Edible Wild Plants in Southeast Tennessee

wood sorrelThe mountains and forests of Southeast Tennessee are not only beautiful, they are a bounty of edible plants. This natural pantry can provide nutritious supplements if you know what to look for. The large variety of native and imported plants that grow naturally are literally under your feet.


Wood sorrel (pictured top), or oxalis, is one of the most common plants in Southeast Tennessee and can be eaten raw. Dandelion and plantain are usually thought of as common lawn weeds, but they make an excellent addition to a salad if picked when young. Both can be steamed as well. Violets and clovers can also be eaten and have a mild sweet taste. Ramps, a type of wild onion, are so popular, many areas have spring festivals to celebrate them, and they make a tasty contribution to scrambled eggs. Morel mushrooms are found in the early spring throughout the area, and fiddle head fern's curled new shoots can be eaten raw or combined with other native plants and steamed. The popular pawpaw bears a fruit that tastes like a creamy banana.

Nuts and Berries


Walnut and hickory nuts are some of the most well-known edible nuts in Southeast Tennessee. They can be collected and processed in the autumn after they fall from the trees. Take care when choosing berries to eat. Although one part of a plant might be safe to eat, the berries might not. Elderberries (pictured above) are commonly found as well as blackberries. These hit their peak in midsummer, as do most of the local berries.

Edible Plant Tours

Many of the edible plants of Southeast Tennessee are difficult to identify because they look like many nonedible or poisonous plants. To avoid making a serious mistake, consider an edible plant tour. Wild Mountain Herbs offer day tours for individuals and groups.

Article Written By Catherine Rayburn-Trobaug

Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh has been a writer and college writing professor since 1992. She has written for international companies, published numerous feature articles in the "Wilmington News-Journal," and won writing contests for her poetry and fiction. Rayburn-Trobaugh earned a Master of Arts in English from Wright State University.

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