Eat Your Greens: 15 Best Edible Wild Plants

Whether you just want to increase your outdoorsman knowledge or you want to be ready for any survival situation, one of the most valuable skills you can acquire is the ability to find food. Sure, in most disasters, seeking out water should be number 1 on anyone’s list, but – if worst comes to worst – you’ll have to find food eventually. And while knowing how to hunt game of all shapes and sized can be extremely valuable, it’s also time- and energy-consuming. If you absolutely need to conserve energy, however, there is another option: foraging.

It should come as no surprise that there are a wide array of edible plants out in the wild, because that’s where domesticated crops originally came from. But, finding foliage you can eat isn’t as simple as walking over to the nearest bush and picking some berries. Just as there’s a lot to eat in the wild, there’s also a lot that can harm you. Rather than take any unnecessary risks, familiarize yourself with the following 15 edible wild plants and you should be able to survive just about anywhere.


Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Entire Plant

The most commonly known varieties of Alliums are probably onions and garlic. Their wild brethren, while similar, are not exactly the same kinds you might find in a grocery store ready for cooking. Remember: when searching for onions outdoors, you’re looking for the stalks and not the meaty bulbs, as the bulbs actually grow underground. Alliums are plentiful around the world and offer plenty of sustenance, though they can be a bit rough on the stomach – which cooking can help. It’s also important to pay attention to the smell. There are some plants that look like onions and garlic, but do not have the same distinct smell; these plants can be poisonous and/or toxic. So, it’s a safe bet to eat wild alliums, so long as they smell like onions or garlic.


Location: Non-Swamp Areas With Heavy Moisture & Direct Sunlight
Edible Parts: Stalks & Un-Bloomed Spears (Berries Are Toxic)

Yes, as is the case with onions, asparagus can also be found in the wild. It tends to grow in somewhat damp (not wet) soil and in direct sunlight. You can expect to find that wild varieties are a bit thinner than their grocery store counterparts, but they are still edible all the same. With wild asparagus, your best bet is to eat it when it is young and easily plucked from the ground. The older the plant, the more bitter the taste – and the more likely that the plant has absorbed toxins from the surrounding land. You can eat it raw or cook it. And, yes, it will still make your urine smell odd.


Location: Temperate Climates Especially In Asia & North America
Edible Parts: Young Shoots & Sprouts (Must Be Cooked First)

A staple of Asian food for centuries, the edible parts of bamboo are not the tall skinny stalks, as you might think, but rather the stout and rotund buds (under a foot tall) that can be found sprouting from the ground in temperate regions especially around North America and Asia. It is important to note, however, that bamboo cannot be eaten raw, as it contains toxins that could kill you. So, to prepare it out in the wild, you’ll want to peel and/or carve the skin and leaves off, chop up the core, and boil it. This will make it safe to eat. It’s a bit more work than just plucking a berry off a bush, but it’s safe and can keep you alive.


Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Whole Berries

Everyone should have at least some familiarity with edible berries, as they were one of the first food sources of our ancestors and have remained a viable food source ever since. Berries are tricky, however, as not all kinds are safe to eat. In fact, some are downright toxic and will kill you in mere hours if ingested. Your safest bet with berries is to stay away from any with which you are unfamiliar. On the plus side, if you find some that look like blueberries, the likelihood is that they are, in fact, blueberries and are safe to eat. So, as a rule of thumb, don’t eat any berries unless you are certain what kind they are.


Location: Wetlands
Edible Parts: Stems, Roots, & Cores

Also known as punks, corndog grass, bulrush, or reedmace – these plants are found all around the wetlands of the world. So, if you’ve managed to find a reliable source of natural water in your travels, there’s a pretty good chance that cattails are not far away. And, thankfully, many parts of this plant are edible – including the rhizomes (subterranean stems), the hearts of the stems, and even the roots. Be wary, however, of any cattails growing near polluted water, as the plants will draw the toxins into their roots and, when you eat them, you’ll be about as well-off as having drank the polluted water straight. Still, if you’re confident that the water isn’t nuclear, you’re probably safe.


Location: North America, Europe, & Australia
Edible Parts: Entire Plant

With its recognizable blue and white flowers, chicory can be found all over North America, Europe, and Australia. Which is a lucky thing, because the entirety of the plant can be eaten. You don’t even have to cook it, although it will taste better if you do. Interestingly enough, chicory is also used widely as salad greens, as a coffee substitute, and for medicinal purposes. It’s also related to another one of the edible plants on this list: dandelions.


Location: Temperate Climates Around The World
Edible Parts: Entire Plant

If you see the word ‘clover’ and it conjures images of the little leafy plant commonly associated with Irish holidays, traditions, and sports teams, you’re exactly on track. These little plants, which can be found growing in grassy areas all around the world, are absolutely edible from their leaves to their stems. It should be mentioned, however, that raw clovers do have a tendency to be a bit bitter, but boiling them can help that tremendously – so long as you aren’t bothered by the same slimy texture as boiled spinach.


Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Entire Plant

Like their cousin, chicory, dandelions are an incredibly robust plant which can survive in many different regions around the world. Similarly, they’re also entirely edible, from root to flower and are even commonly used as a salad green. As is the case with most wildflowers, the flavor of dandelions tends to get more bitter with age, so the younger the better. That means, you’ll want to eat these plants when they still have yellow flower heads and not the white puffs of seeds they become toward the end of their lifecycle. You can also boil them to decrease their bitterness.


Location: North America, Europe, & Asia
Edible Parts: Entire Plant (Especially When Young)

Though you might think them named for their red-stemmed flowers, fireweed actually got the moniker for its common abundance in areas that have recently suffered wildfires. That is to say, these plants grow best in soil that has recently burned over. A common dietary staple of many Native American tribes, fireweed can be found in abundance across the United States, in Europe, and even as far as Australia. It is notable for its reddish stalks and pink-to-purple flowers, all of which can be eaten – especially when the plant is in its younger stages.

Milk Thistle

Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Entire Plant (With Preparation)

If you recognize the name of this plant as a common herbal dietary supplement, then it shouldn’t surprise you to know that the plant is also edible in its wild form. Notable for both its spines and bright-purple flowers, this is another plant that can be eaten from root to flower. But, you should be very careful to remove all of the spines prior to ingesting it, as they can get lodged in your throat and, at best, be very uncomfortable. It should also be noted that, prior to consuming, the stem should be boiled or cooked over an open flame.

Mustard Plant

Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Entire Plant

Yes, the very same plant that goes into the yellow hot dog-friendly condiment, is a wild plant that can be ingested, should the occasion call for it. Common around the world – especially during the spring bloom – this plant is another that can be eaten in its entirety. It’s also one of the more easy-to-spot wild plants for its thin stalks and abundance of bright yellow flowers. Don’t be afraid to pluck this one and eat it raw.

Pine Nuts

Location: Mediterranean Climates
Edible Parts: Shelled Nut

Nuts have been a staple food of humanity for a very long time, but not all nuts are safe to eat raw. Pine nuts, however, are edible straight from the pine cone. Yes, they come from pine cones. These little snacks are especially abundant in the Southwest and Northern Pacific, but you will have to do a bit of searching, as they are also a favored snack of birds, squirrels, and other woodland creatures. Just remember, you’ll want to search for pine nuts in green-to-light-brown pine cones – as they are the least likely to have begun rotting. Also, be aware that you may end up getting some pitch or sap on you, which can be a menace to clean off, especially in the woods far from civilization.

Prickly Pear

Location: Desert Climates
Edible Parts: Fruit & Pads (Peeled)

Just like Baloo sings in The Jungle Book, prickly pears are perfectly safe to eat in the wild. But, since they grow on cacti, you’ll want to first be sure you remove all the spines and peel off the skin prior to ingesting. These pink or purple fruits are loaded with nutrients – which is especially important to get your hands on in their growth region: the desert. It’s also notable that the cactus pads (the leaf-like growths from which the pears sprout) are also edible when peeled. In fact, in Mexican cuisine, they’re more commonly known as nopales. You should, however, boil them before eating.


Location: Varying Climates & Conditions Around The World
Edible Parts: Leaves

This hearty little succulent is fairly common all around the United States, which makes it an excellent option if you’re looking for survival food. It’s also interesting for the fact that, unlike most of the other plants on this list, its leaves actually taste more sour than bitter – which is great for anyone that can stand a bitter bite. And, if you’re not fond of sour flavors either, you can always boil the leaves to make the flavor more neutral.


Location: Oceans
Edible Parts: Entire Plant (Especially Dried Leaves)

A long-time staple of oceanic and Asian foods, seaweed and/or kelp is a wonderful edible wild plant. And just about the entire plant can be eaten. It is, however, a good idea to allow the plant to dry out before ingesting it, as much of its mass is comprised of salt water – which could be a dangerous thing to ingest if you are in a survival situation, as it will actually serve to dehydrate you. For the best and most nutritious varieties, try plucking plants that are anchored to the ocean floor by their roots, as they are the least likely to be dead and/or decomposing and, therefore, the most nutrient-rich and safe to eat.

How To Start A Fire Without Matches

Some of these plants require you to cook them in order to be edible and for that you’re going to need a flame. You might want to bone up on how to start a fire without matches, just in case.