Edible Wild Plants of California

Edible Wild Plants of CaliforniaAlthough commonly associated with the ocean or the deserts, California has a plethora of lush plant life. While there are a number of deadly plants growing in this state, it also has a good many that are perfect for wilderness survival. Still other plants may be partially edible or require special treatment before enjoying them as part of a backcountry meal. Read on and learn about some edible plants, albeit with a bit of extra preparation at times, that are easily found in California. Remember to err on the side of caution when eating wild flowers and berries; it is sometimes easy to mistake toxic flora for more benign species.

Rumex Crispus, a.k.a. Curled Dock (pictured above)

Locate curled dock at the sides of roads, trails or other areas where the soil is moist. Choose only the young leaves, and do so in moderation. The young leaves are a perfect addition to to a wilderness salad. Failure to abide by the suggestion to eat curled dock in moderation, or choosing mature leaves instead of the young ones, will lead to urinary tract irritation. Since the mature leaves are quite bitter, it is hard to mistake them for younger shoots.

Chlorogalum, a.k.a. Soap Plant

You can easily find soap plants in California, where they tend to grow in moist, sheltered soil. Dig for the bulbs of the soap plant, and either boil or roast them carefully. These bulbs contain saponin, which has a soapy taste and is somewhat irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. Cooking removes this substance and renders the bulbs slightly sweet to the taste.

Umbellularia Californica, a.k.a. California Bay Laurel

Find California bay laurel in the coastal areas of the state. Use the leaves sparingly as substitutes for bay leaves, and eat the seeds after roasting them like chestnuts. You may eat the fruits raw or cooked.

Mimulus Aurantiacus a.k.a. Orange Bush Monkey Flower

Notice that the flowers are not quite as tasty as they look. The orange bush monkey flower grows on shrubs and is bright orange or golden, and it is not toxic. That said, it is not tasty either, but in a pinch it can provide extra calories.

Corylus Cornuta, a.k.a. Beaked Hazel

Recognize the hazelnuts that this shrub carries in early fall. Crack open the nuts and enjoy this nutritious snack.

Article Written By Sylvia Cochran

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.

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