Wild Edible Plants of the Whitmire Wildflower Garden

Wild Onion (Allium canadense)

USES: Vegetable, salad.

PARTS USED: Bulbs, Leaves.  Gather the whole plant like scallions, before the flower stalk appears (May-June).

Remove the tough outer layers and use only the tender, inner parts.  Boil these for 1/2hour in water salted to taste.  Serve hot with butter or add to any dish.

Identification information

 

Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)

USES: Fruit.

PARTS USED: Fruit, leaves. Fruits ripen June through August They are dark purple, sweet, and juicy. Fruit can be eaten raw, cooked, or dried.  The leaves are dried for tea.

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Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

USES: Vegetable.

PARTS USED: Shoots, leaves, unopen flower bud and young pods. The young shoots, up to six inches, make a very passable vegetable to serve like asparagus. The unopened flower buds are eaten like broccoli, the young  pods can be cooked like okra.  Milkweed is very bitter and this must be removed by boiling water in order to enjoy.  Place parts into a pot, cover with boiling water (do not place in cold water first) boil one minute, drain and cover with  fresh boiling water and return to heat. Repeat process three times. After vegetable has boiled about ten minutes, season and serve.

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Paw paw (Asimina triloba)

USES: Fruit, breads

PARTS USED: The sweet and highly flavored yellow pulp that surrounds the large brown seeds. The fruit tastes and smells tropical and has a smooth yellowish-green skin which turns brown a few days after the fruit is picked.  The best paw paws are often gathered from the ground and best eaten when soft and ripe.

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Ground plum milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus)

USES: Fruit.

PARTS USED: Unripe green fruit which resemble small plums may be eaten raw or cooked

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Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)

USES: Vegetable.

PARTS USED:  Roots.  A sweet starchy root that tastes somewhat like a sweet potato.  The root is about the size of a carrot and is harvested in late summer or fall.

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Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

USES: Vegetable.

PARTS USED:  Leaves and roots.  Young edible leaves and plants are gathered in spring.  This is one of the first spring wildflowers to see in bloom. The flowers have small pinkish-white petals.  The plant is four to five inches tall.  Spring tubers grow about three or four inches below the ground and have unusual shapes. They range in size from 1/4 inch to two inches.  They are enclosed in a jacket somewhat like our potato.  Boil them for 10-15 minutes in salted water. When cool enough to handle, peel off and enjoy.  They can be fried, mashed, eaten in salads and cooked with peas like new potatoes.  When gathering, take only the large tubers and replant the smaller ones for  future growth.

Identification information

 

Hazelnut (Corylus americana)

USES: Nuts.

PARTS USED: Nut.  Gather in late summer or fall.  They can be eaten fresh, ground into meal or cooked.  Hazelnuts are very tasty and the wild ones seem to have even more flavor than the domesticated European cultivars.

 

Green Hawthorn (Crataegus viridus)

USES: Fruit

PARTS USED:  Mature fruits.  Gather in August and September when fruits are 1/4 to 1-1/4 inches in diameter and leave a golden stain on your fingers.  Cooked fruit mashed into a pulp can be sweetened to make butter.

Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)

USES: Fruit, bread, pies, candy, jelly, butter. 

PARTS USED: Fruit.  They must be soft and mushy to be good, gather in late fall. Shake the tree to encourage the ripe ones to fall off.

Identification information

 

Sunflower (Helianthus spp.)

USES: Seed, tuber.

PARTS USED: Sunflower seeds, when ripe, make a nutritional and tasty snack; Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosa) has fleshy tubers that can be collected in the fall and cooked as one would cook a potato or used raw sliced into salads.

Identification information

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

USES: Nuts.

PARTS USED: Nuts gathered in October-December.  This nut has a very hard husk which is best removed by force. Always wear rubber gloves. The freshly hulled nut will leave a brown stain that is almost impossible to remove. There is no short cut way of shelling them. Use a heavy hammer and a nutpick and the rest of it is just work.  The flavor of black walnut combines so well with chocolate that this is the best nut used in fudge.  It is also good in cake, cookie, nut-bread or muffin recipes.

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Wood Nettle (Laportea canadensis)

USES: Vegetable.

PARTS USED: Young shoots.  Gather nettles April-May when shoots are no more than 6-8 inches tall.  Care must be taken in picking the nettles by using gloves and snippers, because this hairy plant causes a stinging sensation when it rubs against exposed ankles, legs or any skin.  Cook  for a few minutes and add butter.  The fibers of this plant are similar to flax or linen and the roots produce a yellow dye.

Identification information

 

Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa)

USES:  Vegetable.

PARTS USED: ripe fruit, pads, buds and flowers (summer). Raw prickly pear pads taste similar to raw okra or cucumber; pads can be prepared by boiling, which loosens the skin, so that it and the prickles can be easily removed, then the soft pulpy interior can be fried for an excellent dish. The flower buds (once despined) can be roasted and cooked in stews.  Seeds (gathered in the fall) can be dried then roasted and ground for soup.

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Wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea)

USES: Lemon substitue.

PARTS USED: The leafs have a tart taste, somewhat like lemon, and can be used in salads, to make a fish sauce or brewed fresh for tea. Use sparingly because the leaves have a high oxalic acid content.

Identification information

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

USES: Fruit, pie, marmalade, drink.

PARTS USED: ripe fruit. Size and taste of a lemon . Gather July-Aug. from the  ground, fruit has thick flesh that surrounds the many seeds and is particularly sweet.

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Wild Plum (Prunus americana)

USES: Raw fruit, jelly.

PARTS USED: fruit. Gather ripe fruit midsummer to fall. Use either fresh or dried. Cook in sauces or for jelly. Wild plum is like a tart cherry in shape and taste.

 

Chokecherry (Prunus Virginiana)

USES: Jelly, preserves.

PARTS USED: Cherries.  Gather in spring. Bitter in  taste. Fruits mainly used in jelly especially with apple juice.

 

Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra)

USES: Drink, jelly.

PARTS USED: Berries collected in summer and fall can be dried and stored through winter. Stir or mash them for several minutes in water. Strain the liquid through cheese cloth several times to remove the fine hairs, and sweeten remaining liquid.  The juice from the sumac berries makes a jelly worthy of a meat complement.

Identification information

 

Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense)

USES: Fruit.

PARTS USED:  Berries, leaves.  A sour tart berry that can be eaten when still green.  Both stem and whiskers remain on the flowering end of the berry and must be plucked off before using in pies or cobblers.  Jelly can also be made from the green berry.  The ripe reddish or purple berry does not have the tangy tartness and is preferred by some in the pie.  The leaves may be used raw in a tossed salad or slaw.  The young dried leaves may be used for making tea. Pick the young leaves and allow three months to dry.

Identification information

 

Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)

USES: Jam, pie syrup, tea. 

PARTS USED: Berry, leaves. Berry ripens in June. The fruits turn from green to white to red to a purple-black.  Best berry for enjoying with cream and sugar or as a topping with your cereal.  Superb pie, can be frozen for future use.  Leaves dried for tea.

Identification information

 

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

USES: Fruit, jam

PARTS USED: Berries. One of natures richest sources of vitamin C. More than citrus fruits or tomatoes.  Can be gathered when ripe in late summer or fall.  Used raw, although somewhat bitter, juice often made into jelly or wine.  The mildly flavored flowers can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters.

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Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)

USES: Tea.

PARTS USED: Roots and leaves.  The roots pulled from the ground in early spring while ground is still soft is best, smaller roots are preferable.  Scrub the roots thoroughly and cut them in pieces.  Use them fresh or let them dry for later use. Put roots in a kettle, add a bit more water than you want tea, and boil until it turns a nice red color. Sweeten to taste.  The same roots can be used to make tea several times before the flavor is expended.

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False Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina racemosa)

USES:   Vegetable, berry. 

PARTS USED: Shoots, berries. Gather shoots late March through early May.  False Solomon’s seal has a flower cluster at the top of the stem.  The young shoots look like asparagus and can be eaten as such.  Cut off the young shoots, cook for five minutes in boiling water and serve with butter.  They can also be used in a casserole.  The berries, which are white when unripe, turn a reddish-purple splotched when ripe.  The berries may be eaten raw. Eat with other fruit or honey,  they aid constipation.

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Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana, T. bracteata)

USES: Salad, potherb.

PARTS USED: Flowers, leaves and stem.  Gather young stems and leaves (spring) and use raw in salads or cooked.  Good potherb fixed alone or with other greens, does not need to cook long, just boil in salted water for a few minutes, strain, and serve with butter.  Best to gather March-June.  The flowers are used raw to garnish salads.

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Bellflower (Uvularia grandiflora

USES: Salad, vegetable.

PARTS USED: flower, root, branches. The flower is eaten as a green or vegetable while young.  The root is edible in september and the branches from the rootstalk are edible raw in a salad.

Identification information

 

Violets (Viola spp.)

USES: Salad, confection, jelly. 

PARTS USED: Leaves, flowers.  Leaves and petals of the spring flower may be added to a salad and eaten raw. Leaves thicken soup. Dip petals in stiff egg white, roll in sugar and dry. Some yellow flower species are not recommended for culinary use.

Identification information