Form Edible Wild Plants | Trails.com
Several types of kelp can be found along the Oregon coastline. The two most common types, giant kelp and bull kelp, are both edible. They can be identified by their long, dirty yellow blades and round floating bladders. In the case of giant kelp, each blade has its own floating bladder, whereas bull kelp has a larger bladder further down the plant's stalk. Kelp should be cleaned, then eaten raw or boiled.
Dandelions, those ever-present weed flowers, can be used in a variety of ways. Easily identified by their slightly spiky, scalloped leaves and puffy yellow flowers, the dandelion flower, leaf and root can all be eaten. Dandelions can be eaten raw or cooked.
The dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) is a common weed that can be eaten raw when it first breaks the surface of the ground, or older leaves can be boiled in water and enjoyed as a cooked vegetable. Because the dandelion is so common and easy to identify, this is a good place to begin with the consumption of wild greens. The flowers are good fried, or you can even make dandelion wine.
Also known as fiddleheads, the ostrich fern can grow to a height of 5 feet. They look like coiled tentacles, with a bunched center. Collect the top coils and scrape away any brown patches. Steam or fry and serve buttered.
This tree grows up to 20 feet in height and is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest. Branches are composed of short needles with blue berries. The berries are edible, but cause nausea in some people. A better edible opportunity is the plant's inner bark, which can be chewed. Be careful not to confuse juniper with western yew or cedar, both of which have different colored berries and cones.
While many of the plants described can be found across the country, camas is exclusive the Pacific Northwest, running from Washington to Northern California. The plant has a large bunch of small blue flowers at the top, often shaped roughly into a cone or torch shape. Found in swamps and damp lowlands, the camas plant can be dug up to reveal white bulbs. These bulbs can be prepared like potatoes after washing off the dirt. Take care not to confuse common camas with another type of camas known as "death camas." Again, knowledge and proper identification are key!
Cattails (Typha latifolia) has been nicknamed the "supermarket of the great outdoors," because so many parts of the plant are edible. The young, round stems that rise from the base of the plant are edible after the outside layer has been peeled off. The inside shoot can be boiled and eaten. The plant is easily identified by the sausage-shaped spikes that form on the tips of a long, narrow stem and by the fact that it grows at the edge of most marshes.
Wild grasses are an overlooked food source that is abundant, easy to identify and nutritious. Some mature grasses are bitter, but the fresh shoots are often edible raw. If it is late in the year, the seeds can be consumed as well for extra protein. Grasses should be eaten in the early stage of growth (shoots), and they can be boiled first if the taste is slightly bitter.
Make a healthy green tea by boiling the green needles of any North American pine tree. This tea is full of vitamin C and makes a tasty addition to your selection of wild greens.
Watercress (Nasturcium officinale) is a good choice for a green supplement to a camper's or hiker's diet, as long as you make sure the plant is taken from clean and unpolluted water. This is imperative. Watercress is edible and succulent all summer long. You can find watercress growing on top of small springs and brooks. It is a leafy plant that forms a mat on slow-moving water. If there is any doubt about the condition of the water, pass it up or boil the plant in water several times.
Every acorn from an oak tree is edible and high in protein. The acorns from pin and white oaks can even be eaten raw, and the rest are ready for consumption after boiling in several changes of water (to eliminate the bitter-tasting tannic acid). White oaks can be identified by their blunt-tipped leaves and pin oaks get their name from the dead branches that protrude, like pins, from their trunk. All acorns are a great survival food. A handful delivers the same nutrition as a pound of ground beef.
These are fairly common along the Coast and inland valleys of the Pacific Northwest. Identified by their thorn covered vines and black (when ripe) berries.
Grow deep and high in the North Cascades. The berries are significantly smaller than their commercial counterparts but are packed with flavor. Plants are often found along with the thimble berry.
The flavor is sweet yet tart. A close cousin of the raspberry, thimbleberry bushes have no thorns, only wide, soft, beckoning leaves surrounding small clusters of berries. The ripe berries are dark, bright red; don’t bother picking these unripe. The nearly-flat cup-shaped berry slides off the star-shaped base easily. These start ripening in June or July and keep going at later elevations all summer long. They grow in disturbed or undisturbed soil and at low and high elevations. The fruit is best when the plant gets sunlight.
Those from the East Coast or the Midwest might be familiar with this berry’s very close cousin, Eastern Black Raspberry, or Rubus occidentalis. Black raspberries are hard to find out here, but I’ve spotted them in the central and eastern parts of the Cascades. Like a red raspberry, the fruit slides off the stem, leaving a cup-shaped berry. Look for leaves that are jagged with deeper grooves than a blackberry’s. The berry is raspberry shaped and black. The flavor is extraordinary, sweet and slightly wine-y. They are less juicy than raspberries, though, and a bit more seedy. This plant is determinate, although the Eastern variety is a creeping one. Ripeness depends on elevation; they are most common in early to mid July, but high elevation ones will ripen later.
We have four or five different varieties in the Northwest. The best are in the mountains in sunny or semi-sunny areas. They grow best in well-drained soil, so look for them on slopes. The higher the elevation -- which also means the shorter the bush -- the better the berry. The berries have a classic slightly-flattened circular area on one side, like a blueberry but slightly more pronounced. They range in color from dusty medium blue to deep blackish-purple. The deeply colored ones taste like wine. Huckleberries have slightly pointed to very pointed ovular leaves with serrated edges, and branches that stick out at an angle. The plants get a lot of fruit. This is the best picking berry, in my opinion. Amazing flavor, lots of fruit, and they grow in scenic places you can’t get to most of the year. Look for these starting in mid-August. They’re ripe through late September.
They grow on taller bushes with thick, evergreen, classically-shaped vaccinium leaves (pointy, very serrated) and large clusters of very dark berries. These are wonderful, and if you run into some when they’re ripe, you’ll get a lot of berries. I’ve found them in lowland areas on the Kitsap Peninsula and southern Olympic Peninsula. They’re wonderful. The berries are ripe in August and September.
Salal are related to blueberries and huckleberries, belonging to the same family, the Ericaceae. The berries are slightly puffy and fuzzy, but have a blueberry-like taste. They bake well, and make excellent pies. Look for them in August and September in low-lying areas with at least partial sunlight. You can find them in the city.
Mushrooms are plentiful in the moist raiforests of the Pacific Northwest, but I recommend you be cautious on the very conservative side when harvesting and eating mushrooms. Identification can be tricky and one mistake and be potentially deadly.
One variety that is easily identified is the Hedgehog. From http://www.oregonwild.org/about/blog/motw-9-easy-to-spot-hedgehog
, "One of the more abundant, and fine tasting mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest is the Hedgehog Mushroom, Hydnum (Dentinum) repandum, and its smaller, closely related cousin Hydnum umbilicatum, the Small Hedgehog Mushroom. This mushroom maybe the world’s easiest to identify because of its profusion of small (white to tan) crowded spines (instead of blade like gills) on the under surface of the mushroom cap."