The Wildlife Gourmet

A Brief Guide to Edible Plants

By Courtney Hageman

Whether you’re an avid camper, preparing for the zombie apocalypse, or somewhere in-between, being able to spot edible plants is a great life skill to have (just ask Bear Grylls). Here is a brief guide to common edible plants that you will find in the wild, all of which require little-to-no extra preparation.



Clover can be found anywhere where grass grows. This lucky green plant is rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, and has a variety of health benefits. Clover is known to help reduce inflammation, especially in lymph nodes and lungs. It also has been reported to help relieve acute arthritic pain.

Clover and red clover (the tiny red, sometimes purple, flower that is seen mixed in with clover leafs) are both edible. Red clover is a common ingredient used to make tea, and is believed to have blood-thinning capabilities. In order to use red clover for tea, it will need to be hung until it has dried out. Clover leaves can be eaten raw, but it is recommended that you boil it to help take out any bitterness.




Like clover, dandelions can be found wherever there is grass. While we typically associate this plant as a pesky weed that we spend hours removing from our lawns, it has a range of health benefits. Its most popular benefit is its ability to help detox the liver and kidneys. Dandelions also are rich in antioxidants, fiber and potassium.

The entire dandelion plant is edible, including the roots. It is strongly encouraged that you boil any part of the plant that you plan to eat in order to remove the plant’s extremely bitter taste. Both the dandelion’s flower and leaves are commonly used in salads, while the roots are boiled down and used in tea to help reduce inflammation and acute pain.


Prickly Pear Cactus


Found in America’s deserts, the prickly pear cactus offers a sweet and refreshing alternative to the edible plants mentioned above. A prickly pear is easy to spot thanks to its vibrant fuchsia and orange colors. Aside from its sweet flavor, the prickly pear fruit of a cactus also offers great health benefits, such as boosting one’s immune system, reducing inflammation and improving digestion.

First thing’s first: you will need to remove the tough, often spikey skin. Then you can eat the fruit as is, or you can remove the seeds and use a strainer to make juice.  The fruit itself is high in fiber and will help to satisfy your hunger throughout the day.


Wood Sorrel


One of the most common plants found worldwide, but not as commonly known, is wood sorrel. This plant is especially common in forests and grassy ecosystems. With its three, heart-shaped green leaves, it often is mistaken for clover. However its key difference is the tiny yellow or white flowers that grow with it. Just like clover, wood sorrel grows on the ground and is often mixed in with clover and grass.

Wood sorrel has a very sweet, almost citrusy, taste and is high in vitamin C. You can eat the leaves raw — just be sure to rinse them off as best you can. You also can eat the roots, in which case it is recommended that you boil them to soften them. The roots have a more starch-like quality compared to the leaves.

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