The terrain of North Carolina ranges from forests to mountains to windswept plains. These vastly different landscapes provide the perfect growing environment for a veritable banquet of wild, edible plants including native and introduced trees, shrubs and plants. Learn which are edible, and you may find a wild feast right in your own backyard.
Trees and Shrubs
Honey locust trees, native to North Carolina, have edible sap from whence came its name. Two of some of the most common trees in the state, the black walnut and the hickory tree, produce edible nuts. The acorns of wild oaks, found in groves across the state, are also fit for consumption as are the pods from beech trees and the red fruit from mulberry trees. In the cooler regions in northern North Carolina, you may find massive stands of blackberry and blueberry shrubs as well as elderberry shrubs.
Perennials and Annuals
Stands of chicory grow wild in many open fields, and both the leaves and roots can be consumed. The leaves of fiddlehead ferns are edible as are wild mint, the shoots of cattails, and dandelions. Wild strawberries and rasberries grow in North Carolina's foothills. Nettles, common in the undergrowth of many forests, can be boiled and eaten. Finally, watercress can be found clogging many of the state's estuaries.
North Carolina's damp forests hold many wild mushroom species. Use caution when harvesting mushrooms as some species are poisonous. However, the common blewit mushroom is edible as are oyster mushrooms and maritake. The latter typically grow on the base of the state's numerous oak trees.
Caution and Warning
Many of North Carolina's wild edible plants are viewed as weeds. Exercise caution, especially in public spaces such as municipal parks, before harvesting or consuming as many plants are sprayed with an herbicide.
Article Written By Josh Duvauchelle
Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.