Edible Plants

Wild parsnip, burdock, and wild carrots grow in disturbed soil along forest edges, trails, and fields throughout North America. Always wear gloves and dig them out with your trowel or a sharpened stick. To learn more: Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places by Steve Brill.

Wild Parsnip, Steve Brill

Wild Parsnip, Steve Brill

Wild Parsnip: Jagged leaflets sprout from multiple tiers on stalks up to 5 feet tall. The single, white taproot is distinct from the finger-like root bundles found in the toxic water hemlock. Harvest in late winter from wetlands and fields. Caution: Wear gloves to avoid a blistering toxin released by its leaves.

Burdock, Steve Brill

Burdock, Steve Brill

Burdock: Long-stalked, wedge-shaped leaves grow in clusters up to 4 feet long and 3 feet across. Leaf undersides are densely wooly. The white taproot extends 6 inches to 2 feet down in soil. Harvest in the spring and fall before spiky purple flowers and burrs appear in late spring during its second year.

Wild Carrot, Steve Brill

Wild Carrot, Steve Brill

Wild Carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace): Feathery green leaves with fuzzy stalks resemble carrot tops. The taproot is whitish, carrot-scented, and 9 inches long. White, umbrella-like flowers sprout in year two. Harvest in spring and late fall. Caution: The toxic water hemlock looks similar, but has hairless stalks and no carrot odor.

From Backpacker Magazine

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by outdoorota on October 5, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Great post! A+ The caution that the toxic water hemlock looks just like the wild carrot kind of creeps me out…


  2. Posted by Mark R. on October 13, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Very interesting article! I will have to watch for these plants now. I have found wild strawberries and cherries before and they were delicious. In addition, I have once before come across beauriful red berries of the Guelder Rose. They may be plump full of vitamin C, but their taste isn’t my favorite and I would rather leave them for the other animals to eat.

    I have done much reading about edible mushrooms, but from what I have read it seems there are a lot harmful species as well. Not sure if I want to take the chance of eating a wild mushroom yet.


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