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A Practical Edible Wild Plant Guide

Do you enjoy walking in the woods? If so, you may have been tempted to pluck an appealing flower or plant out of the ground to taste it. Before you do, make sure it’s not going to make you sick or worse. My blog this week focuses on edible plants, non-edible plants and how you can tell the difference.

Edible Plants to Look for in the Woods

Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules to go by when deciding whether a plant is poisonous or not. Some people think that all red plants are poisonous. But, there are some red plants that are edible. I think the best thing to do before eating any wild plants is to study up on the ones that are safe to consume. Here are a few examples:

  • Cattails. If you like to walk near pond or lakes you may have seen a gathering of cattails growing around the border. You can eat every part of it including its furry brown top. Many people claim that it tastes like corn.
  • Chicory. Chicory looks like a blue dandelion. It is commonly seen in fields or growing on roadsides. Any part of this wild plant is a sweet snack eaten raw.
  • Clover. You may see this familiar plant growing in a grassy area in the woods, by a roadside or in your yard. Normally, it has three leaves or four if you’re lucky. Any part of this plant can be eaten raw, but boiling the leaves can improve its taste.
  • Dandelions. The roots, leaves and flowers on these bright yellow plants are edible. If you spot some dandelions on a walk, pick a handful of them to boil the roots and leaves at home. If you’re picking dandelions from a lawn make sure the grass hasn’t been treated with any chemicals.
  • Sheep Sorrel. This plant is usually about 18 inches tall and has small red flowers. It grows in fields, in the woods and on roadsides. Its raw leaves have a taste similar to lemons. This plant shouldn’t be consumed in large amounts.
  • Other common edible plants include: amaranth, coltsfoot, milk thistle, sassafras, white mustard and wood sorrel.

Non-Edible Plants

Unlike edible plants, there are some common characteristics found in non-edible plants. Avoid plants that have an almond scent, thorns, fine hairs, a bitter taste or milky sap. Lily of the valley, yew shrubs, foxglove, lantana and oleander are all examples of poisonous plants.

Steps to Take If You Ingest a Dangerous Plant

Severe cramps, a burning sensation, lack of responsiveness, vomiting and seizures are all signs that someone has ingested a poisonous plant. Try to clear all remaining pieces of the plant out of your mouth. The best thing to do is call 911, or if you don’t have a phone, get to the hospital right away. I would take a sample of the plant with you to show the doctor what you ate. This may allow the doctor to issue treatment even faster.

So, on your next walk this spring and summer look around for some edible plants along the way. Thanks for reading. – Alan

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