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10 Edible Wild Plants You May Not Know You Could Eat

Wikimedia Commons/Mark Byzewski

Survival may come down to identifying edible wild plants, where to find them, and how to prepare them.

Identifying edible wild plants around you can mean the difference between life or death. Even if you easily survived the scare that put you in a survival situation to begin with, eating the wrong plant can kill you.

If you are in a part of the country you're not familiar with and do not know what plants in this area are edible, here are a few suggestions to keep you out of trouble:

  1. Avoid milky or discolored sap
  2. Avoid spines, fine hairs, or thorns
  3. Avoid plants with beans, seeds in pods, or beans
  4. Plants with three-leaved growth

Before you can identify edible wild plants, you must know where they grow.
Some plants prefer moist, shady areas and others want full sunlight. Here in Texas, we have the forest area of northeast Texas, the swamps of southeast Texas, the dry arid areas of west Texas, and each has its own edible wild plants. Outdoorsmen in states like Texas should be aware of the plants that may help them survive and the plants that can kill them, regardless of the area of state you find yourself in.

If you hunt with a dog, you should also know what plants are harmful or helpful to them. It also helps to know when plants grow, looking for a specific plant during the wrong time of year can waste valuable time and energy.

The following are but a few edible wild plants and the habitat they thrive in.

1. Dandelion

These plants are a nuisance at home, but in the wild, this plant can save you. The whole plant is edible, but like many plants, the young leaves are more tender and taste better than mature leaves. You can boil mature leaves and roots to make them more tender and remove the bitter taste.

In the case of the Dandelion, you can drink the water after you remove the leaves and roots.

2. Prickly Pear Cactus

They thrive in the deserts of North America, but can be found all through the south. It is delicious, and you can find them in grocery stores in Texas, New Mexica, and Arizona. The red or purple fruit of the prickly pear helps identify it. Be sure and remove the spines of the cactus before eating.

The stem can be eaten as well, but is better if boiled. Keep in mind the stem and even the roots have spines.

3. Purslane

While it's considered a weed in the United States, but can provide essential vitamins and nutrients in a survival situation. They are much like Sour Patch Kids if you are into sour, but you can remove the bitterness by boiling the leaves.

4. Kelp

Considered a type of seaweed and found around beaches all over the world, you can eat it raw or in soup. It is a great source of Lignans, Folate, and Vitamin K.

5. Chickweed

You can find this herb in milder to cold climates. It is a sturdy plant that may have white flowers on it. It can be eaten raw or boiled and found from May to June. They are high in minerals and vitamins.

6. Clover

This is one of the few leaves-of-three plants you can eat. Most everyone can identify them, and they grow across the United States. They prefer grassy areas and sunny areas just outside tree lines. They are better boiled, but you can eat them raw.

7. Cattail

Also known as punks in North America, they were a part of the diet of many North American tribes. You can find cattail near freshwater and most of the plant is edible. The best part of the plant is the white part of the stem near the bottom of the plant. You can either boil it or eat it raw.

You can boil the leaves, much like you would collard greens. You can eat the female flower spike that resembles a hot dog when the plant is young.

8. Sheep Showers

The proper name is wood sorrel, but growing up in Oklahoma, we loved them. We at them raw and they have a light sour taste. Of course the younger the plant, the more tender. You can find the wood sorrel all across the United States.

9. Green Seaweed

It's found in most every ocean. Pull the green seaweed from the water, rinse with fresh water, and let it dry. You can eat it raw or make soup.

10. Plantago

Don't confuse this plant with the plantain that resembles a small banana. This plant is found all over the world, from marshes to mountain areas. The short stemmed, ribbed, leaves are low to the ground. Like many plants, the leaves are less bitter the younger the plant is. This plant is rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium.

The above list is but a few of the plants you can rely on to get you through a wilderness survival situation. When survival is at stake, it is important to know how to identify harmful plants, edible plants, where they grow, and when they grow.

Like what you see here? You can read more articles by Todd Davis here. You can find out more about Todd at, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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10 Edible Wild Plants You May Not Know You Could Eat