I've known that there are many edible plants found beyond farms and gardens for a long time. When the impulse to set up some emergency preparedness at home last winter, I thought about researching common edible wild plants in my area. I had a strong urge to keep a first aid kit, basic camping supplies, extra water and extra food at easy reach in case of disaster or infrastructure failure. I had no inkling about the worldwide crisis about to happen, but something was pushing me to think, "What if...?" I got the kit, some useful gear, a stash of non-perishable food and a store of fresh drinking water. It is in a duffle bag in the hall closet. I added some things: extra cash, copies of my i.d. and will, soap and towel, and a list of edible wild plants.
I live in a temperature zone in the norther hemisphere. Since it is now summer and the ample rains have fostered an exceptional bounty of vegetation in my area, I have begun trying the treats of the cornucopia at my doorstep.
I have started with the ones I already knew about, which are abundant and easily obtainable here in my neighbourhood: dandelion, daisies, and clover.
So far, I am just taking the raw dandelion leaves, daisy petals and flowers and leaves of clover and adding them to salads. I am throwing in a little tender grass.
I used to eat clover leaves and flowers when I was a kid. I somehow assumed they would not hurt me, though I was wary of other weeds. The larger leaves have the white chevron marking and are the best. Red clover is supposedly blessed with enhanced health benefits. I remember it tasting delightfully delicate but slightly sour. I have only seen it in decorative gardens.
I have tried dandelion; it is quite bitter--depends on the soil it grows in. People put the flowers in boiled water to make tea. I would cook the root and stem. The leaves are nice with some sweetish vinaigrette, like a fruit vinaigrette or balsamic vinegar. Then again, you could put dried or fresh fruit in the salad. Perfect combo!
I should mention more about the edibles available in decorative gardens. Planned gardens are full of edible petals such as pansies, tulips, primroses, geraniums as well as daisy varieties. As I have flower baskets laden with pansies, I am putting the maturing leaves in salads. It adds great colour and relieves the monotony of common leaf salads, though I don't detect much flavour. The entire daisy plant is supposed to be edible; I suggest the leaves, stems and roots be boiled a little.
Having done a quick internet search last winter, I will share the rest of my list with you. I know most of these plants, but not all. You'll have to look up the names and go from there.
Thistle--just the root. Boil it.
Fireweed--all parts, but the pith best. Has a decent root.
stinging nettles--use gloves to harvest, and cook it. All parts. My neighbors say it is delicious!
dead nettles (the short type of plant)
Hawthorn tree-- Important to distinguish from the toxic trees: woody tree with red berries and 5-lobed leaves. There is a black crater on the berry. Remove the stone.
Rowan berry = Mountain Ash. The leaves have 15 lobes. Cook the berries! There are no stones. I think I have had preserved jelly made from them.
Garlic mustard --has clusters of small flowers and frayed looking leaves. All parts are good. This is very common through residential, rural and wilderness areas at the lower levels. Not garlic but smells and tastes of garlic.
natweed--flowers only, which have the pineapple-looking base
burdock -"elephant ears" leaves, stocks and roots, which can be eaten raw. This is the heartiest and most filling root on this list. It looks a bit like rhubarb.
elderberry --distinguished by small, black, drooping bunches of berries with maroon stems. Use only the darkest berries!
pineapple weed--non-petal, fuzzy button flowers the colour of mustard and spiky leaves.
rosehips--the seed pods of certain roses. Cut this fruit in half and remove the seeds. Dry out and use to make tea.
crabapples--I only know the cultivated ones, but I hear they are plentiful in central and eastern Canada and northeastern/ Great Lakes areas of the US
(Cook until all water has evaporated. Very sour so use sugar or combine with sweeter fruit.)
pine needles and pine nuts --they say edible raw or cooked. I only know the cooked used as hot medicinal tea or left to cool with sugar added as a refreshing summer beverage. As for pine nuts, they are expensive in the shops for a reason: hard to extract from each lobe on the cone! Good cooked or raw.
poppy seed: yellow and orange grow wild here, but I've never tried harvesting the pods. Must do! Dry the pods then cut open. Sprinkle on salad or cooked food.
Walnuts--look for the smooth, green husks turn into brown husks. Take the brown husks and smash 'em open!
acorns (of oak trees) --many varieties around the world and all edible. Open green or brown shells and eat raw or cooked. Some cultures make soups every autumn with them.
Boiling is best for all species; however, take note of the ones digestible raw in case you are stuck without fire.