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Edible Wild Plants & Berries

Discussion in 'Nature' started by 2sweed, Apr 30, 2013.

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  1. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    If you were out in the woods and needed food would you be able to find edible berries or plants that would help keep you alive until you could travel home or until help arrives? Below I am going to give information on plants that can provide edible parts of the plants that are safe to eat and provide vitamins and minerals. The trick is to be able to recognize the edible ones and know when and how to pick them, and know how to prepare them safely, Some must be cooked to be eaten, for some taste delicious and are easy to digest, but others are tart, sharp, acidic or downright unpalatable.

    CATTAIL (Typh spp.)
    This wetland plant is one of the most easily recognizable, being a tall green and erect, with sword-like leaves and cylindrical brown heads consisting of tiny flowers on straight stems.
    It is found in swamps or marshes and along lake shores throughout the United States. The edible parts are the roots and the Spring, early young shoots, and the pollen filled head.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    The plant you can dig up the roots to get the small, pointed sprouts which are then peeled to a tender white core. They can be eaten raw or boiled for 15 minutes.
    During the summer new sprouts growing underwater can be picked and peeled, and eaten raw, or boiled like asparagus for 10 minutes and eaten with butter, salt and pepper.

    The flowering head is also tasty if picked before it bursts from its papery sheath; and boiled for a few minutes. Cover with butter and eat like a corn on the cob. Later in the late summer when the flowering heads are in bloom, yellow pollen can be collected by shaking the heads into a paper bag, then the pollen can be mixed with wheat flour, for it is protein-rich baking flour for bread and biscuits, and cookies.

    Video's Part 1-5 On Harvesting and Preparing Cattails

    Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
    This is a shrub that grows from 3 foot to 13 feet high with upright spreading branches and a broad wide crown. The leaves are opposite, compound and feathery, six to ten inches long, composed of five to eleven coarse-toothed leaflets. The flowers are white, showy, flat-topped clusters; and the fruits are clusters of deep purple berries.
    They are found through-out North America, in rich, damp soils along roadways and open woods, streams and fence lines.
    The flowers and fruit is edible.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    Pick the entire flowering head and dip it into batter and fry it for a tasty fritter. The flowerlets can be picked off and added to a pancake or waffle batter to add flavor. They can be used to make wine or tea. In late summer the purple berries can be made into a delicious jelly or wine, but should not be eaten raw, as they can give you the runs. The fruit can be cooked, then used as juice, or for tea, or made into a pie using a sweetener and a tapioca flour, to thicken the juice.
  2. mVd

    mVd Newbie

    Also buying books that have a lot of plants in general or in your area and studying them can be a very useful way to learn which plants to eat and which not.
  3. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens)
    This is a low-growing, creeping evergreen perennial, that brightens the open areas of woodlands with it's small oval shaped, shiny green leaves and it's bright red fruit. When crushed the leaves smell like wintergreen. The fruit developes from the small waxy egg-shaped flowers.
    It is found growing in poor soil areas in clearings from Canada southward through the great lakes region and into the mountains of Alabama and Georgia, and across the states of the mountainous west. Edible parts include the leaves and fruit.

    Harvest and preparation
    Use both the tender, younger leaves and the red berries, as a snack along the trail. The fresh leaves can be boiled to make a tasty tea, and the stewed berries would make a tasty spicy condiment that goes well with any wild game or fish.

    Wild Rose
    Somewhat like a garden rose the wild variety is a simple one to three foot high thorny shrub, that has five petaled flowers that are found in colors from light pink to deep rose. The plant produces a fruit called a rose hip. It is found through-out North America in dry and rocky soil areas along roadways and old fence rows and old pasture areas. The edible parts include the tender young shoots and hips, flowers and leaves.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    The rose hips which are high in vitamin C, and can be eaten raw. Or they can be simmered until soft, and made into a jam or condiment. Rose tea can be made by steeping the fresh petals and the leaves in hot water for 10 minutes. The petals can also be added to salads made with other wild greens.

  4. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Arrowhead (Sagittaria Spp.)
    This is a water plant named for it's erect arrow-shaped leaves. The flowers are arranged in groups of three, and have roundish petals surrounding clusters of yellow blossoms. They are found in swamps and marshes, and ponds, from coast to coast. From Canada throughout the United States and down into Mexico.

    Harvesting and Preperation
    The edible part is the potato-shaped tubers that form the ends of the long and narrow roots. You will find them underwater several feet from the plant.
    To harvest and preparation of them, gather in late summer to early spring by using a rake or a hoe, or your hands. Reaching underwater and freed from the mud and floated to the surface of the water. They have a milky juice and can be eaten raw, but like regular potatoes, are best when baked or roasted, or boiled.

    Mustard (Brassica Spp.)
    This wild plant is two to seven foot tall and grows on erect stems with alternate leaves that are hairy and lobed below and narrow and wavy and toothed above. There is usually a profusion of yellow flowers clustered in four petals that develop into slender pods containing dark peppery seeds.

    It is found in fields and pasture land, yards and wastelands from coast to coast. The edible parts include the young basal leaves and flower heads, seedpods and seeds. The entire plant is rich in Vitamins A, B1 & B2, and C.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    Gather the fresh young basal leaves in early spring and can be eaten raw in salads or boiled for 30 minutes and eaten with seasonings. Also boil clusters of unopened flower buds (not leaves or stems), for 3-5 minutes and eat like broccoli. The young seedpods can be picked while plant is still in bloom, and can be pickled or added raw to salads. The ripe, dark seeds can be finely ground into the familiar table mustard.

    As Mvd, mentioned it is a good idea to get a book that shows pictures of wild-plants and how to identify them. Some of these I am telling you all about are easier to find then others. Always be sure of what a plant is before eating it, as there are a few copy-cats or look-a-like plants that are not edible and dangerous to eat.

    Has anyone here ever eaten wild plants on a hiking or camping trip? Any experiences you might like to share? Please share here..
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2013
  5. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    May Apple (Podophyllum Peltatum)
    This plant is now growing along the roadways in forest clearings here in Pennsylvania. It rises 12 to 18 inches high and is a bare stem that is topped with large green palmated leaves. A single waxy, six to nine petal white flower with a yellow center nods at the fork of the stem. It later developes into a egg-shaped greenish, yellow fruit.
    This plant is found throughout the east, from southern Canada to Florida, and on to Texas, in low areas of moist woodlands and thickets. The edible part of this plant is the cooked, fully ripe fruit. All other parts of this plant and it's seeds are poisonous.

    Harvesting and Preparations
    The fruit is ready for picking in late summer. Though it can be eaten raw, it could cause problems for sensitive stomachs, so it is better to simmer the pulp for a half an hour and press it through a screen. The juice made from the peeled and chunked fruit makes a very good drink when sugar is added. A marmalade can also be made from the pulp, and the juice can also be added to wine or lemonade, at home or on the trail.

  6. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Burdock (Arctium lapps)
    This common wild plant is found on the edges of woodlands and in fields or pasture areas and backyards. The whole plant is a dull green and stands 3 to 4 feet high and has many branches. The lower leaves are very large and somewhat heart shaped. The underside of the base leaves are covered with a mass of fine down, giving them a whitish or gray cast. The upper leaves are smaller and more egg-shaped. In the summer the plant gets round heads of purple blossoms. It is more commonly identified in the fall when it produces light brown sticker clusters that stick to your clothing if brushed against.

    Harvesting and Preperation
    This plant has many herbal med properties, but as far as the edible part is concerned the large white root of the plant can be boiled and eaten. The root is shaped like a carrot. It tastes mildly like a potato. This wild plant is cultivated in Japan where the root is highly esteemed as a vegetable.

    Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
    This wildflower is so well known it hardly needs a description. It is a persisent weed that grows in yards and pastures, and even in woodland meadows. the plant has a basal rosette of deeply toothed leaves laying close to the ground from which arises bright yellow many petaled singular flowers on a hollow stalk. The flower is followed by a familiar globe-shaped "puff ball" which contains the seeds. The root is a slim, carrot-like tap root, 8-14 inches long that is milky white in color and bitter to the taste.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    The young leaves of the plant can be gathered and eaten fresh in salads, and older leaves are often cooked in bacon grease or can be boiled and eaten or eaten raw. The dandelion is rich in many nutrients. The blossoms can be made into dandelion wine.

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2013
  7. Jpix

    Jpix Newbie

    Thanks for this info, I find it very fascinating and I may actually go out and get a book now on edible plants, it seems like it would be a useful thing to keep in my camper box. I knew about some of these but the one that surprises me the most is Cattail, I had no clue and would have never even thought about eating one, Not I kinda want to go out and try it..
  8. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    Thanks for all the descriptions, I've made the thread sticky so people can continue to access it easily! :D
  9. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Thanks for your comments , Jpix and Erik, I am glad you are finding this information useful.

    Wild strawberries (Fragaria)
    There are around four different species of this plant from the Arctic Circle to California and Florida, and throughout the mid-western and north-eastern areas of the United States and Canada. This perennial plant is a member of the rose family. The stalks and stems of this plant are edible as well as the fruit. Fresh wild strawberries are rich in vitamin C.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    The leaves of this plant can be made into a tasty tea, by dropping a handful of the saw-toothed leaves into two cups of boiling water and allowing them to steep for five minutes.

    Blackberry and Raspberry (Rubus)
    These plants are also members of the rose family. The fruits are found in varying shades of red and yellow, and black. These berries differ in size and are generally pulp-filled ovals that are very tasty. They are high in vitamin C. The tender young, peeled shoots and twigs are also edible.

    The leaves can be made into another wonderful tea by placing a handful of fresh leaves in two cups of boiling water and allowing it to steep at least five minutes.
  10. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
    This familiar low-growing perennial legume known for it's three leaves is a member of the pea family and grows flower heads that are tiny clusters of blossoms red or white in color. It is found in meadows and pastures, lawns and gardens, fields and along roadways and streams in all parts of the United States and Canada. It found its way here from Europe. There are over 70 species of clover.

    Harvesting and Preparation
    The edible parts are the leaves and stems and the blossoms. The raw greens are more easily digestible if soaked in salt water for several hours or boiled for five to ten minutes. Tender young leaves make a good pot herb if fried with chopped onion and butter, salt and celery salt until leaves are tender. The clover flower heads can be dried for later use as a tea or ground into flour. Crush the dried heads before steeping them in a teapot. One teaspoon makes one cup of tea.

    Last edited: Oct 18, 2013
  11. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    I hope you don't mind 2sweed, I've edited your posts with some formatting to make them easier for people to read.

    I might even add some images for each plant. :D
  12. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Erik, Thanks for your wonderful editing. I was delighted and surprised. I found a link to a site that describes various wild plants, but if you want to add pictures instead I would welcome any help you which to give. Thanks again!

    SUMAC (Rhus SPP)
    This shrub or small tree has smooth stout branches and large, alternate, compound leaves with 11 to 31 leaflets. Can reach up to 23 feet high. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants and produce clusters of small, hairy, red berries at the ends of the branches. Found along roadsides and fields, thickets and prairies, and throughout the United States and in southern Canada. Edible parts are mature RED berries. (CAUTION: Avoid white berries of poison sumac and poison ivy, and poison oak.)

    Harvest and Preparation
    In late summer pick the fruit clusters as soon as a glaze-like bloom appears on the red berries. The cone of berries can be licked like a lollipop for a delicious lemony thirst quencher. Sumac lemonade or tea, can be made by dropping a generous handful of the red berries into a pan and mashing them slightly, then covering them with boiling water, letting them steep for 15 minutes or more, until the water is well-colored. Then strain through a cloth, sweeten to taste and serve hot or cold.
    A jelly can be made by steaming entire heads of sumac for 10 minutes; then pouring off the liquid and straining the mash. Use the strained liquid to make the jelly. It is quite tasty similar in flavor to apple & honey taste. Very good!

    NOTE: I decided to try the Burdock plant roots to see how tasty they were. I happened to have several plants in my backyard and dug up two of them. I washed the roots and scraped off the brown outer skin with a carrot peeler. I cut them up and put them in a saucepan, boiling with some salt in the water. Well, the smell of them cooking is wonderful, a potato smell, except for the fact they never got soft and tender. Maybe the roots I picked were to old and younger plants should be used, or I thought that maybe if they were cooked by baking them in the fire ashes, wrapped in foil like a baked potato, this would work better. There are some video's on this subject I will try and find them and add the link (video) here for better cooking instructions.

  13. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    PLANTAIN (P. lanceolata)
    Broadleaf plantain is the most comman form in the United States. The leaves are dark green long, with roundish leaves and are arranged in a rosette around a ground-hugging central crown. It can reach 12 to 16 inches high in the wild, where as in lawns or in dry stony ground it will get about 3 to 4 inches high. The leaves have pronounced longitudinal ribs that run from the tip to stem on the back side of each leaf. The flower stalks are long and wiry, grooved and angular, standing prominently above the leaves, as a tall spike of green seeds that turn brown. and the Longleaf has terminate in bullet-shaped cones that are surrounded with a halo of tiny blossoms. The leaves are sometimes slightly hairy, which gives them a silvery appearance, which is more noticeable in plants growing along the roadways.

    Harvest and Preparation:
    The edible part is the young leaves that can be eaten raw or cooked until tender. They are loaded with vitamins and would provide a meal in a emergency.

    Also this plant is used for herbal cures in dealing with bee strings and snake bites, and cuts to the skin, by providing a way to ease the pain and in some cases help heal a wound.

  14. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Yellow Pondlily (Nuphar luteum)
    What to look for is the yellow flowers which are cup shaped and held above the water. The leaves are heart-shaped and can be submerged or floating, or above the water. Found in fresh water up to 15 feet deep. They bloom from May-October, and are found through-out the United States and Canada.

    Ducks eat the seeds and moose and deer eat the greens, and muskrats and beaver eat the sweet root-stocks and often store huge caches of them for winter.

    Edible part for humans are the root stocks which can be cooked like potatoes or dried and pounded into a flour. In an emergency one could dig into a beaver mound and steal the stockpiled root-stocks, just as the Indians and frontiersmen used to do.

    Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
    This weed is a rich source of iron and Vitamin A and C. The stems are redish, creeping, and covered with fleshy, wedge-shaped leaves. The flowers are small and yellow. It is found in lawns and fields and poor soil areas.

    Edible, The tender leafy tips make a very tasty salad green and the entire plant makes a good potherb when simmered for a few minutes in salted water. The thick stems can be cut into chunks and pickled like cucumbers and the seeds can be ground into flour.

    It is found throughout the United States and down into Mexico, as well as, in parts of southern Canada.
  15. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Wild grapes are found all over the United States and Canada, and in countries throughout the world. I am listed the ones from the United States in this post.

    Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca)
    This vine can grow 40 feet high with fruits 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide. Look for stems climbing or trailing, Leaves are 3 shallow lobes, and woolly below, with tiny flowers that are greenish and clustered. The fruit is dark red to black. Found in thickets and field edges and along clearings and wooded areas. In bloom May-July. Found in eastern parts of the US.

    Muscadine (Scuppernong)
    Vines grow to 30 feet high and fruit is 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide. Look for climbing stems and broad, toothed leaves. The flowers are tiny, greenish and clustered. Fruits are blue-green (muscadine, and blue-black (scuppernong). Found along fence rows and in thickets and along sandy coastal areas. In bloom May-June. Fruit appears later in season. Found along eastern and southern parts of US.

    Knowing what they look like is important:

    Frost Grape (Vitis riparia)
    Vines grow up to 100 feet high and the fruit is 1/4 to 1/2 inches wide. Look for climbing stems and leaves that are 3-lobed and toothed on edges, with tiny flowers that are greenish and clustered. The fruits are black with a whitish sheen. Found in rich woods and riverbanks and thickets. In bloom from May-July. Found on the eastern part of US, and extending westward into the middle states, as well as, reaching northward into western Canada.

    California Grape (Vitis californica)
    Vine grows to 40 feet and fruits are 1/4 to 1/2 inches wide. Look for climbing stems and leaves that are lobed and toothed on edges, and fuzzy below. Flowers are tiny and greenish and clustered. The fruit is purple with a whitish sheen. Found in woods and stream banks, and in canyons. Blooms May-June. Found along the western US from Mexico and up through California and into western Canada.
  16. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Just a note: As mentioned above about the Yellow Pond-lily Roots, stockpiled by beavers and stored in their lodges, be very careful in the winter when or if in an emergency you decide to raid their stockpile of roots. About two-three feet out and around the mound the ice is unsafe to walk on. As the beavers come out of their lodge their backs often scrape on the ice wearing it much thinner than the regular thickness of the ice on the entire beaver pond. Many unknowing trappers have found this out, and in cold temps falling through the ice could lead to a life or death event from getting your clothing soaking wet or not being able to get out of the water. If you need to raid the beaver lodge do so from the land side.
  17. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Before I go much farther in this section I am going to try and provide video links that help you to identify the above plants and how to harvest and prepare them. This is an introduction to each edible plant, but please speak with a local expert before consuming any wild plant to be sure you know what your eating. Some of these plants are easy to ID, and others are not. Just be careful and take time to study and learn about wild edibles and should a emergency arise you will then be an expert in the art of survival with the help of wild edible plants.

    The following video's are of the yellow pond lily. Some experts say although, you can eat the root if starving, that the yellow flower and seed head is much easier to gather and tastes better than the roots. I am going to show you the root part of the plant as it is underwater, so that you can see how the plant grows and how to harvest the root.

    This video shows how to collect and what parts of the flower are most tasty and how to prepare them. This person lives in Florida.

    The other plant is purslane. My garden is full of this plant and it grows and spreads quite easily. It has a high value as it is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and grows all over the world. In many countries it is used as a food item. In the United States, it is considered a worthless weed. Now you will learn about its true value.

    Please watch these video's and then come back and share your thoughts or concerns about eating these plants. This topic is great for added discussions and I welcome any questions anyone may have.
  18. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Edible Thistles (Cirsium)
    It is said that it is illegal to allow the Canada Thistle to grow on land in 37 different states. However the law is difficult to enforce since the turfed air-born seeds are spread by birds and the wind, and have fast-growing creeping roots.
    However, if you have thistles growing on your property or know of other areas in fields or woodlands where they grow your in for a real treat.

    There are different species of thistles and the plants are found all over the United States and Canada, and in Europe.
    The parts of the plant that are edible are the stem and the roots. It is said that the leaves are edible after removing the thorns, but it is a hard job and hardly worth the effort.

    Types of Thistles include: Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) and Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Nodding Thistle Carduus nutans) and Plumeless Thistle (Carduus). Common Burdock (Arctium minus) is considered a thistle but is a different species and has already been talked about in earlier posts.

    The Bull Thisle grows from 2-6 feet tall. Look for the rose-purple flowerheads with featherly pappus hairs emerging from cuplike base of spiny green bracts. The leaves are spiny and scattered along the stout spiny stem.

    Found in fields and meadows, waste areas and edges of the forest, and along roadways. Blooms from June-Oct.

    Canada Thistle
    Grows from 1-4 feet high. Has a flowerhead that is 1/2 to 1 inch wide. Again look for pink to purple flower
    heads with slender disk flowers and feathery pappus hairs emerging from cup-like base of prickly green bracts and having spiny leaves divided into spine-topped lobes that are scattered along slender branching stems.

    Found in fields and pastures, waste places and along roadways. Blooms from June- August

    Nodding Thistle
    Grows from 2-7 feet high. The flower heads are 1 1/2- 2 1/2 inches wide. Look for rose purple flowerheads with disk flowers and soft hairs emerging from a purplish base of spiny bracts and nodding at the ends of branches. The leaves are divided into spine-tipped lobes that are scattered along a spiny branching stem.

    Found in fields and pastures, waste areas and along roadways. Bloom from June-October.

    Do to their spiny nature one needs to be careful in handling these plants. The thorns can sink in deep and fester until working their way back out, so it is a good idea to wear leather or welding gloves when working around these plants. Next you will need a long knife to clean the leaves off the stem and a shovel to dig up the roots. The stem must be scraped to remove the outer layers and the roots must be cleaned and scraped before cooking or eating raw.

    The following video's provide amble instruction on how to harvest and clean, and prepare thistles for eating.

  19. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Just thought I would mention that exploring the woods can turn up edibles you might not even know exist in your own area. Last night I was checking all the apple trees in a wooded area behind my house. I went from tree to tree, looking and tasting to see if any of the apples might be good for making applesauce. I found a few that may be worth the effort. While I was wading through the tall weeds I came across some bushes covered with berries, which were wild blueberries just waiting to be picked. So I took my apples to the house and got a container for picking the berries.

    The apple tree grove was planted over fifty years ago and have fallen into disrepair from lack of care. But with a bit of effort they can be used for applesauce and a good sour treat if your a green apple fan like me. I have to explore more and maybe I will find a pear tree or other goodies yet to be found. Happy Hunting!
    campforums likes this.
  20. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Since I started this topic it has made me more aware of the wild plants growing in my backyard, and the woods behind my house. I have made note of where they grow with plans to dig some up this fall. I even let the dandelions grow in my garden and used them in salads and stir-fries. I have plenty more plants and trees to add to this section that will give you options from springtime through winter when thinking of survival type camping issues.

    It is fun trying to identify plants and then learning how they can be used or eaten. I hope to get more of them posted soon.
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