Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only healthy snacks in the great outdoors. There are several edible plants that commonly grow in lawns and along sidewalks. Foraging for the plants described below can become a fun and yummy way to spark an interest in nature. With careful identification, enjoy these edibles plucked straight from the ground or prepared in one of these kid-inspired recipes!
- Scientific name: Genus Rosa, all species
- Edible: Petals
- Recipe: Rose Honey
Fruity petals, anyone? Rose petals have a fruity flavor, and the sweeter the smell, the tastier the rose. Roses contain Vitamin C and other antioxidants, and they can also help reduce inflammation.
Be careful to avoid roses that have been sprayed with insecticides or other harmful chemicals. Roses purchased from the florist should never be consumed. While roses are perfectly edible, be aware that other beautiful blooms are poisonous, such as azaleas/rhododendrons, daffodils, hydrangeas, and irises.
Sourgrass (Alternate common names: Wood sorrel, lemon clover)
- Scientific name: Oxalis stricta
- Edible: All parts (leaves, flowers, seed pods, stem)
- Recipe: Sour Apple Spritzer
Time to pucker up! This easily identified edible has a delicious lemon flavor. Sourgrass looks similar to clover, but has three distinct heart-shaped leaves, with a fold down the middle of each. Clover, by contrast, has tear-shaped leaves. Sourgrass has small yellow flowers and okra-shaped seed pods. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C.
Enjoy sourgrass in moderation, as this edible contains oxalic acid (like spinach and kale). In the absence of a balanced diet, large amounts of oxalic acid can cause stomach upset or kidney stones. Individuals with kidney conditions or rheumatism should avoid sourgrass.
- Scientific name: Taraxacum officinale
- Edible: All parts (flower, leaves, stem, root)
- Recipe: Sauteed Dandelion Greens with Eggs
Be sure to eat your veggies and your weeds! This pesky weed is a highly nutritious edible, on par with many veggies. Dandelion greens are packed with Vitamins A, C, and K. They are also a good source of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Dandelions are easily identified by their bright yellow crowns and saw-toothed leaves, lending to their alternate name, Lion’s Tooth.
Dandelion greens and flowers may be consumed raw or cooked. Freshly bloomed dandelion flowers have a mild honey flavor. To avoid a bitter taste, be sure to pick the flowers when they have just opened, and remove as much of the green base as possible. Dandelion greens have a bitter bite akin to arugula, which is balanced through cooking.
- Scientific name: Stellaria media
- Edible: Flowers, leaves, stem
- Recipe: Chickweed Grilled Cheese
A healthy snack for chickens and children alike! A food source for poultry, this weed is also a delicious and nutritious edible for humans. Eaten raw, chickweed has a mild herb flavor similar to corn cob or corn silk. It is commonly used as sprouts in sandwiches or salads, and the chopped greens can be sautéed or steamed. Chickweed is a great source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Chickweed is a delicate and easily overlooked plant with tiny white flowers. It has stringy, branching pairs of leaves like basil. Chickweed has some look-alikes, but it is identified by these key traits: (1) the stem has a line of hair along one side; (2) when the stem is pulled apart, it lacks a milky sap; and (3) the small white flower has 5 double-lobed petals, which look like 10 petals, surrounded by a base of 5 hair-lined leaves called sepals.
Foraging for edibles is an excellent way to kickstart your little one’s curiosity about nature. Taste testing these yummy plants may even inspire them to eat more green veggies! Be sure to teach children to always ask an adult before eating anything found outdoors.
If you are a foraging beginner, not to worry! Start small and simple, and do your homework to make sure you are completely confident in your identification. The iNaturalist app is a wonderful free resource to aid your plant identifications.
Interested in joining the foraging community? Follow the Instagram hashtags #wildfood and #foraging or join Facebook groups like Edible Wild Plants and Foragers Unite to share your edible discoveries!
All photos by Amy Jernigan