to heal the wounds of his soldiers.

Leaves can be consumed raw or cooked. They have a somewhat bitter flavor yet they make a great addition to mixed salads. They are best used when young. Common yarrow leaves are also used as a hop-substitute for flavouring and as a preservative for beer. Although in general yarrow is a very nutritious and beneficial plant to add to the diet, it is recommended that this not be consumes in large quantities. Tea is made from the flowers and leaves.

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