Florida's year-round warm, humid temperatures make it a haven for many plant species. Whether it is winter, spring, summer or fall, there are plants in the wild landscape of the state that you'll be able to safely ingest. When dealing with any wild plant you intend on eating, it's best to familiarize yourself with the flora before attempting to ingest it, preferably by purchasing a field guide. But be warned: many edible plants have cousins that look very much like them but are deadly or can cause serious skin reactions. Florida has hundreds of trees, flowers, bushes, nuts and other plants that produce some edible quality about them, and by educating yourself to be able to identify them first, you'll never go hungry if stranded in the wilds of Florida.
As with any plant that the leaves are going to be used as a salad, it's best to pick the leaves while they are young and fresh. The older the plant becomes or once it has flowered, the leaves will more than likely take on a bitter taste. It's best to pick your wild edible salad leaves as early in the day as you can. Some of Florida's plant leaves that can be used in salads are the Amaranth, Dayflower, Dollarweed, Peppergrass, Micromeria, Meadow Beauty, Bullrush, Catbier, Chickweed, Violet and Cattail. Flowers from the Spanish Needle, Redbud, Meadow Beauty and Violet can also be used in salads. You might even be surprised by the fact that some of these plants actually taste good. You can also cook any of the above, if you desire.
Beverages & Teas
There are quite a few plants residing in Florida that can be used to make tea. In fact, you can purchase teas made out of many of these plants at your local health food store. If making tea, use approximately 1 tsp. of dried leaves for every cup of tea. Pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves and then cover and allow the tea to steep for approximately 10 minutes. Sweeten it to your own taste. Some of the plants and their parts that are found in Florida and are used for teas are Persimmon leaves, Horsemint leaves, the fruit of the Passion Flower, young needles from Pines, Wild Rose rosehips, the bark and roots from the Sassafras, Violet leaves, Blackberry leaves and the fruit from the Sumac.
Potherbs that are found in Florida are edible plants that you can cook. As when gathering wild edibles for salads, it's best to pick the youngest part of the plant if you intend on eating it. Otherwise, it can taste bitter. Some of these potherbs for cookiing are the Amaranth, Cattail, Chickweed, Curly Dock, Pickerelweed, Purslane, Dollarweed, Lambs Quarters, Spanish Needles, Pokeweed, Violet, Hawk's Beard, Spiderwort and Catbrier. Simply place the young leaves into a pot with a little water and steam until cooked to the desired tenderness.
Florida has many wild fruits and berries for making jellies or jams. Some people even make wine from some of these fruits and berries. As in any other state, it's best to familiarize yourself with the native berries before eating them. Some berries found in the state are quite toxic if eaten. Some of the native plants to Florida that are used in the jelly-making process are Beautyberry, Persimmon, Huckleberry, Blueberry, Elderberry, Mulberry, Wild Plums, Wild Cherries, Prickly Pear Cactus, Sumac and Passion Flowers. Each one the above either fruits or gives berries.