Edible Wild Plants of New York State
Many of the plants viewed as weeds are actually some of the most nourishing and delicious foods. They are what sustained our prehistoric ancestors until they learned how to hunt. Today, a number of these edible wild plants can be found growing in every part of New York State. Be on the lookout for them during your outdoor adventures in the state.
Dandelion is one of the more well-known of the edible wild plants that grows in New York State. Dandelions are a good source of vitamin A, iron, calcium, silicon, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, D and B. Harvest the leaves before the flowers appear or in the late fall after the first frost. They won't be so bitter then. Use them in salads, sauté or steam them, or make dandelion loose leaf tea. The flowers can be eaten or used to make wine.
Amaranth, more commonly known as pigweed, grows wild in the state of New York. The leaves alternate on the stem, which can be all green or have a bit of red. The flowers are green and grow in bunches on the top of the plant. All parts of the plant are edible, but there can be sharp spines that need to be removed before cooking. Pick young plants or the new growth on old ones and don't forget the seeds. Shake the top of the plant and the seeds will fall out. The plants can be boiled or eaten raw. The seeds are dried and cooked to serve as amaranth grain. Amaranth is high in vitamin A, B-6, C, riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese.
Garlic mustard, also known as Jack-by-the-hedge, is a native of Europe but grows wild in New York State. It is considered an invasive plant, so the more of it you use, the better. You can find garlic mustard growing in open woodland areas. The leaves at the base are heart-shaped and dark green with a scalloped edge that can be as much as 5 inches wide. On the stalk, they are three-sided and smaller. The flower looks like one of its close relatives, broccoli. Garlic mustard is great raw in salads, mixed with milder greens. Garlic mustard can be eaten raw, but it can have a sharp taste. It can be steamed, simmered or sautéed, but no longer than five minutes.
Burdock matures in its second year, when it produces burrs on long and sturdy stems. The leaves are arrow-shaped with wavy leaves and the flowers, which can be pink or purple, grow in clusters. The young leaf stalks can be eaten raw or cooked like other greens and the roots can be boiled or baked. Burdock root is high in vitamins A, B complex, C, E and P as well as chromium, cobalt, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon and zinc, with lower amounts of calcium, copper, manganese and selenium.
Nettles should be harvested and eaten just after the shoots start to appear and before the flowers appear. Cook the leaves for just a minute or less to get rid of the stinging sensation. They can be cooked in water or garlic with butter or oil. Nettles are high in beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins and have more protein than any other vegetable. Tea made from nettles also has medicinal properties, as it can reduce swelling and inflammation from mosquito bites when applied topically.
More Wild Edible Plants in NY
These are just a few of the many edible wild plants that grow in New York. In addition to flowering and leafy plants, you'll also find various types of edible wild berries growing in the state. Learn more about edible weeds to get a sense of what you might find growing wild in New York that you can put to use on the dinner table. For example, when you're exploring the Adirondack region, be on the lookout for wild strawberries during the summer and beech nuts (from beech trees) in the fall. From upstate New York to hiking and walking through New York City, you never know what edible plants you may find. With more than 4,000 trails located in the state of New York, there are plenty of places for you to go foraging for edible plants!
Article Written By Regina Sass
Regina Sass has been a writer for 10 years, penning articles for publications in the real estate and retail industries. Her online experience includes writing, advertising and editing for an educational website. Sass is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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