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Eating Wild Plants
by: Alan Detwiler
There are a number of reasons you might want to use wild plants as food.

Wild plants have some unique flavors that can be among your enjoyed favorites. Watercress with something sweet such as pancake syrup in a peanut butter sandwich is one I particularly enjoy. Dandelion greens pesto mixed with spaghetti sauce is another.

Since the taste of many wild edible plants is so different from the usual cultivated vegetables, you likely will at first not accept some of them as a delicious flavorful food. Just about any food flavor other than sweet, salty, starchy, and fat are, I suppose, acquired tastes. It takes time for your mind to recognize an unfamiliar flavor as a 'tried and true' favorite. Introduce a wild food into your diet by eating a small amount when you are most hungry. Repeatedly doing so can make the new food one that you especially enjoy.

The amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in wild food, according to many sources, is on the average greater in wild foods. Domesticated vegetables have been selectively bred for looks, production quantity, taste, length of storage and other qualities other than nutrition.

The fruits and vegetables sold in the supermarket have been chemically fertilized; exposed to herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and a variety of other chemicals; and they may have been genetically modified and/or irradiated. The safety of eating such produce is of concern to many people. Wild foods for the most part, avoid those concerns. If you do gather wild foods avoid taking them from along roadsides, lawns that have been treated with chemicals or any other areas that may have been treated.

There is the possibility that supermarket food can be contaminated with pathogens. Dozens of diseases can be spread by an infected person handling food anywhere from the time it is harvested until it is put into your grocery bag. Plants growing in the wild are untouched by human hands.

Wild plants can be prepared in many ways. Greens can be put through a food processor or blender to make pesto. Add just enough oil and/or water to let the mixture process well. The pesto can then be easily mixed with other ingredients such as peanut butter, tomato sauce, or syrup for flavoring. Some greens such as lambsquarters, chickweed and purslane can be used anyway spinach is prepared. Strong or bitter tasting greens can be boiled changing the water once or twice to reduce bitterness. This is sometimes done with dandelion leaves. Then other ingredients can be added for flavoring and texture.

Wild fruit can simply be mixed with nuts or seeds such as sunflower seeds or almonds.

Some plants such as cattail tuber shoots and burdock root can be boiled to increase tenderness or to reduce strong flavors and then simply eaten as is.

Be sure of what it is that you are going to eat and be sure that it is edible. Consult a good reference book. If possible have someone who is familiar with a particular plant point it out to you. Most photographs are not of high enough quality to be relied upon to positively identify a wild plant.

Some edible plants have poisonous look-alikes. Some plants have edible parts and have poisonous parts. Some plant parts are edible only after being prepared in a particular way. It is common that a small quantity of a plant can be eaten without problems but if you eat too much your digestive system will protest forcefully.

There's about 6 or 8 disaster scenarios that I can think of that seem likely to happen at some time. Most of them seem unlikely to happen in my lifetime. But you never know. Isn't it prudent to be prepared, at least to some extent, in the event the normal food supply is interrupted. Examples of disasters that seem likely to happen are an asteroid hitting the earth, a massive nuclear war, a global epidemic, and the failure of one or two major crops such as corn and wheat due to a widespread disease or climate change.

The gathering of wild foods is interesting and enjoyable. Foraging for a favorite or new addition to your menu may take you through woods, through open fields and meadows and other places of beauty. It is a great way to get out into the natural world and enjoy its complexity and majesty. It adds to the perception that the world is a good place that is to be enjoyed. It is emotionally pleasing to find something that seems free and of exceptional value.

Making use of natural foods gives you greater awareness of the inter-relatedness of living things to each other and to the environment. That greater awareness helps us more appreciate the weather and climate, the abundance of nature, agriculture and the food supply, and the importance of protecting those things.

If you are interested in a few detailed recipes and a couple of other general preparation methods see

For more information on wild edible plants and recipes see Foraging the Edible Wild

For a list of links to more informaion see

For a few books on wild edible plants see

About the author:
This article can be published in print or electronically, free of charge as long as it is substantially unaltered and contains the following author info and links (text or active):

Alan Detwiler is the author of several books about things to do for fun. The books are available at

His web sites are www.leisureideas.comand

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