Edible Wild Plants in Alaska

Chiming Bells FlowerWhile Alaska has a bounty of edible wild plants, especially in the lush summer, caution and common sense are always well advised. Always consume a small amount when first trying a new wild food, and use a photo guidebook or experienced companion to help you positively identify a plant before eating it. Some plants in Alaska are not just unpalatable; they are also very poisonous. Other plants have both poisonous and edible portions, so mistakes in identification can have severe consequences.

Berries

salmonberries

Blueberries, raspberries and salmonberries (pictured above) are some of the most popular wild edible berries to be found in Alaska. They typically ripen in late July or early August. Blueberries can be found in boggy areas or on open mountainsides. Crowberries, which typically grow in the same areas as blueberries, are also edible but considered to be much less palatable.

Flowers

The flowers of many fruiting plants, including raspberries, salmonberries and wild roses, are edible. Other edible flowers you may encounter in Alaska include goldenrods, wild geraniums, chiming bells (pictured at the top) and fireweed. Be careful not to confuse wild geraniums with monkshood, which is extremely poisonous.

Trees

The young leaves or tips of many trees are edible, including birch and spruce. Cottonwood catkins, harvested in spring, are also edible. Alaska has three dozen species of willow trees, and while not all are palatable they are all edible. Some enjoy eating the inner bark in addition to the young leaves. Be warned that people who are extremely sensitive to aspirin may have adverse reactions to consuming willow leaves or bark.

Early Risers

Some of Alaska's wild edible plants are best harvested when they are young sprouts. Devil's club, which is notorious for its spines on both stems and leaves, can only be harvested when the shoots are so young and fresh that their spines have not yet fully formed and hardened. Horsetail is good for teas and sometimes used in soup but should never be consumed in quantity because it will deplete your body of vitamin B1. Only harvest horsetail when it is so young that the leaves are still pointing upwards. Fiddlehead ferns make a delicious food but should only be collected when young and tightly coiled; mature ferns are toxic.

City Plants

chickweed

Edible wild plants you are likely to encounter in Alaska's cities include dandelions, fireweeds, plantains, clovers and chickweeds (pictured above).

 

Article Written By Marie Mulrooney

Marie Mulrooney has written professionally since 2001. Her diverse background includes numerous outdoor pursuits, personal training and linguistics. She studied mathematics and contributes regularly to various online publications. Mulrooney's print publication credits include national magazines, poetry awards and long-lived columns about local outdoor adventures.

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