100 plus wild edible plants to forage – forager’s bucket list

Edible wild plants include more than just the occasional harvest of wild blackberries and dandelion greens.  Serious foragers seek out all manner of unique edible wild foods, from greens and herbs, to berries, roots, bark, pollen, mushrooms, and more.

A decade ago I was working in a soul-sucking 9 to 5 desk job, and every single day after work I’d slip on my boots and head out foraging.  Sometimes, I’d take a long lunch and hike the trails around my non-descript office building searching for choice wild edible plants (and I found plenty).

I remember one time I got back just in time to slip back into my professional shoes, and then head right into giving an hour-long presentation to a room full of department VP’s at my large company.  No one seemed to notice that my hands were stained with wild elderberry juice that wouldn’t wash off, or at least they were polite enough not to mention it.

Hazards of foraging…but I had my priorities. 

I knew I couldn’t give presentations forever, and 10 years ago I traded in my corporate skirts for hiking pants and I haven’t looked back. 

True, there are a lot more ticks out in the woods than an office building, but there’s also freedom, fresh air, and an unbelievable sense of accomplishment that comes from finding a new edible wild plant that’s been on your bucket list forever.

Each year I try to find and identify as many new wild plants as possible, and I usually add a dozen or more to my growing list.  Still, there are so many I’ve yet to find, and I’ve decided to put my “foraging bucket list” all in one place.

I know I’m not the only passionate forager, treating wild plants like Pokemon and trying to “catch them all.”  Hopefully, this list is useful to others as well. 

Edible Wild Plants. Left to right, Top Row: Serviceberries, Barberries, Dandelion, Highbush Cranberry Bottom Row: Chokecherries, Wild Grapes, Gooseberry and Nannyberries

I’m hoping to use this as the start of a dialogue between myself, and you the readers, my fellow wild plant lovers.  

Though I know many wild edible plants, it’s just the beginning of what’s available in the abundant world we inhabit.  I’m sure I’ve missed MANY choice wild edibles, and I’d love it if you’d leave me a note in the comments so I can add them to the list (for myself, and everyone else who chooses to use this as a resource).

This list tries to cover both edible and medicinal wild plants, since there’s considerable overlap between the two groups.  Many tasty edible plants also happen to be consumed for medicinal benefits, food is medicinal after all.  Be aware that some of them are only used topically for medicine, and should not be consumed.  Be sure to do your research on how each of these plants is used before harvesting.

I’ve already found most of these plants, and written up foraging guides on quite a few of them.  If you see links within the text, that’ll take you to my guide to identifying and using that plant or mushroom.  I’m hoping to write up 52 more this year, one a week…it’s an ambitious goal and if I make 30 I’ll call it a win.

Just about all of these plants are located in the Northeast, though most are common enough that they’re available throughout most of the United States (and elsewhere). 

List of Edible Wild Plants (Mushrooms too!)

I’ve broken this list of edible wild foods into categories to make it a bit easier to digest.

Some categories are only a starting point, as there are literally hundreds of edible wild grains and seeds, and I only list a handful.  I’d encourage you to help fill in the gaps by leaving me a note in the comments, and I’ll add each one until together we’ve made a much more comprehensive list.  (At initial publishing, I’ve already got 180 species…so it’s a great start!)

Here are my categories (in order, so you can scroll to the one you’d like):

  • Weeds and Medicinal Herbs
  • Berries and Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Roots and Tubers
  • Freshwater Plants
  • Sea Vegetables
  • Spices
  • Grains and Seeds
  • Pollen
  • Wild Mushrooms
  • Lichen

If you’re new to foraging, I’d strongly recommend getting a few good foraging guidebooks to get you started.  My absolute favorites are by Sam Thayer, and all three of his are exceptional.  I’d also recommend The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora, and anything by Pascal Baudar.  As to courses, if you can find a local course or guide that’s always ideal, but lacking that hands-on option, I’d strongly recommend the online courses by the Herbal Academy of New England

They have a Botany and Wildcrafting Course that’s perfect for beginners and gives you a solid foundation into plant identification.  They also have a mushroom course that will teach you how to find and identify dozens of types of common edible and medicinal mushrooms.

Edible Weeds and Medicinal Herbs

There are literally hundreds of species of edible weeds and wild medicinal herbs here in New England alone, so this is just a start. 

Help me out here and leave me some in the comments to add to my list.

A spread of edible weeds including dandelion, pineapple weed, sorrel, mallow, clover, lambs quarter, and more.A spread of edible weeds including dandelion, pineapple weed, sorrel, mallow, clover, lambs quarter, and more.

Edible Wild Berries and Fruit

My family is particularly passionate about wild fruit, and it’s easy to be when you’re foraging with kids.  It’s a lot easier to get a toddler excited about going out to forage wild raspberries than it is to get them to dig burdock roots…

I can’t blame them, I love sweet wild fruits and berries as much as anyone.

Wild Foraged Fruit. Left to right, starting at top: Rosehips, Autumn Olive, Gooseberry, Serviceberry, Solomon’s Plume, Mulberries, Bunch Berries, Highbush Cranberry, and Wild Raisin.Wild Foraged Fruit. Left to right, starting at top: Rosehips, Autumn Olive, Gooseberry, Serviceberry, Solomon’s Plume, Mulberries, Bunch Berries, Highbush Cranberry, and Wild Raisin.

Edible Wild Nuts

Nuts are more exciting than wild fruit in some ways, at least to me.  They’re delicious for one, but they also store well. 

If you’re hoping to enjoy a wild foraged diet year-round, nuts are a great way to keep wild foods on your plate in the winter months.

It also helps that they’re protein-rich, which is lacking in most other wild-foraged crops (unless you’re foraging with a deer rifle…).

Wild Foraged Nuts. Clockwise from top left: Butternuts, Acorns, Chestnuts, Black Walnuts, husked Butternuts, and Beechnuts.Wild Foraged Nuts. Clockwise from top left: Butternuts, Acorns, Chestnuts, Black Walnuts, husked Butternuts, and Beechnuts.

Wild Edible Roots and Tubers

While leafy greens are tasty and the perfect treat in spring after a long winter on stored food, the roots and tubers are where the real calories are found.  These starchy parts of plants are where they store their nutrition (and sugars) for the next growing season.

You’ll find a lot more calories in potatoes than lettuce from the garden, and the same is true if you’re foraging.

As with any wild-foraged crop, there are plenty of toxic roots and tubers, so be careful here too.  Wild carrots may seem simple enough, but they do have a deadly toxic look alike.

Wild Edible Roots and tubers clockwise from top left: Dock (Rumex sp.), Sunchokes, Indian Cucumber Root, and Queen Anne’s LaceWild Edible Roots and tubers clockwise from top left: Dock (Rumex sp.), Sunchokes, Indian Cucumber Root, and Queen Anne’s Lace

Edible Freshwater Water Plants

Vermont is a very water-rich state, and with two little ones, I’m often down near the edge of ponds in the summertime.  Though there are many edible water plants in tropical locations, there are still quite a few you can find in temperate regions.

All of these edible water plants are available in the Northeast, and many other locations in the US as well.

  • Arrowhead, Duck Potato or Wopato (Sagittaria latifolia)
  • Cattail (Typha sp.)
  • Lotus, American (Nelumbo lutea)
  • Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)
  • Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)
  • Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)
  • Wild Rice (Zizania sp.)

Arrowhead growing near a local pond. It’s in a dry ditch in mid-summer drought, but that’ll fill back in during the next rain.Arrowhead growing near a local pond. It’s in a dry ditch in mid-summer drought, but that’ll fill back in during the next rain.

Edible Sea Vegetables

If you’re near the coast, there are quite a few coastal vegetables you can harvest from the sea.  You may already know about seaweed, but there are of course many more that have been harvested by coastal peoples for centuries.

I actually hadn’t thought about these much, until I saw a post from Black Forager where she’s harvesting all manner of sea vegetables on a trip to the Maine coast.

Since we live in a land-locked state, I don’t often get the opportunity for ocean foraging.  These are all yet to be checked off my bucket list…and the real list of options is definitely much longer.  (Please, coastal foragers, enlighten me!  Leave your favorites in the comments.)

  • Dulse (Palmaria palmata)
  • Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus) – Actually a species of red algae
  • Sea Kale (Crambe maritima)
  • Sea Lettuce (Ulva sp.)

Wild Spices

Sometimes you’re foraging for flavor more than calories, and there are plenty of wild seasoning to keep things interesting in the kitchen.

I’ve found this guide to substituting wild spices for conventional alternatives to be quite helpful, and it’s a great place to start if you’ve just harvested your first wild seasonings.

A handful of fir tips…mostly indistinguishable from spruce tips at this stage, but they have their own unique flavor.A handful of fir tips…mostly indistinguishable from spruce tips at this stage, but they have their own unique flavor.

Wild Grain and Seeds

While cultivated grains and seeds make up the majority of our diets these days, wild grains and seeds have added variety and nutrition to people’s diets for millennia.

Goosefoot seeds were mixed with other wild grains in the stomach of Dätgen Man, a body found preserved in a Danish bog from 300 BC, as well as several other preserved bog bodies throughout history.  At that point, there’s evidence that wild grains were already a large part of our diet. 

Acorns were processed more than 40,000 years ago, and grains are much easier to eat (without the leaching required to turn acorns into edible acorn flour), so you can bet they’ve been eaten for a lot longer than they’ve been cultivated.

This is a very abbreviated list of edible wild seeds and grains, and there are lots more.  Pascal Baudar estimates that there are over 200 species of wild seeds and grains that are (or were) eaten by humans on the west coast of the US alone, so there’s a lot more research to be done here.

  • Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.)
  • American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea)
  • Angelica (Angelica sp.)
  • Ash (Fraxinus sp.)
  • Black Mustard (Brassica nigra)
  • Black Sage (Salvia mellifera)
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • Caraway (Carum carvi)
  • Chia (Salvia columbariae)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • Claytonia (Claytonia perfoliata)
  • Cleavers (Galium sp.)
  • Crabgrass (Digitaria sp.)
  • Dock Seeds (Rumex sp.)
  • Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.)
  • Field Mustard (Brassica rapa)
  • Flax (Linum sp.)
  • Goosefoot Seed or Wild Quinoa (Chenopodium album)
  • Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera)
  • Hop Hornbeam (Ostrya sp.)
  • Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
  • Mallow (Malva sp.)
  • Maple (Acer sp.)
  • Millet (Panicum miliaceum)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Plantain (Plantago sp.)
  • Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
  • Rocky Mountain Pond Lily (Nuphar lutea)
  • Ryegrass (Elymus canadensis)
  • Sedge (Cyperaceae sp.)
  • Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus sp.)
  • Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
  • White Sage (Salvia apiana)
  • Wild Celery (Apium graveolens)
  • Wild Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Wild Mustard (Descurainia and Lepidium spp.)
  • Wild Oat (Avena sp.)

Wild Foraged Grains and Seeds. Clockwise from Top Left: Goosefoot (wild quinoa), plantain seed, dock seed, and prosso millet.Wild Foraged Grains and Seeds. Clockwise from Top Left: Goosefoot (wild quinoa), plantain seed, dock seed, and prosso millet.

Wild Edible Pollen

If you think pollen seems like a marginal wild food source, you’ve clearly never scrubbed pine pollen off your car in the spring.  Some plants are incredibly prolific, and it’s easy enough to collect pine and cattail pollen by the gallon.

Pollen is nutrient-dense, and it can be added to other dishes or used as a wild foraged flour substitute.

Some types of pollen are more for taste, and they’re only harvested in small amounts like fennel pollen.

  • Cattail Pollen (Typha sp.)
  • Fennel Pollen (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Pine Pollen (Pinus sp.)

Pine PollenPine Pollen

Edible Wild Mushrooms

Obviously start with the easy-to-identify, beginner mushrooms.  Once you have those under your belt, the sky’s the limit.

You can even forage more than a dozen species of mushrooms in the winter, even in cold climates like ours here in Vermont.

There are, of course, literally hundreds of edible species…and these are only some of the more common ones.  Please leave me a note with any of your favorites that I missed and I’ll gladly add them to the list.

Edible Wild Mushrooms, Clockwise from Top Left: Morels, Chanterelles, Lobster Mushrooms, and Pheasant Back Mushrooms.Edible Wild Mushrooms, Clockwise from Top Left: Morels, Chanterelles, Lobster Mushrooms, and Pheasant Back Mushrooms.

Edible Lichen

Believe it or not, there are many species of edible lichen, but just because you can eat something doesn’t mean you particularly want to.

Icelandic moss was traditionally processed with wood ash to and used to stretch flour stores during lean times.  Some like Kalpasi are used as traditional seasonings.  Other species are both edible and medicinal, like usnea and Wila.  I’m just beginning to explore the world of edible lichen, but here’s a few for starters.

Though their names sound a bit confusing, they are all in fact lichen (not moss or flowers).

  • Black Stone Flower or Kalpasi (Parmotrema perlatum)
  • Horsehair Lichen or Wila (Bryoria fremontii)
  • Icelandic Moss (Cetraria islandica)
  • Oakmoss (Evernia prunastri)
  • Reindeer Moss (Cladonia rangiferina)
  • Rock tripe (Umbilicaria sp.)
  • Usnea (Usnea sp.)

Usnea lichen on a downed pine tree.Usnea lichen on a downed pine tree.

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