The wilderness abounds with edible plants, but distinguishing the delicious from the deadly is not always easy. Many edible plants have highly toxic look-alikes. Some of the most respected experts on wild mushrooms have spent time in the emergency room as a result of a misidentification. Here are five readily available plants that you will know on sight and can consume with confidence.
The dandelion is one of the world’s most recognizable plants, in part because it is so reviled by those seeking the perfect suburban lawn. The entire plant is edible, so there is no worry about what is safe and what is not. Immature leaves can simply be washed and eaten raw; use the flower heads as a tasty garnish for the salad. Mature leaves and roots should be boiled to remove their bitterness. Drink the cooking water as a healthful tea.
Even if you don’t find a four-leaf specimen, you’re in luck if you come upon a clover patch in the wild. In a pinch, they can be eaten raw, but your dining experience will be more enjoyable if you boil them.
Abundant around any freshwater wetland, cattails offer a variety of flavors thanks to the many distinct parts of the plant. The lower, predominantly white part of the stem and the rootstock can be boiled or eaten raw. (Make sure to thoroughly clean off all mud for safety as well as better flavor.) The leaves can be boiled like spinach. In early summer, it is safe to eat the flower spike, which resembles a corn dog.
Prickly Pear Cactus
Abundant in North American deserts, the prickly pear offers great taste and plenty of nutrition. There’s a reason why so many of these plants are marred by bite marks left by hungry javelinas. Their fruit, which protrudes from the ends of the spiny pads, looks a bit like a red or purple pear. Just be careful to remove all the spines before you sink your teeth in, or you’ll find your food bites you back. Young prickly pear stems can also be boiled and eaten.
Common throughout much of the world, white mustard is easily identified when in bloom (typically during February and March). The entire plant—seeds, leaves, flowers, and stems—is edible.
Courtesy of ArtOfManliness.com.
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