Edible Wild Plants in New England

Edible Wild Plants in New EnglandThe woods, ditches, fields and swamps of New England are veritable buffets for the clever collector of edible plants and mine fields of mistaken identity for the untrained eye. But even edible plants can be dangerous if they have been sprayed with insecticides, exposed to exhausts, come in contact with poisonous plants or picked out of Giardia-imbued waters. The savvy gatherer should be either very confident in his ability to avoid toxic species or have a guidebook at hand. When you are absolutely convinced that the plant is safe, study the healthiest and/or tastiest methods of preparation. Recipes abound for most wild plants.


onion grass

Many of the edibles are ready to eat when detached from the ground. Wild mustard and dandelion greens, wild garlic and onions (pictured above), wild sunflowers, chicory and periwinkle blue weed make fine spring salad greens. Purslane, which goes well in granola and can be ground into flour, and green amaranth can also be eaten raw, and many berries, like sweet red and black raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, apples, plums and European barberries are great snacks as well as additions to salads. The savory tubers, stems, buds, flowers and leaves of day lilies are all edible.



The young shoots of pokeweed, the pods of milkweeds and even Japanese knotweed, available in spring and early summer, can be steamed or sautéed. The big, sweet, crisp runners that branch out from the bases of Jerusalem artichokes (pictured at the top) in autumn or the tubers from the roots of arrowhead (duck potatoes) can be roasted or boiled, and pies can be made from strawberry knotweed. The hearts of the stalks of cattails (pictured above), if picked in spring, may be cooked like zucchini. The roots of burdock, a rhubarb look-alike, taste like artichokes. Bright orange chanterelle mushrooms make tasty pies.



Nettle (pictured above) soup, made from young shoots and leaves that are also candidates for steaming or tea-making, is a staple of wild plant gatherers, and the leaves and flowers of clover-like sorrel plant makes a lemony soup. Sassafras is also used for soups.



Nutritious, vitamin-rich teas can be prepared from rosa rugosa rose hips, coltsfoot plants or wintergreen. Periwinkle blue weed or roasted and ground chicory are caffeine-free coffee substitutes. When staghorn sumac berries (pictured above) ripen, a drink that resembles pink lemonade can be made from them.


Parts of sweetgum, wrinkled rose, white pin and shagbark hickory can be sweetened and made in to candy.

Article Written By Barry Truman

Barry Truman has published many outdoor activity articles in the past five years with International Real Travel Adventures, the Everett Herald and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspapers, Backpacking Light Magazine and Trails.com. He has a forestry degree from the University of Washington.

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