Whether you’re camping, hunting, or stranded out there, knowing the amazing array of edible plants to eat and avoid can be the difference between life and death! To help you stay prepared, we’ve compiled this edible plants urban foraging guide.
Luckily, the wild isn’t always harsh, and many edible plants in urban environments and green space and people’s yards across the United States are known for being safe and edible in a survival situation. Whether you’re camping, hunting, or stranded out there, knowing the amazing array of edible plants to eat and avoid can be the difference between life and death!
Luckily, the wild isn’t always harsh, and many edible plants in urban environments and green space and people’s yards across the United States are known for being safe and edible in a survival situation.
What is Urban Foraging?
Urban foraging is the act of collecting wild edibles and other plant life from urban areas. It has grown considerably in the past few years from what used to be only a few folks offering plant walks in parks.
Now, it is easy to find a foraging group and foraging classes that you can join. There is even an foraging career for urban outdoors people.
- 1 Finding Edible Plants | Urban Foraging
- 2 1. Edible Wild Plants – Milk Thistle
- 3 2. Dandelion Flowers
- 4 3. Cattails
- 5 4. Mustard Plant
- 6 5. Edible Plants Wild – Asparagus
- 7 6. Wild Onions
- 8 7. Garlic Mustard
- 9 8. Common Nettle
- 10 9. Wild Garlic
- 11 10. Pine Needles
- 12 11. Chickweed
- 13 12. Plantain (Plantago Major)
- 14 13. Walnuts
- 15 14. Lambs Quarters
- 16 15. Oak Trees
Harvesting Wild Edibles in the City
Did you know that there are areas in the world where people eat raw rose petals? In many urban areas, access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be limited, making wild foods a valuable source of nutrition.
In addition, foraging in an urban landscape or city parks can help to connect people with nature, even in the midst of a busy city.
By taking the time to identify and harvest wild edibles in green spaces, urban foragers can appreciate the hidden bounty of their surroundings including finding a nutritious non native plant in an urban garden.
Finding Edible Plants | Urban Foraging
Most city dwellers think of the concrete jungle when they hear the term “urban jungle,” but there are actually many pockets of green within city limits. City parks are obvious sources for edible plants, but did you know that there are also urban gardens?
These community gardens are usually found in underutilized city lots and often grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are available to the rest of the modern metropolis.
Be Careful When Foraging
If you’re interested in foraging for good looking edibles in an urban environment, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First, be careful about pollution and plant identification. Tough weeds spring up throughout your city’s greener spots, and you could end up eating a bunch of city weeds.
Second, it can be difficult to find wild edibles in an urban setting, so it’s a good idea to do some research, or you could end up eating a fancy meal of the wrong plant. The one great thing about these foraged wild treats is that it has fewer pesticides than conventionally grown greens.
Foraging Under Native American Weed
In North America, there are a variety of native weeds that can be easily found growing in disturbed soil.
Many of these weeds are edible and have been used by Native Americans for centuries. Plantain, dandelion, and lamb’s quarters are just a few of the many edible weeds enjoy disturbed soil.
Foraging for native plants is a great way to get outside and enjoy the fresh air while getting some exercise. It is also a great way to connect with nature and learn about the traditional uses of native plants.
Here are the top edible plants in a big city to help you sustain your health in the case of an emergency. Get off the manicured grass, and let’s jump right in!
1. Edible Wild Plants – Milk Thistle
- Milk Thistle seeds grow easily and produce a hardy biennial that is native to the Mediterranean area and has naturalized throughout North America.
- It is very impressive as an ornamental herb plant. It is tall and stately with large, mottled, spiny foliage that contains a milky sap-like substance and large, thistle-like heads of rose-pink...
- Milk Thistle herb plants do re-seed themselves, so it is recommended to deadhead the flowers before they set seed. Other common names for this herb plant are Mediterranean Milk Thistle, Marian...
The plant is actually a popular one in holistic and traditional medicine, having been used to treat a variety of ailments, such as stomach upsets, liver, and gallbladder problems, and even reduce cholesterol.
To eat the plant, you first need to remove the spines. Although the plant is edible, the spines are tough and can be lodged in the throat. The best way to eat the plant is by cooking the stems and leaves on an open flame.
2. Dandelion Flowers
- Quality Dandelion seeds packaged by Seed Needs. Each packet measures 3.25 inches wide by 4.50 inches tall and contains approximately 10,000 seeds.
- Dandelion is an edible herb that is ready for harvesting in roughly 95 days. The leaves are popularly used in salads.
- Dandelion herbs are perennials that will grow to a mature height of about 8 to 18 inches tall.
It’s easy to say that dandelions are one of the survivalists’ best friends! In fact, some people already add dandelion greens and young leaves to their salads and eaten raw. You can chop the young leaves and add them to a stir fry, or you can steam or boil them.
Admittedly, it becomes a bitter herb when its older. However, there are many redeeming qualities to this herb. You can make a roasted root coffee from the plant’s roots as it tends to get bitter the older the plant gets; although, you can easily reduce this bitterness by boiling the plant.
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A lot of people have considered trying cattails at some point because they look like corndogs.
The plant is quite common across wetlands, so if you’re near a body of water, there’s a decent chance that you’ll cross paths with some. Many parts of cattails are edible, but not all.
For example, you can eat the plant’s roots, subterranean stems, stalks, and the white stem on the top. However, avoid eating the fibers of the plant itself because it can give you some stomach ache.
4. Mustard Plant
- Yellow mustard is a widely cultivated annual, also found wild in many parts of the world. Grown for its seeds, mustard, as fodder crop or as a green manure. The yellow flowers of the plant...
- Mustard plants grow anywhere from 12 - 32 inches tall as an annual.
- These seeds are harvested just prior to the pods becoming ripe and bursting. These mustards seeds range in color from beige or yellow to light brown. This contrasts with black mustards which has...
As the name suggests, this one is where we get the yellow condiment for our hot dogs. The plant grows in the wild all over the world because of its hardy and drought-resistant nature.
The plant has a thin stalk along with multiple bright yellow flowers that you can eat raw if you like the taste of mustard.
5. Edible Plants Wild – Asparagus
- You will see growth within 10 days. The most importan part of planting these plants is to make sure you have at least 30% sand mixed into the soil. I also include a link for detailed instructions...
- Asparagus plants need three things: 1. Any soil but at least 30% sand needs to be added and mixed well. The sand is the most important part and without it they will die: the soil needs to be well...
- The sand is important and a minimuim of 30% for drainage and winterization of the plant and with out them they can rot and not come back the next year.
There are up to 4,900 asparagus farms in the US. However, the edible plant also grows in the wild, all thanks to its hardiness.
Asparagus usually grows in relatively dry soil, so you’ll find it near railroad tracks and ditch banks, especially during the hot dry summer.
Wild asparagus is similar to store-bought one but is fairly slimmer. Like regular asparagus, you can eat the edible plants wild ones raw, cooked, or even steamed!
6. Wild Onions
- An extremely healthy plant with many vitamins and nutrients that can be added to the dough when baking bread, pesto sauce, butter, meat, fish, and many other dishes
- Early variety of perennial wild onion with garlic aroma; It is called both an onion and garlic because while it is a wild onion it has a very strong garlic aroma; All parts are edible; leaves,...
- A cold treatment at temperatures up to 32 to 37°F is required before planting for at least 3 months; Plant in slightly acidic soil in shaded spots near small trees or shrubs
The family of alliums includes a wide range of bulbous plants. While garlic and onions are the most popular ones, there is plenty of wild onion variety in the world.
One thing you should keep in mind is that the meaty bulbs of the onions are embedded in the ground, so you’ll only see the stalks of the onion.
Another note here is that not all wild onions are safe to eat, as some of them are quite toxic, which you can identify because they lack the strong smell of onions.
To avoid them, always make sure that you only eat wild onions that look and smell like regular onions.
7. Garlic Mustard
Garlic mustard (Alliaria Petiolata) is an edible invasive species that is commonly found in North America. This plant is aggressive and can easily create thick patches in forests, meadows, and even gardens.
Garlic mustard can grow in both sun and shade alike, making it difficult to control. However, while this plant may be a nuisance, it is also edible. The flavorful greens can be used in salads, soups, and other dishes. In addition, the seeds can be ground into a powder and used as a condiment.
8. Common Nettle
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After a long winter, foraging for Common Nettle is a great way to get outside and enjoy the early spring weather. Nettles are a type of flowering plant that can be found in damp, shady areas. They are easy to identify by their heart-shaped leaves and small, white flowers.
The best time to harvest nettles is early in the morning, before the plant’s flowers have opened. Once they are harvested, nettles can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and even pesto.
9. Wild Garlic
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Foraging for wild garlic is a great way to add some flavor to your culinary repertoire. This pungent herb can be found in sunny parks and other open spaces from early spring through early summer. Look for long, slender leaves with a distinct garlic aroma.
When you find a patch of wild garlic, simply snip off the leaves you need and enjoy! Be sure to wash the leaves thoroughly before using, as they can be quite gritty. Wild garlic can be used in any recipe that calls for regular garlic, or simply added to a salad for a zesty punch.
10. Pine Needles
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If you find yourself in a forest with Pine trees, you may be able to forage for Pine needles to make tea. Needles from the Pine tree can be used to make tea and are full of Vitamin C. It is recommended that you only take a few needles from each tree so that you do not strip it naked.
You also want to make sure that the needles are from a pesticide-free tree. Once you have your needles, rinse them off and then place them in boiling water for around five minutes. Doing this will give you a tea that is high in antioxidants and has many health benefits. Some people also like to add honey or lemon to their tea for extra flavor.
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Chickweed (Stellaria media) is a small, delicate plant with white flowers and edible leaves. This common weed can be found growing in gardens, fields, and even cracks in sidewalks. Chickweed is easy to identify thanks to its small, star-shaped flowers.
The entire plant is edible and perfect as cooked greens, and the tender stems are often used in salads. Chickweed is a nutritional powerhouse, providing a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as iron and calcium.
12. Plantain (Plantago Major)
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Plantain (Plantago major) is a common weed that grows in many parts of the world. It is often considered a nuisance, but it can actually be a valuable source of food. The leaves of the plant are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
They are also rich in nutrients, including vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. In addition, plantain leaves have been used traditionally to treat bee stings and other skin irritations. The leaves can be applied directly to the affected area for rapid relief.
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When foraging for walnuts, keep an eye out for trees that are bearing fruit. You’ll know the nuts are ripe when the outer shell turns brown. Once you’ve gathered your nuts, it’s time to crack them open. Inside, you’ll find the meat inside that is perfect for snacking on or using in recipes.
If you’re feeling adventurous, try making your own walnut butter or using the nuts in place of meat in a vegetarian dish.
14. Lambs Quarters
Lambs Quarters enjoy disturbed soils, such as those found along roadsides and in vacant lots. While many gardeners view lamb’s quarters as a nuisance, foragers know that it the best spinach substitute around.
The young leaves can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked like spinach. The flower buds and immature seeds can also be eaten, and make a nice addition to stir-fries and other dishes.
15. Oak Trees
Oaks are commonly planted trees, and most people know that they produce acorns. What many people don’t know is that these acorns can be used as food. The first step in foraging for oak trees is to identify the species of oak.
Oaks grow in zigzag pattern like most plants. However, there are many different types of oaks, and not all of them produce edible acorns. Once you have identified the type of oak tree, you need to gather the acorns. Be sure to only collect acorns that are brown and free from blemishes.
Once you have gathered the acorns, you need to remove the shells and then grind the acorns into flour. The flour can be used to make bread, pancakes, or other dishes.
Wrap Up – Edible Plants Wild
There you have it! A complete guide with the top edible plants in the USA. As you can see, nature has a lot of plants, fruits, and weeds that can be safely consumed whenever the situation calls for serious measures.
Remember, you can never be too careful when you’re out in the wild especially when you think about why dog owners bring their pups to parks, so make sure that you thoroughly inspect and identify the plant before consuming it.