Edible Wild Plants Reference

Chanterelle

Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), or "golden chanterelles," are perhaps the most well known wild mushrooms. They are sought after by chefs and foodies due to their delicate flavor, which is sometimes described as "mildly peppery." Chanterelles are easy to spot in the summer forest, as they usually range in color from yellow to deep orange. They can be as large as 5 inches in diameter, but 2 inches is closer to average. The cap is wavy and generally funnel shaped. The false gills appear as wrinkles that are forked and wavy with blunt edges and run down the stem.

Chickweed, Stellaria Media

The term "chickweed" most notably describes Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), although there are several other chickweeds, all in the genus Stellaria

Common Chickweed is a cool weather plant native to Europe that has widely naturalized in the United States and throughout the world. It’s often found in lawns and other areas of shady, moist soil.

Depending on climate, chickweed normally appears during the cooler temperatures of fall and dies back in the late spring or early summer heat. It thrives between 53° and 68°F.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), common elderberry or American elder, is a shrub that is commonly found throughout eastern North America. Its characteristic clusters of small, cream-colored flowers are often seen on the road-side in late spring and early summer. Elderberries have opposite, elongated, toothed leaflets that are three to four inches long.

Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), or sunchoke, is a wild sunflower native to the central United States. Sunchokes grow up to 12 feet tall. Leaves may be up to three inches wide and eight inches long, while the yellow flowers, occurring in August and September, are generally between one and a half and three inches in diameter. The tubers of jerusalem artichoke have been used as food by Native Americans since before the arrival of Europeans. They have been planted throughout much of the U.S. and Europe and are generally considered invasive.

Common plantain

Plantain, (genus Plantago), is a common weed that originated in Europe but has naturalized throughout the U.S. Common plantain (Plantago major) has rounded leaves, while English plantain, or Narrowleaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata) has elongated lance-shaped leaves. Plantain has a vast history of medicinal use and has long been considered an important herb. Emerging in early spring, it may be harvested and used until freezing weather kills it.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is one of our most nutritious wild food plants.  Originally from Europe, stinging nettle has naturalized throughout most of the United States.  The stinging hairs that cover its leaves and stems impart a painful sting and rash that can last hours or days.  Stinging nettle grows 2 to 4 feet tall and has opposite, toothed leaves that can be several inches long.  There are several kinds of nettle including wood nettle (Laportea canadensis), which is native to the U.S. and has fewer stinging hairs.  All nettles are edible.

watercress

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is a water plant that can be found throughout the United States, southern Canada, Europe and Asia.

wood sorrel

Wood Sorrel (genus Oxalis), or sourgrass, is a medium sized edible plant that occurs throughout most of North America. Within the genus Oxalis, there are several species. Wood sorrel typically grows a maximum of 15 inches tall. Its small heart-shaped, "folded" leaves grow in groups of 3. Its tiny flowers are typically white or yellow though they can be pink or violet depending on species. Oxalis means literally "sour" and is named as such due to its oxalic acid content.

Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) is an evergreen shrub native to the southeastern U.S. Yaupon holly produces small white flowers in the spring followed by red berries on female plants that remain through fall. Its small dark green ovate to elliptical leaves are scalloped and occur alternately on the stem. Ilex vomitoria may reach heights of up to 25 or 30 feet. The leaves contain more caffeine by weight than both coffee beans and green tea and it has the highest caffeine content of any plant native to North America. Yaupon holly is also high in antioxidants and less bitter than green tea. It's a close cousin of the South American yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis) and its tea is similar in flavor and quality.