Edible Wild Plants & Poisonous Plants Alaska

Edible Wild & Poisonous Plants AlaskaAlaska is home to a wide variety of edible wild plants, but as in any other wild location, one shouldn't gather and eat indiscriminately. Some of the plants you'll encounter may be poisonous or simply unpalatable and difficult to digest. Using a well-illustrated guidebook to confidently identify the plants you're about to harvest is highly recommended.

Trees

The inner bark of both cottonwood (also known as balsam poplar) trees and spruce trees can be dried, then ground up and eaten as a survival food or used to extend flour. Spruce inner bark can also be eaten raw or boiled. It's best to collect bark during early spring when sap is flowing. You can also gather bright green new growth from spruce branch tips and boil these spruce tips to make a beverage that's rich in vitamin C. Cottonwood catkins (pictured above) are also rich in vitamin C and can be eaten raw or added to soup or stew. Tender spring birch leaves can be added to salad.

Berries

Salmonberries

Alaska abounds with edible fruits including salmonberries (pictured above), blueberries, raspberries, crowberries, lingonberries, high- and low-bush cranberries, June berries, watermelon berries and more. Berries are typically harvested during the months of July and August, although the aptly named June berries may ripen as early as June. Wild rose hips are another common wild food. It's often said that rose hips are best harvested after the first frost, which may happen in September or October depending on elevation and location.

Greens

dandelion

Horsetail can be used for a nutritious tea or added to soup or stew, but it should only be collected when it's so young that its stalks still point straight up. Dandelion greens (pictured above) are at their best when tender and young during early spring, but can be tolerated during summer too, especially if marinated. You can also eat dandelion roots and flowers--just make sure to scrub the roots well. Lamb's quarter, plantain, chickweed and clover leaves can all be eaten as well, or even blended into a green drink. Clover roots make good eating as well.

Poisonous Plants

Poisonous plants to watch out for in Alaska include false hellebore, water hemlock, death camas, which looks a bit like the edible wild onion plant, as well as arrowgrass, which may be mistaken for the edible plant goosetongue. Monkshood, another very poisonous plant, looks a bit like the more benign wild geranium, whose flowers and leaves are edible. Finally, baneberry is the only deadly toxic berry in Alaska; berries may be red or white, with a small black dot at the end.

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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