The state of North Carolina is filled with edible plants that one can either eat for enjoyment or survival purposes. The varied terrain is filled with a vast variety of nuts, berries, greens, roots and flowers growing wild. As with any situation where you will be eating a wild plant, use extreme caution. Some poisonous plants closely resemble their edible cousins. It is always best to familiarize yourself with the area's edible plant species before trekking into the wild. If you are unsure about a plant---don't eat it.
Whether it is the uplands or lowlands, North Carolina has an abundance of trees that produce either nuts or berries. The sweet fruit of the mulberry tree comes in shades of red to purple. Mulberry trees can grow to a height of 30 feet and produce fruit in the spring that can either be cooked or eaten raw. Black walnut trees can obtain a height of 90 feet and their yellow-green fruits contain a black nut that is very hard. They can be eaten raw or roasted. The pawpaw tree inhabits the rich, moist soils of the bottomlands. Their fruits are green-yellow to a brownish color and are fleshy. They can be eaten raw. Hickory trees can reach a height of 80 feet and mainly inhabit the slopes and bottomlands. Their nuts are smooth and rather small. Some varieties of hickories can be bitter. The nuts can be eaten raw.
Salads and Potherbs
There is a vast variety of plants in North Carolina that can be used either raw in a salad or cooked as a potherb. Nettles, though prickly to touch raw, when cooked will lose all of its prickliness. Their tender tops are used to cook. Wild onions can be found in dry prairie areas of the state. Their purple flowers bloom March through June and the tubers can be used like an onion and their leaves in a salad. Dandelions can be found almost everywhere throughout the state. They can obtain a height of 20 inches and their yellow flowers and tender leaves can be used raw or cooked. Chamomile can be found growing wild in fields and along the roadside. They can reach 16 inches tall with yellow flowers. The leaves can be used to make a tea.
Jerusalem artichoke is a member of the sunflower family and can be found growing in moist fields and open woodlands. The plant can reach a height of 10 feet and has yellow flowers. The tubers are called artichokes and can be boiled and eaten. Chicory is a wild edible plant that can be used to replace coffee. The bush reaches a height of 5 feet and has profuse blue flowers on it and can be found in fields. The roots are roasted and then ground, before being boiled into a drink. The young leaves can also be eaten raw. Goatsbeard grows to 3 feet tall and has yellow flowered heads blooming between May and August. The roots are boiled and are said to taste like oysters.
Elderberry can grow from 3 to 40 feet tall. They have white clusters of flowers that will turn to clusters of purple to black berries. The berries can be eaten raw or cooked, or wine can be made out of them. They grow in swamps and fields. Wild blueberries also inhabit the state. They can grow to 10 feet tall, have white or pink flowers and mainly can be found in swamps and moist woodlands. Their fruit is blue to black in color and can be eaten raw or cooked.