Major Groupings of Wild Edible Plants

Plants are classified into groups based on their botanical family, and there are hundreds of families within the plant kingdom. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on a few select members of the following five families: Purslane family (Portulacaceae), includes miner's lettuce, red maids, rose moss and purslane Sunflower family (Asteraceae), includes dandelions, daisies, and thistle (largest plant family with more than 22,000 species) Goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae), includes spinach, Swiss chard, beets, quinoa, and lamb's quarter

Plantain family (Plantaginaceae), includes common plantain, water plantain, and Northern plantain

Nettle family (Urticaceae), includes stinging nettle, wood nettle, and clearweed

First, let's take a look at the rock star of wild edibles: purslane—from the Purslane family, of course.

and spurge will make you sick. from fertile garden loam to the most arid desert soil. According to Mother Earth News. with fleshy succulent leaves and reddish stems. The stems grow flat to the ground and radiate outward from a single taproot. fatweed. it's the most reported "weed" species in the world. similar appearing plants often grow next to each other—and often one is poisonous! Purslane has a stellar omega-3 fatty acid profile. A single purslane plant can produce up to 200. In about mid-July. because they can look similar. sometimes forming large.000 seeds! And purslane can grow in almost anything. some remaining viable in the soil for 40 years. pusley. Purslane looks very much like a miniature jade plant. and even in your rock driveway. This video shows you how to tell them apart. verdolaga. purslane beats all of the other veggies for omega-3s. or wild portulaca) is the omega-3 powerhouse of the vegetation kingdom. Omega-3 Levels in Common Foods . Seeds of purslane are extremely tough. In the plant kingdom. compared to other vegetables. Be careful not to confuse purslane with spurge. or Portulaca oleracea (also called duckweed. pigweed.Purslane. purslane develops tiny yellow flowers about one quarter inch in diameter. and there's a high probability it's growing in your yard right now. As you can see from the chart below. flat circular mats up to 16 inches across. munyeroo. ma chi xian in Chinese.

Weston A. and Epicurious. If you need a little culinary advice. and has antifungal and antimicrobial effects. 1 ounce. and the Chinese toss it with noodles. phosphorous and manganese Purslane is reportedly beneficial if you have urinary or digestive problems. the Mexicans enjoy it with eggs and pork. 1 cup. which is one of the highest among green leafy vegetables • 25 mg of vitamin C per cup (20 percent of the RDA) • Rich in magnesium. 7196 mg Broccoli. which are good in salads or sandwiches. 2542 mg Spinach. 1 ounce. Look for tender young leaves and stems. Dandelion . potassium. purslane has other nutritional benefits: • SIX times more vitamin E than spinach • SEVEN times more beta carotene than carrots. calcium. Price. 41 mg Walnut Oil. 1 Tbsp. ½ cup. 1404 mg In addition to its bounty of omega-3 fatty acids. iron. 104 mg Walnuts. there are quite a few purslane recipes out there—check out Prairieland CSA.Romaine lettuce. 1 cup. providing 1320 IU/100g of vitamin A (44 percent of the RDA). raw. 53 mg Purslane. and sunburn. riboflavin. 1 stalk. 1 cup. According to Weston A.. the ancient Greeks made a bread flour from Purslane seeds and pickled its fleshy stems. 4915 mg Cauliflower. 147 mg Chia seeds. with a "crunchy lemony" flavor. Some people compare purslane's taste to spinach or watercress. 300-400 mg Flaxseed oil. 1 Tbsp. so it can be used to thicken soups and stews.. psoriasis. Price Foundation. Purslane is also rich in pectin. It has also been found useful for skin conditions such as acne. Sunset Part CSA.

eat 'em!" Every part of the dandelion is edible and full of nutrition. in the words of The Daily Green. including magnesium. or Taraxacum officinale. including FOUR times the beta Possibly the HIGHEST herbal source of vitamin K 1. which is 338 percent of the RDA) Numerous flavonoids. Irish daisy.You are probably already familiar with dandelions. providing 650 percent of the RDA carotene of broccoli. Dandelions have antioxidant properties and contain bitter crystalline compounds called Taraxacin and Taracerin. "If you can't beat 'em. Leaves rich in dietary fiber. cryptoxanthin and zeaxanthin Vitamins. also lutein. Dandelion. riboflavin. along with inulin and levulin. is part of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). usually greeted with vitriol by gardeners everywhere. monk's head. Great source of minerals. It also goes by other common names. including folic acid. compounds thought to explain some of its therapeutic properties.Dandelions offer you a wealth of nutrition! They contain: One of the richest sources of beta carotene of all herbs (10161 IU per 100g. There isn't a yard in America that hasn't sprouted a dandelion or two. including priest's crown. as well as a good laxative . But. blowball and lion's tooth.

but it certainly doesn't offer the great nutritional benefits of dandelion. lawns and meadows. Here is a video showing how to tell them apart. Be careful not to confuse dandelion plants with Hawksbeard. niacin. and the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine. and iron Dandelions are found abundantly in fields. Hawksbeard won't kill you. if broken. cooked the same way as spinach. which can look very similar. remedy for liver and gall bladder problems • Agent for treating burns and stings (inside surface of flower stems) Dandelions also have antiviral effects so may be useful in combating herpes and AIDS. jagged dark green leaves radiate. potassium. For more information on the nutritional and medicinal properties of dandelions. juiced. Dandelions are known for the following therapeutic properties: • Laxative and diuretic. The root is filled with a somewhat "yam-like" white pulp and can be harvested in summer for medicinal purposes.pyroxidine. The root can be dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute. and vitamins E and C calcium. All parts of the plant exude a milky white "latex" fluid. soups. They have a long. . Dandelion leaves can be used in salads. which matures into the fluffy white puffball you remember blowing away as a child. appetite stimulant and a good general stomach remedy • Liver cleanser. stout taproot from which long. or dried (with flowers) to make dandelion tea. The Japanese actually use the root in cooking. The yellow flower rises straight up from the root. useful for premenstrual bloating and edema • Normalizing blood sugar and cholesterol (dandelion root) • Tonic. go to this article by Leaf Lady. manganese.

in overgrown fields. concentrating them in the leaves. folate. Make sure your specimen is CLEAN because lamb's quarter is a "purifier herb" that pulls pollutants out of the soil. which makes identification relatively easy. The plants get to be quite tall. B6 and thiamine. . and 93mg for spinach) • More than 4 percent protein Lamb's quarter is also rich in vitamin C. It can be found along roadsides. potassium. But after flowering. pigsweed or fat-hen. in disturbed soil. Lamb's quarter has diamond shaped leaves with shallow "teeth" and a telltale white. waxy powder on the undersides of its leaves. and is probably growing in your own backyard. click here and here. and 8100mg for spinach) • 300mg calcium per half cup (compared to 88mg for Swiss chard. magnesium. reaching up to 6 feet or even taller." Lamb's quarter contains: • A whopping 11.600 IU of beta carotene per half cup (compared to 6500mg for Swiss chard. Lamb's quarter is a European relative of spinach and beets. You can prepare lamb's quarter in the same ways as you fix regular spinach. This powdery substance gives it a dusty appearance at a distance. also called goosefoot.Lamb's Quarter The third weed-gem is called Lamb's quarter (or Chenopodium album). they are usually found lying down if not supported by neighboring plants. Wild spinach is much more nutrient rich than its cultivated cousin and tastes very similar. vitamin E. For a few recipes. wild spinach. riboflavin. which is why lamb's quarter is sometimes called "white goosefoot. on vacant lots.

with lots of visuals to help you learn to identify it. Plantain Plantains. apigenin (a phytonutrient with strong antioxidant properties). infertile soil and fertile lawns. anti-inflammatory. which is odorless. benzoic acid. There is medical evidence that plantain can help with a variety of health problems. The plants produce numerous.According to Wildman Steve Brill. waybread. One American Indian name for plantain translates as "life medicine. poison antidote." which is part of the Banana family (Musaceae). It goes by many names. sinusitis. cystitis Fever Hypertension . this "weed" is full of effective agents. and even a heart remedy. small flowers along the ends of a long stalk. It truly seems to be a panacea for everything. coughing. which give the plant a wide range of uses as an antiseptic. including common plantain. broadleaf plantain. Englishman's foot and White Man's foot. Part of plantain's nutritional power comes from a remarkable glycoside called Aucubin. The young leaves of plantains are edible raw or cooked and are rich in vitamin B1 and riboflavin. and has broad oval leaves (up to 10 inches long) with fibrous roots that spread out in a rosette. By the way. lamb's quarter. and salicylic acid. oleanolic acid. This herb has a long history of medicinal use. among others. This cool season perennial herb loves damp. snakeweed. hemostatic. bronchitis tuberculosis and emphysema Bladder problems. antitussive. dating back to ancient times. looks much like a mildly poisonous plant called epazote. including: Asthma. including ascorbic acid. In fact. which smells resinous—so become familiar with both so you don't confuse the two. or Plantago major. as the list of its uses is extensive. ripple grass. Here is Steve's video tutorial on lamb's quarter. Cuckoo's bread. have a family all their own—the Plantain family (Plantaginaceae). because it was said to grow wherever your feet touch the ground." which says it all. between 8 and 20 inches tall. this is not at all related to the banana-like fruit called "plantain. diuretic. which is reported in the Journal of Toxicology to be a potent anti-toxin.

David Wolfe shows you how to pick stinging nettles without getting stung in this video. serotonin. exposing sharp points that inject your skin with the toxin. But there is another stinging plant. applying a paste of baking soda and water is said to effectively soothe local . stings. Whey you touch the hairs. Ouch! The sting of the stinging nettle is a pretty good way to positively identify it. as contrasted to the stinging nettle's hock shaped or lance shaped leaves. and malignant ulcers Rattlesnake bites Stinging Nettles Last but not least is the wickedly fascinating stinging nettle. acetylcholine. hemorrhoids and constipation Allergies and hay fever Providing a natural aversion to tobacco Stopping bleeding Skin inflammation. peptic ulcer. gastritis. Inside these hairs is a mixture of chemicals. they break. which isn't actually part of the Nettle family) that you could confuse it with. The leaves look a great deal like mint… but they certainly don't behave like it! The nettle's sting comes from tiny hollow hairs on its stems and on the underside of its leaves. the Cnidoscolus stimulosus (or spurge nettle. You can learn more about stinging nettle in this short video tutorial by Green Deane. dysentery. which can shoot little poison darts into you if you aren't paying attention. Spurge nettle has palm shaped or hand shaped leaves. If you do get stung.Rheumatism Blood sugar control Diarrhea. This nettle's nasty sting is well concealed behind its beautiful lacey leaves. Urtica dioica. including histamine. wounds. a member of the Nettle family. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). and formic acid.

as the stems are quite tough on a mature plant.790 IU of vitamin A. since not all wild plants are safe to eat. The parts of the nettle most commonly consumed are the leaves and roots. red clover. so do that first if you want to try them in a salad. although there are some uber-hard core foodies who eat them raw. you can gradually learn about some of the other wild edibles just waiting for your discovery. see this article by HonestFood. and other skin irritations (especially reactions to shellfish) by virtue of its antihistamine properties Diuretic Stinging nettle is even rumored to be an aphrodisiac Most people cook stinging nettles because cooking neutralizes the sting. and sheep sorrel all deserve attention but are beyond the scope of one article. Nettles are high in iron. calcium and vitamins A. cattails. burdock. Soaking them also reportedly helps remove the stinging Each cup of nettles supplies you with a whopping 1. by promoting elimination of uric acid from your joints Nettle root is reported to be helpful for enlarged prostate (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia. which is three days' RDA. Stinging nettle has the following medicinal uses: Treating anemia and fatigue. and gout (internally and externally). rashes. or BPH) As a styptic (an arrestor of local bleeding) Urinary tract infections Breaking down urinary stones Relief from hay fever and seasonal allergies Treatment for hives. chickweed. D and K. For some great sounding nettle recipes. As you expand your wild palate. Prickly lettuce. You should never eat a plant unless you are entirely sure it is not poisonous. sow thistle. joint pain. due to its high iron and chlorophyll content Relief of arthritis. There are certainly more good wild edibles out there. potassium. C.pain and inflammation. . Japanese knotweed. manganese. there are some precautions to take. Safety Tips for the Frolicking Forager Before foraging out your new wild-edible adventure.

bulbs. And purchasing a good field guide will get you off to a good start. or parsley like foliage "Almond" scent in woody parts or leaves . These non-edibles may range in toxicity from mild to extreme.According to raw food and wild plant expert Sergei Boutenko: "When you harvest wild plants for food." "grazing" or "wildcrafting" workshop in your area. Some of the most common poisonous plants you will need to familiarize yourself with are listed in the table that follows. fine hairs or thorns Dill. there are far more edible plants than poisonous ones. If you are anything like me. or seeds in pods Bitter or soapy taste Spines. edible plants growing wild in North America. Please understand. but just a sampling." which means they may cause nausea. edible plants. Fortunately. so you might want to investigate the possibility of a "foraging. diarrhea.. Hyacinth. parsnip. Boutenko argues that it isn't too difficult to learn what you need to know to avoid the 50 dangerous plants.e. this is NOT a comprehensive list. Daffodil Oleander Rosary Pea. if you see a wild plant you can't identify. Of those 150. there is a high guarantee that edible plants will be sharing their living space with non-edibles. the characteristics that you should regard as "red flags" for toxicity include: Milky or discolored sap Beans. For this reason it is a good idea to first learn how to positively identify wild plants and then exercise caution when gathering them for food. Castor Bean Monkshood Foxglove Daphne Yew Moonseed Mistletoe Water Hemlock and Poison Hemlock Nightshade Jimson Weed (Thorn Apple) According to Wilderness Survival. and the rest are classified as "mildly poisonous. your chances of getting poisoned are almost nil. and once you're familiar with those. Narcissus. or headache. Some communities even offer classes that teach you how to identify safe. Boutenko claims there are thousands of safe. but probably not kill you. carrot. can be fatal). then you too prefer to avoid any form of poisoning whether it is mild or severe. but there are only 150 listed by the American Association of Poison Control as poisonous. only about 50 are considered to be "highly poisonous" (i.

nutritious wild plant or herb can cause an unexpected reaction in some people. side by side with the edibles. have at it! But don't consume a big bowl of wild greens all at once that you've never eaten before. One last word of caution: Introduce new wild foods to your body gradually. If you feel good. road salt. Try them one at a time and in SMALL amounts to see how your body is going to react. And remember to NEVER harvest plants that have been exposed to herbicides or pesticides. Here is one helpful site that includes pictures of poisonous look-alikes. but if you can't positively identify it. because if you DO have a bad reaction to one of them. Even a high-quality. asphalt runoff.Grain heads with pink. you won't know WHICH one. or black spurs Three-leaved growth pattern The fact that a plant has some of these characteristics doesn't necessarily mean it's poisonous. you're better off not adding it to your salad. purple. paint or pet waste. .

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