Recognizing food in the wild is a useful skill that can help supplement your diet and reconnect you with nature. Wild edible plants are safe to eat.
Often, edible plants can be found in close proximity to human settlements, but there are others that thrive in the wild, along streams, in mountain meadows, or in the understory of a forest.
Here, you can find out what kinds of edible plants thrive in your area and start foraging. To ensure the plants are not contaminated, it is recommended to forage plants that are not growing near roads or human developments.
Some of the most abundant and easily accessible edible plants emerge in the spring. New Jersey has plenty of wild edible plants just waiting to be harvested.
1. Day Lilies (Hemerocallis Fulva)
Daylilies are beautiful plants that usually grace a dinner table. But they are also edible. Their flavor comes close to asparagus and green peas.
The flower stalks can reach 6 feet in height, rising just above sword-like bright green leaves. They bear large flowers that can reach 5 inches in diameter.
Their tubers, young shoots, flower buds, and flowers are all edible, and each has a distinct taste and texture. They can be eaten as a salad or side dish on their own, or they can be added to stews, soups, and other dishes.
When left to grow, orange daylily rhizomes quickly spread into fields and woods. The plants grow in dense clusters next to highways and in abandoned gardens, often in very poor soil.
2. Burdock (Arctium Sp.)
Burdock was once a cultivated vegetable, but it has since escaped into the wild. The leaves are similar to rhubarb leaves, except they are less glossy, have hairy undersides, and have smoother petioles.
Burdock root can be peeled, sliced, and consumed raw or added to a salad. This taproot vegetable has a similar taste to artichoke hearts.
This plant sends up a long stem of flowers that dry into spiky balls that stick to shoelaces and socks. They frequently grow along the edges of sidewalks, where humans and animals can pick them up and disperse the seeds.
3. Arrowhead (Sagittaria Latifolia)
Arrowhead is a strong, deciduous, marginal aquatic perennial that grows 1 to 4 feet tall. The arrowhead-shaped leaves and three-petaled flowers grow on independent stalks.
It is found in ponds, sloughs, swamps, marshes, and along stream banks. It typically grows submerged in muddy banks or shallow water.
Once released from the mud, the large, round, starchy tubers will float to the surface. They are edible and can be cooked or baked like potatoes, but they taste more like water chestnuts.
Arrowhead resembles arum, which is a poisonous plant. The arum leaf lacks veins and does not bloom in the same way, but you still have to be careful not to confuse the two plants.
4. Mayapples (Podophyllum Peltatum)
The mayapple is a native woodland plant. It is the only species of its genus in the barberry family.
This herbaceous perennial grows in colonies from a single root in open deciduous woodlands and shaded meadows and along riverbanks and roads. Each stem bears one or two leaves, each around 6 to 8 inches wide.
Flowers will only grow on stems with more than one leaf. Despite their beauty, the flowers are ephemeral and often concealed by foliage. The six- to nine-petaled, white, yellow, or red blossoms grow into succulent fruit.
Like the rest of the plant, the plant’s green fruit is poisonous. However, once the fruit has turned yellow, it is safe to consume. When ripe, the fruit tastes sweet and tart.
5. Wild Leek (Allium Tricoccum)
Wild leek, also known as ramps or ramsons, is one of the earliest wild edible plants to bloom in the spring. It forms patches in rich, wet deciduous forests and bottomlands.
Wild leeks look like onions with smooth, elliptical-shaped leaves that appear in the spring. Both the leaves and the bulbs smell like onions, as well. They are easily recognizable even in forests.
Two to three basal leaves emerge from an underground bulb, reaching a length of 6 to 12 inches and a width of 1 to 4 inches. The flowers bloom 4 to 6 weeks after the leaves emerge and at this point, the leaves will also start to wither for the season.
The entire plant is edible and can be grilled or roasted. A high temperature during the cooking process will cause the bulbs to become tender, while the leaves will get very crispy.
Ramps have become very popular in recent years, and you can now find them in stores and on restaurant menus when they are in season.