From Antivist

Know your plants! & "When in doubt, do without!"

harvesting guidelines

  • Be sure that you can positively identify the plants that you intend to harvest. Most wild foods are easily recognized and difficult to mistake for others. This is not the case, however, with members of the parsley family, some of our most poisonous plants.
  • Be sure the plants you are gathering are not a protected species.
  • Gather only plants that are abundant in that area. Be conscientious about leaving a healthy population behind for further growth. You can't collect something that is no longer there!
  • Be sure the plants you intend to harvest have not been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Be especially aware of this around the edges of farm fields, roadsides, parks, and lawns, or near industrial activity.
  • Gather on private land only after receiving permission from the owner.
  • Be sure to wear protective clothing if you will be exposed to poison ivy, nettles, or wild parsnip. Be sure you can positively identify these powerful skin irritants. Wild parsnip is very prolific in fields, meadows and roadsides in the Upper Midwest and can cause severe skin rashes.
  • Gather only what you will use.


Unprocessed acorns usually have toxic quantities of tannin and may shutdown the digestive track

  • dry acorns in the oven at pilot light temperatures or very low heat. This is just to dry them and kill off bugs.
  • crack the shells off, and then soak the shelled acorns in water. Generally, soak the acorns for a few days to about two weeks, changing the water at least twice a day.
  • alternatively, you can put the acorns in a cooking pot and cover with about twice as much water. Bring them to a full boil, and boil them for about 5-10 minutes. Then pour off the dark, muddy, bitter water and add more water. Repeat this process up to 5 or 6 times until the Acorns taste mild and palatable.
  • When the acorns are no longer bitter, grind them while wet through a meat grinder.
  • The coarse meal is then placed in cookie pans to dry in the sun or oven.
  • When dry, store in large jars in the cupboard.


  • Young leaves can be eaten raw in salad or on sandwiches.
  • Older leaves become increasingly bitter, but can be used like any "cooking green" -- steamed or simmered.
  • The crown can be eaten as a hot, cooked vegetable, alone, or with other vegetables


  • Nasturtium is a versatile food source. Leaf, flower, and seed are edible, and all have a peppery flavor. The leaf and flower are excellent in salads, or chopped into omelets or quiche.
  • The unopened flower buds make good "capers." One can also pickle the young seeds.


  • Purslane leaves and stems are great raw in salads. You can steam them or add them to soups, stews, and other vegetable dishes. Beware of spurge, a different-looking poisonous creeping wild plant that sometimes grows near purslane. The stem is wiry, not thick, and it gives off a white, milky sap when you break it. If you're very careless, you may put some in your bag along with purslane, because they sometimes grow together on lawns, gardens, and meadows.


  • Sassafras is a tree with three different leaves. One is oval, one partly divided into three lobes, and one is mitten-shaped. The edges are smooth.
  • If you tear or crush the leaves, they smell like root beer. You can make tea with the leaves by pouring boiling water over a handful, letting them sit covered, away from the heat, 20 minutes, then straining out the leaves. The roots of small saplings are even better.
  • Wash off the soil, and gently simmer the root in water, covered, over low heat 20 minutes. Because leaves are delicate, you usually donâ��t boil them because the flavor will boil off. Roots are tougher, so usually must boil them to get at the flavor.
  • Remove the root, and drink the tea. You can use the root over again. To make root beer, chill the tea, then add drop of honey for sweetness and some sparkling water for fizz. You can also chew on sassafras twigs to freshen your breath.

Sheep Sorrel and Wood Sorrel

  • In Ireland they call wood sorrel a shamrock, which shouldn't be confused with a clover. clovers have oval not heart shaped leaves.
  • Use sheep sorrel leaves or wood sorrel leaves, flowers, and fruit capsules raw in salads. Cook them in soups, stews, or other dishes, or make a tea with them: Pour boiling water over a handful of leaves, stems, and flowers. Let them sit, covered, away from the heat, 20 minutes. Strain out the plants, sweeten if you want, and drink the lemony-tasting tea. Or chill it first, to make ice tea. Both sorrels are loaded with vitamin C.


  • Collect nettle leaves before they flower in spring. They may be bad for the kidneys after they flower. New nettles come up in the fall, and you can pick them before they're killed by frost.
  • People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Collect them using work gloves, and wear a long-sleeved shirt. If you happen upon nettles when you have no gloves, put your hand inside a bag. The young leaves are the best part of the plant. They come off most easily if you strip them counter-intuitively, from the top down.
  • Clean and chop nettles wearing rubber gloves. Once youâ��ve cooked them a little, the stingers are deactivated, and the plant becomes wonderfully edible.
  • Either steam like one would with spinach or save to make tea. nettle tea is very nutritious.
  • Nettle tea compress or finely powdered dried nettles are also good for wounds, cuts, stings, and burns.


  • Use raw the shoots raw in salads, or sauté, steam, stir-fry, deep-fry, bake, simmer in soups, or pickle.
  • Cook the unopened buds like string beans.
  • Use the orange (some cultivars are yellow), 6-petaled flowers raw in salads, in hot-and-sour soup, or deep-fried.


  • Add very young chicory leaves raw to salads, or include then in cooked recipes. They cook in 10-15 minutes. Wild chicory leaves taste like commercial chicory, but they can become bitter soon after emerging. Boil the older leaves in one or more changes of water, to reduce the bitterness.


Wild Edibles

Acorns Milkweed Alfalfa Mint Amaranth Muscadines American Beech Passion Flower American Elder Paw Paw Arrowhead Peppergrass Asparagus Persimmon Blackberries Plantain Black Birch Puffballs Black Walnuts Quickweed Bull Thistle Redbud Burdock Red Mulberry Butternut Rose Hips Cattails Sassafras Chestnuts Sheep Sorrel Chickweed Shepherd's Purse Chicory Spicebush Cleavers Stinging Nettle Coltsfoot Sugar Maple Dandelion Trout Lily Daylily Violets Elecampane Wild Blueberries Evening Primrose Wild Carrots Ground Cherries Wild Ginger Groundnuts Wild Onions Hickory Nuts Wild Strawberries Honewort Winter Cress Jerusalem Artichoke Yellow Dock Kudzu Yellow Nut Grass Lamb's Quarters

Types of Edible Weeds

There are many different weeds that can be harvested and eaten, but the majority of edible weeds are some kind of green that you can add to salads. Some examples of weeds that make fine greens are:

  • Chickweed
  • Dandelion
  • Lamb's quarter
  • Milk thistle
  • Sheep's sorrel

Other green weeds can also be eaten cooked. Kudzu, for example, is great battered and fried or in stir-frys. Horseweed and stinging nettle are two more plants that can be eaten if the leaves are cooked.

The chicory root is often used as an addition to or substitute for coffee, and the flowers can be added to salads as well. Goldenrod flowers and leaves can be used to make tea.

Burdock root can be pickled or boiled in soups. The young leaves of plantain plants can be sautéed, and red clover flowers are great in salads, soups or as a tea. Violets and other edible flowers are also good choices for adding to salads or using as garnishes.

Wild Foods

Some edible northwest weeds include: Blackberry Thistle Nuts Wild Rose Hips Wild Strawberry Cleavers Clover Yellow Dock Burdock Mustard Amaranth Plantain Shepherds Purse Weeping Willow Mallow Nasturtium Bracken fern Chickweed Chicory Dandelion Miner's Lettuce Oxalis Evening Primrose Parsley Forget-me-nots Purslane Sorrel Watercress Queen Anne's Lace Yarrow Cattail

Please note: Do not eat any plant that you have not correctly identified. Some parts of some species are edible while other parts of the same species may not be. It is crucial to know exactly what you are eating to partake in the pleasures of eating wild foods.

Pickled Nettles

Fill a mason jar with young nettle shoots. Fill the rest of the jar half with olive oil and half with vinegar. Store in shaded cool area. This will be ready in six to eight weeks. Marinating deactivates the formic acid.

Safety Tips

The most important thing when working with edible weeds making sure you know that the weeds you are planning to eat are indeed edible. Some plants look similar when they are young, and you can get really sick from eating plants or parts of plants that should not be eaten. Some plants, when ingested, can even cause death.

If you are planning to scavenge for edible weeds, make sure you have a guidebook or a knowledgeable person with you who can help you find the weeds that are safe. Someone from your local garden club or wildflower society should be able to point you in the right direction.

Also, make sure you know what parts of a plant are safe to eat. Just because the leaves of a plant are safe, that does not mean the whole plant should be consumed. Again, check the web, or with a guide to weeds or a local expert before you go hunting for weeds and heading for the kitchen.

If you are growing your own weeds, do not use pesticides or herbicides on them. Since many weeds aren't cooked before eating, it's a great idea to grow them organically when possible.

If you're not growing your own edible weeds, you need to consider the condition of the weeds you are likely to find on your searches. Some weeds may have been sprayed with herbicides and just haven't died yet.

Others are very close to roads, which doesn't make them very appealing. The presence of animal feces or other waste in the area is a good sign you shouldn't eat the weeds as well.

Your best bet is to grow your own weeds to eat, because then you know where they came from and what has been done to them throughout the growing season.

You can often find seeds or plants for some weeds at your local garden center. You can also check out online seed sellers like Seed Rack. If all else fails and you're looking for a weed that regularly grows in your area, check your neighbors' yards or your local botanical garden. Either one would be happy to let you dig up their weed plants and take them away!

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