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Edible and Useful Wild Plants

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Why should backpackers learn about edible wild plants, and useful plants? Consider this; wouldn't it be nice, when you lose a tarp string, to know how to quickly find a plant that will provide a replacement? And of course, knowing the edible plants in the area could let you cut your pack weight too. I eat wild berries, greens, wild onions, wild currants, pine nuts and other edible wild plants along the trail all the time, allowing me to carry less food. I have eaten hundreds of calories in wild raspberries during a break, while hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Once, during a kayak trip on Lake Superior, a friend and I spent half a day stopping at every little island, to fill our stomachs with wild blueberries. We were almost out of food, so our foraging helped us get through the rest of the trip.

If you travel in isolated areas, you may want to learn to identify a few edible wild plants just to be safe also. You never know when you might be lost or injured. You may have planned the meals poorly, or maybe a bear will push you out of the way to gorge himself on all of your freeze-dried meals.

In an emergency survival situation, food isn't usually a priority (warmth and water are). Nonetheless, a pile of roasted cattail hearts sure will cheer you up and warm you up, and they even taste good. There is a confidence and comfort that comes from knowing how to provide for yourself in the wilderness.

This isn't necessarily the highlight of your trip, though. The point of learning about useful plants is to be safer and more at home in the wilderness. You'll also enjoy your backpacking more when you know that you won't be completely helpless the moment you lose your backpack, or a bear empties it for you.

Stay away from protected plants, of course, unless you are in a true life-or-death situation. And don't eat all the beautiful flowers, or kill off the lilies by eating all the bulbs. Use common sense. If you aren't sure if you're doing harm, stick to eating wild berries.

Below you'll find links to the individual edible plants and useful plants. Much of the information here is borrowed from the U.S. Army Survival Manual, but with with notes on my own experiences added. There is a photo for each plant listed, which may slow the loading time of the pages slightly, so give it a few seconds.

The Edible Plant Pages

Acacia

Agave

Amaranth

Arctic Willow

Arrowroot

Asparagus

Bearberry

Beech

Blackberry and Raspberry

Blueberry and Huckleberry

Burdock

Cattail

Chicory

Chufa

Cranberry

Crowberry

Dandelion

Daylily

Elderberry

Fireweed

Foxtail Grass

Hackberry

Hazelnut

Iceland Moss

Indian Potato

Juniper

Lotus

Marsh Marigold

Milkweed Plant

Mulberry

Nettle

Oak

Persimmon

Pine

Plantain

Prickly Pear Cactus

Purslane

Reed Grass

Reindeer Moss

Sheep Sorrel

Spatterdock

Thistle

Walnut

Water Lily

Wild Apple

Wild Dock

Wild Grape

Wild Onion

Wild Rice

Wild Rose

Wild Strawberry

Wood Sorrel

Edible Wild Berries

Berries We Ate on a Day Hike in Glacier National Park

Blueberries
Service Berries
Rose Hips
Blackberries
High Bush Cranberries
Strawberries
Raspberries
Thimbleberries
Currants

There are a few other pages on edible and useful plants in the Wilderness Survival Guide.

You may also want to review the page on Poisonous Plants.



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The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Edible Plants | Useful Plants