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Familiarize yourself with these edible forest plants

  • Apr 22, 2016

For seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, identifying plants can become a very rewarding hobby, and even for amateurs, helpful books or smartphone apps make it easy to recognize specific species as you hike along. Using your Pro Trek watch compass, it is even possible to understand what types of plants grow in specific regions or areas within a forest.

Among these plants, there are quite a few that can be eaten raw or added to a campsite meal. They add a bit of rugged flair to an outing, and some are rich in natural vitamins and minerals. Before your next adventure, brush up on some of North America's edible greens.

Exercise caution
Although harvesting from nature's bounty during a hiking trip is an exciting prospect, it is important to remember that some plants are dangerous. Art of Manliness found that there are a few key indicators that a specific plant should be left alone, and without proper training or educational material, it is likely best to avoid eating things from the forest altogether.

If plants have a milky or cloudy sap or very obvious deterrents like spines or thorns, this can often be an indication that a species is toxic. Likewise, Art of Manliness suggested avoiding anything that grows in a pod or has very thin or grainy foliage. Three-leaf patterns are often a good indicator of a plant that could make you sick, and although they aren't actually plants, mushrooms should not be consumed from the bush.

Having said that, here are some plants that are easy to identify and safe to eat:

Off The Grid News reported that one of the most common and readily available edible plants is clover. Despite being emblematic of Irish culture, clover can be found all over North America, and is one of the most recognizable plants. It can be eaten raw, but will taste better if cooked.

Another extremely common plant that is fully edible is Chicory, which can be spotted by it's small lavender or white flowers. Off The Grid News stated that the flowers themselves make for a quick and easy snack. The leaves too can be eaten raw, but some may prefer to boil them first. The roots will also benefit from some preparation, and in fact, the roots can be used in place of coffee if it was otherwise unavailable.

Some common fruits and veggies, like apples and grapes or asparagus and onions may be found growing wild throughout North America. Walking Times found that although most berries should be avoided when out camping or hiking, some types, like blackberries for example, are easy to recognize and safe to eat.

Blackberries grow on long red branches that have sharp thorns and wide, jagged green leaves. White, five pointed flowers make blackberry bushes especially recognizable, though the berries themselves may not be ripe until the end of the summer.

In riparian areas and wetland ecosystems across the continent, cattails can be found in abundance, and according to Art of Manliness, it can turned into a variety of foods. A staple food of many Native Americans, it can be eaten raw or used to make bread or even pancakes.

The rootstock, which is found mostly underground, can be enjoyed as is or boiled, while the leaves can be prepared like spinach. The characteristic, hot dog-shaped flower spike can be eaten raw in the spring and early summer. Later in the summer, the spike can be turned into more intricate food products.

Pine needles
Although they would not make a very pleasant snack when consumed raw, pine needles of all types can be added to boiled water to create tea. Not only is this rich in nutrients like Vitamin C, but Walking Times said pine needle tea has medicinal qualities as well.

Stay safe and sound by having the right gear and knowledge to maneuver your way through the wild. Bringing essential gear, like the Pro Trek PRG300CM-3 will give you one touch access to altitude, barometric pressure, and digital compass all at your fingertips so you can easily navigate to the plants that are safe to eat.