Backyard Buffet: Wild Edibles and Where to Find Them

Most homesteaders have some form of a garden on their property. It’s basically essential, but did you know some plants grow freely in the wild that you can eat for a quick nutritional boost? Many are great in salads, on their own or even roasted. So here is a list of four wild edibles to look for the next time you take a walk in the woods. Just keep safety in mind first. Never eat a wild plant unless you are sure that it’s safe.

1. Dandelions

The humble dandelion is starting to make its way back onto restaurant menus, but it’s certainly affordable, and free, in fact to make your own dandelion salad. You can consume all parts of this so-called weed. For the best flavor, look for dandelion leaves that are young as they are less bitter. You can boil the more mature leaves to remove the bitterness. Also, the water from this process makes a nutritious tea. Although you can boil the roots, the flowers are better when you eat them raw.

2. Prickly Pear Cactus

If you live closer to a North American desert, you may be more likely to find the prickly pear than a dandelion. Full of nutrients and flavor, the cactus resembles a dangerous-looking pear. After you remove the spines on the outer skin, you can safely consume the fruit with no worries of injury. You can also eat the stems, although you should boil them first.

3. Fireweed

Growing throughout the northern hemisphere, fireweed is distinguishable by its purple flowers and circular vein pattern. For a great boost of vitamins A and C, consume the stalk and young, tender leaves. The flowers and seeds of this beautiful plant add a peppery taste to any salad, much like arugula.

4. Green Seaweed

If you live close to the ocean, you may want to try scavenging for green seaweed. Growing all over the world, you can eat this vitamin-rich plant raw or as part of a soup. It also makes a great wrap for sushi.

Wherever you’ve set up your homestead, you’re bound to find a bounty of wild plants that you can consume. Just remember, never eat a plant that you can’t identify. Use a good plant identification book and consult with a plant expert or the local extension service in your area. 

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