Hiking and camping in California can be a wonderful experience, made better by understanding the flora and fauna. If you are going out for a hike and want to try some of nature's bounty, you must know what you are seeing, touching and, of course, tasting. By knowing exactly what plants are edible, you'll be able to enjoy the natural salad bowl that is California's backcountry.
Edible Plants in Northern California
Northern California has some of the best hiking trails in the state. Many have edible plants, such as blackberries, wild ginger and fennel, growing alongside them. Blackberries (Rubus ursinus) can be found in sunny areas close to the water and are smaller than the blackberries you normally see at the fruit stand. Wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) has heart-shaped leaves and makes for a stomach-soothing tea or as a spice in many Asian dishes. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a favorite find throughout Northern California. The stalks are often eaten by deer in the area and are distinguished by having multiple pinnate leaves. When crushed, the leaves smell of licorice. Eat with caution, because it can be confused with poisonous water hemlocks.
Edible Plants in Southern California
Because of the drier and warmer climate in Southern California, you'll find different types of plants on the trails here. For instance, you can find edible flowers, chewing gum and tomatillas. Chuparosa flowers grow off of a bush and can be eaten raw or cooked. Incienso, found in the Mojave Desert, can be eaten like chewing gum and tomatillas, found througout the Southwest, are used in salsa and Mexican sauces.
In addition to the edible wild plants, California is rich with medicinal plants. One of the more common ones is California Bay tree leaves, which can help with headaches or act as a disinfectant. Another plant is wood rose. The rose hips are known to have 24 times the amount of Vitamin C as oranges do and is used to treat colds.