Common Wild Edible Plants of California

Common Wild Edible Plants of CaliforniaThere are thousands of hiking trails and wilderness areas in the state of California where you can forage for wild edible plants. Though the best way to collect a diversity of wild edibles in a safe manner is to follow a regional guidebook, there are some common wild edibles of the state that can get you started on your foraging adventure.

California Bay Tree (pictured above)

Also known as the Bay Laurel, this evergreen tree is edible in many ways. The leaves can be used for flavoring and have a bit of a stronger taste than regular bay leaves. The leaves have also traditionally been used to help headaches. The seeds can be roasted or powdered and used in baking mixed with other flours. The fruit, which comes from small yellow flowers, turns purple when mature and can be eaten raw, although it is usually cooked first. The seeds are somewhat bitter but this can be lessened by briefly lighting on fire. These are common in the northern half of California.

California Huckleberry

These perennial shrubs have ovate leaves and grow small white flowers and round purple berries. The shrubs can grow to 8 feet tall over several decades. The blooms will appear in late spring and berries will be ready for picking throughout the summer. Huckleberries are great for making jam, jelly, pie, ice cream and for a great many toppings as well as raw by the handful or in cereal. Soak them in a bowl of water for over an hour before eating to rid them of any insects.

Wild Hyacinth

Beautiful, blue tube-like flowers will form in a cluster atop the mostly leafless stalk of this plant. The flowers are about 1 inch long and there may be five to 15 clustered at the top of any given plant. Dig into the ground and pull up the bulb of this plant and you will have a nutty starch-like snack. The bulbs can be eaten raw or cooked.


California is full of other plants that are edible in full or part. Madrone, service berry, wild onion, wild hazelnuts, balsam root are edible; sage, maiden hair, chicory and cliff rose can be steeped for tea. Carry a local guidebook with you when foraging and always be 100 percent sure of an identification before eating.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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