This is a list of common edible and medicinal plants that can be found in the Eastern United States.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  When picking wild foods never consume something unless youíre ABSOLUTELY sure of its identity.

 


 

ARROWROOT

The arrowroot is an aquatic plant with arrow-shaped leaves and potatolike tubers in the mud.

Arrowroot is found worldwide in temperate zones and the tropics. It is found in moist to wet habitats.

The rootstock is a rich source of high quality starch. Boil the rootstock and eat it as a vegetable.

 

 

 

 

BROOKLIME

Veronica americana

This plant is found in the spring and summer in shallow water, swamps or ditches. It can be used in salad and as a potherb. The young shoots can be eaten before flowering, and the leaves can be eaten after flowering like watercress. Its leaves are oblong and toothed and there are one or two flowers in long simple clusters. The flowers may be lilac, rosy, bluish, or white in color. The fruit is a flattened and round
capsule at the apex.

Veronica americana

 


 

Typha angustifolia

CAT TAIL

Cat tail can be found in the spring and summer in or along side the fresh or brackish water of marshes and ponds. It can be used in salads, as a starchy vegetable, bread, asparagus, cooked vegetable, soup, pickle, and jelly. It is a tall plant (up to 15 feet) with stiff pale-green leaves. The flower is a dense spike that changes in color from green to brown with a cotton-like material being produced on top as it grows. The young rootstocks have a sweet taste and are high in starchy material. They should be grated, boiled, and the starchy material drained out for use.

 

CHICKWEED

These annual plants can be used in salads and as potherbs. They are found in waste lots, gardens, and disturbed soils, and they survive winter frosts. It is good wholesome green vegetable that, when boiled, resembles spinach in taste. The leaves can also be eaten when boiled.

Stellaria media

Stellaria media

 

COW PEA

These peas are found in thickets on roadsides and fields in the southern states and up into Indiana and Missouri. The look like any garden pea and they have great value as a food. They can be eaten green or after theyíve been dried.

 

Photo is of bloom, peas ripen into long yellow or light brown pods.

Vicia cracca

 

Taraxacum officinale

DANDELION

This plant can be used as a potherb, in salad, and as a coffee substitute. Young leaves can be picked in early spring before the plant has flowered to add to salads, it can also be used in replace of spinach. The leaves should be boiled in two waters to rid bitterness. The roots can be ground to make a bitter coffee, and eaten for survival during a famine. Dandelion greens also have a tremendous amount of Vitamin A (25 times that of tomato juice and 50 times that of asparagus).

An infusion (see "Sip Or Smear") helps with tummy problems and mild dysfunction in the urinary system. Drink 3-4 cups of tea per day as long as the problem persists. Cooled tea may be used as a wash for vaginal infections. Fresh juice from a broken stem, applied topically, should ease the pain of a blister.


 

DAYLILY

This plant has unspotted, tawny blossoms that open for 1 day only. It has long, swordlike, green basal leaves. Its root is a mass of swollen and elongated tubers.

 Daylilies are found worldwide in Tropic and Temperate Zones. They are grown as a vegetable in the Orient and as an ornamental plant elsewhere.

The young green leaves are edible raw or cooked. Tubers are also edible raw or cooked. You can eat its flowers raw, but they taste better cooked. You can also fry the flowers for storage

 

 

GINSENG

Ginseng is found in rich woods in the eastern US, but is nearly extinct in the wild. It can be used as food during a famine or emergency and for tea. It has a starchy quality when eaten raw, but is good when boiled in salty water. Itís root is edible as well as aromatic. The leaves can be make into a good tea.
Aralia racemosa

Aralia racemosa


 

Arctium minus

GREAT BURDOCK

Burdock is commonly found around abandoned buildings and manure piles and in residential yards in the northern US and in southern Canada. Peel the shoots and it can be eaten raw or with salad and vinegar. The stocks can be boiled or fried in butter. The peeled roots can be boiled in salt and pepper. Burdock can even be mashed into cakes and fried in butter.

 


 

LAMBíS QUARTERS

Commonly regarded as a weed, this plant can be found in Europe and North America in damp or acidic soils from spring to fall. Lambís quarters can be eaten as a steamed vegetable or in soups and salads. In the summer it can be used as a potherb and in place of spinach.

Lamb's Quarters is a common weed which grows up to six feet tall. It can be identified by its stems, which have red streaks, and by its leaves, which are either triangular or diamond-shaped.

Leaves are up to four inches long, have a few teeth on the edges, and are white underneath.

Lamb's Quarters flowers are tiny and green, and they bloom in clusters.  Clusters are on spikes. These plants bloom from June to October.

 

 


 

Opuntia humifusa

PRICKLY PEAR

This plant bears delicious fruit in the south and can be found in sandy, dry and rocky soils. It looks like a cactus and the surface is covered with tufts of red brown tiny barbed bristles. The flowers are yellow with red centers. The parched seeds can be pulverized to make a soup thickening agent. The thick branches can be roasted in hot ashes and peeled to make a edible pulp.

 

PURSLANE

This plant grows close to the ground. It is seldom more than a few centimeters tall. Its stems and leaves are fleshy and often tinged with red. It has paddleshaped leaves, 2.5 centimeter or less long, clustered at the tips of the stems. Its flowers are yellow or pink. Its seeds are tiny and black.

It grows in full sun in cultivated fields, field margins, and other weedy areas throughout the world.

All parts are edible. Wash and boil the plants for a tasty vegetable or eat them raw. Use the seeds as a flour substitute or eat them raw

 

 

 


 

Cirsium pumilum

THISTLES

Thistles have spiny tipped leaves and a red purple flower, and are found in fields across the United States. They can be used as potherb and in salads. Make sure to clip the spines off of the leaves before putting them in a salad. The roots can also be cooked and eaten too. A good way to prepare thistles is to first clip of the leaves, then peal off the seedy rind, cut up whatís left and boil in salty water for five minutes or longer.

 

Viola conspersa

VIOLET

Violets have leaves and flowers that are edible and they can also be used to thicken soup. Young leaves can be used in salads, and the flowers can be used in jams. They can be used to thicken soups and may be added to wild okra and lambís quarter.

 

GARLIC, WILD

This plant can be easily recognized by itís potent and prevailing smell in rich meadows and alluvial woods in a variety of climatic conditions. It is used as a potherb, to treat wounds, to ease and prevent colds, and as a natural antibiotic. The bulbs are best tasting in the autumn or early spring, bulbettes are best in May or June, and young leaves used for seasoning are best picked in the early summer.

Allium canadense


 

 

WILD ONION

 

This plant is found in prairies, dry meadows, woodlands, and rocky slopes, and is easily identified by itís smell. It can also be recognized by itís white bellshaped flower atop a three to four inch stem. Pick the onion before flowering, strip the outer coats, trim the wilted leaves and then boil in salted water. The onion can also be used to season meats and other foods.

Juice from crushing wild (or domestic) onions or leeks applied to scalds and burns can reduce damage to the flesh and reduce pain. A decoction aids in the relief of sore throats and coughs. A poultice ("Sip Or Smear") eases the itch of bug: bites.

 

WILD COMFREY (Symphytum officinale)

Region: Northeast
Habitat: Moist areas such as along streams or near lakes
Description: Coarse, hairy perennial with spear-shaped leaves (reminiscent of donkey ears) and white to purple, curling bell-like flowers; 1 to 3 feet tall
Uses: Make a tea ("Sip Or Smear") from the leaves and apply it as needed to wounds, burns, insect bites and stings to ease discomfort, fight inflammation, and speed healing.

 

Don't drink the tea; experts say it may be carcinogenic when ingested.

Fullsize image of Symphytum officinale

 


 

Fullsize image of Equisetum arvense

HORSETAIL (Equisetum arvense)

Boil the plant in water to a decoction (see "Sip Or Smear") and apply topically to wounds to speed healing. Horsetail will also decrease bleeding from wounds. The decoction can be ingested to treat ulcers and kidney problems.

 

JUNIPER (Juniperus communis)

Region: From Canada south to Appalachians, west to Nebraska, and in southern Rockies
Habitat: Dry hillsides
Description: A shrub or tree with sharp needles and small, hard, pea-sized, blue-black berries covered with a whitish powder.
Uses: The little aromatic berries of the juniper make a tea high in vitamin C that can help ward off or treat colds, other infections and arthritic pain. It may also help with stomach cramps. Juniper tea has long been sipped by Native Americans to minimize the ill effects of a poison, including snakebites. Ten to 12 berries per cup of water boiled makes a strong enough brew to drink.
Warning: DO NOT EAT THE BERRIES OR ANY PART OF THE JUNIPER PLANT. This can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and possibly death when too many berries are ingested.

Fullsize image of Juniperus communis


 

NETTLE (Urtica dioica)

Region: Different species grow across throughout North America and all have medicinal benefits
Habitat: Moist soil
Description: An erect, un-branched weed covered with stinging hairs, nettles also have small greenish flowers in clusters where the upper paired leaves attach; 12 to 50 inches tall
Uses: A cure-all among old world remedies, nettles are best when gathered (with care) in spring and early summer. Boil the leaves, stems and roots before adding honey or sugar for a tea (see "Sip or Smear") that clears congested lungs. Nettle tea may also be sipped for upset stomach, diarrhea, or general aches and pains. A decoction of leaves and roots makes an excellent wash for infected wounds when used liberally.

Many people like to steam the leaves to eat like spinach, or simmer them in soup. The young shoots are actually quite rich in vitamin C.

 

Red clover flowers

RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense)

Region: North America
Habitat: Fields and beside trails
Description: A stout plant with leaflets in threes and reddish flower heads at the tops of stalks; 2 to 18 inches tall
Uses: When brewed as a mild-tasting tea, red clover flowers work as a sedative. Mixed with honey, the tea helps calm a cough. A red clover flower poultice can ease the discomfort of athlete's foot.

 


 

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Region: West
Habitat: Arid environs
Description: Soft, pale green leaves that have a distinctive aroma when crushed; 24 to 32 inches tall
Uses: Sage leaves can be applied topically to stop bleeding. Chew a few fresh leaves for sores in the mouth. Sage tea (brewed from a handful of leaves) is good for treating colds, coughs, flu and fever, an upset stomach and, for some people, a headache. After cooling, the tea also makes a good wound disinfectant.



SHEEP SORREL

These plants are seldom more than 30 centimeters tall. They have alternate leaves, often with arrowlike bases, very small flowers, and frequently reddish stems.

Look for these plants in old fields and other disturbed areas in North America and Europe.

The plants are edible raw or cooked

 

 


 

SASSAFRAS

This shrub or small tree bears different leaves on the same plant. Some leaves will have one lobe, some two lobes, and some no lobes. The flowers, which appear in early spring, are small and yellow. The fruits are dark blue. The plant parts have a characteristics root beer smell.

Sassafras grows at the margins of roads and forests, usually in open, sunny areas. It is a common tree throughout eastern North America.

The young twigs and leaves are edible fresh or dried. You can add dried young twigs and leaves to soups. Dig the underground portion, peel off the bark, and let it dry. Then boil it in water to prepare sassafras tea.

Shred the tender twigs for use as a toothbrush.

 

 


 

STRAWBERRY (Fragaria sp.)

Region: Most U.S. regions, including High Rockies
Habitat: Different species (mountain strawberry and wood strawberry, for example) grow wild in shady, wooded areas or open fields.
Description: A low-growing plant with three saw-toothed leaflets and a small recognizable berry in season; 3 to 6 inches tall
Uses: Steep a handful of leaves and roots and drink the pleasant-tasting tea to relieve an upset stomach or diarrhea.



Water Lily Nymphaea odorata

These plants have large, triangular leaves that float on the water's surface, large, fragrant flowers that are usually white, or red, and thick, fleshy rhizomes that grow in the mud.

The flowers, seeds, and rhizomes are edible raw or cooked. To prepare rhizomes for eating, peel off the corky rind. Eat raw, or slice thinly, allow to dry, and then grind into flour. Dry, parch, and grind the seeds into flour.

Use the liquid resulting from boiling the thickened root in water as a medicine for diarrhea and as a gargle for sore throats.

 


 

YARROW (Achillea millefolium)

Region: North America (look for regional names like milfoil and thousand-leaf)
Habitat: Fields, along trails, and in grass meadows
Description: An herb with white flowers in flat umbrella-like clusters at the top of the stalks, and narrow, wooly, and fragrant leaves; 1 to 3 feet tall
Uses: The many leaves of the yarrow can be applied topically to bleeding cuts and scrapes to stimulate clotting. A tea from the flowers helps you fight diarrhea, colds, flu, and fever, and generally gives you a boost in staying well. Or sip a cup when you have a headache. Try the tea with a dab of honey.

·         A piece of the plant held against a wound will staunch bleeding.

·         An infusion can help to break a fever.

·         A tea made from yarrow with peppermint and elderflower can be used to fight colds and flu.

·         Yarrow can be of benefit in mild cystitis.

·         Promotes digestion.

·         Improves circulation by acting as a vasodilator.

·         Lowers blood pressure.

Do Not Use During Pregnancy

 


 

Wild flowers of the UK, Plantago major

COMMON PLANTAIN (Plantago major)

Habitat: Most moist environments, especially where the soil has been disturbed, such as alongside trails
Description: A low-growing plant having multiple broad, laterally grooved leaves growing from the roots and a few grooved stalks
Uses: Bruised or cooked leaves are applied topically to wounds to speed healing and reduce swelling. The common and narrowleaf plaintain (Plantago lanceolata) have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

The young tender leaves are edible raw. Older leaves should be cooked. Seeds are edible raw or roasted.

To relieve pain from wounds and sores, wash and soak the entire plant for a short time and apply it to the injured area. To treat diarrhea, drink tea made from 28 grams (1 ounce) of the plant leaves boiled in 0.5 liter of water. The seeds and seed husks act as laxatives.

Also, the Common Plantain is said to have strong smoking aversion properties. Itís a good aid the cessation of smoking addiction.



WILD SORREL

Wood sorrel resembles shamrock or four-leaf clover, with a bell-shaped pink, yellow, or white flower.

You can cook the entire plant, especially good boiled in vegetable stock or chicken bouillion. 

Throughout the summer and autumn in damp deciduous woods, wood sorrel covers the ground with its distinctive dark green heart-shaped leaves in trios; the leaf underside is a reddish-purple. Like the unrelated ďtrueĒ sorrels, it has a tart, sour lemony flavor from the oxalic acid content. While frequent consumption is not recommended, wood sorrel makes a refreshing cold soup or sauce for fish and adds interest in salad as a raw herb.

 


 


 

ROSE HIPS (Rosa sp.)


Region: Throughout the United States
Habitat: Various species of wild roses can be found growing year-round.
Description: A bristly or thorny shrub with a pink or deep rose flower and bright red hips (the fruit that appears after the flowers drop), which cling to the plant all winter
Uses: Potent with vitamins C, A, and E, wild rose hips can be eaten or steeped into a tea to aid in recovery from colds, flu, or a sore throat. The tea is also useful as a mild laxative or a pick-me-up after a hard day on the trail.

 

WILD GRAPE

 

The wild grape vine climbs with the aid of tendrils. Most grape vines produce deeply lobed leaves similar to the cultivated grape. Wild grapes grow in pyramidal, hanging bunches and are black-blue to amber, or white when ripe.

The ripe grape is the portion eaten. Grapes are rich in natural sugars and, for this reason, are much sought after as a source of energy-giving wild food. None are poisonous.

You can obtain water from severed grape vine stems. Cut off the vine at the bottom and place the cut end in a container. Make a slant-wise cut into the vine about 1.8 meters upon the hanging part. This cut will allow water to flow from the bottom end. As water diminishes in volume, make additional cuts further down the vine