Edible wild plants for beginners – easy to identify culinary plants that grow naturally in your own yard. Use this post to learn best practices for foraging for beginners and download the Seasonal Wild Foraging Tracker!
This post also contains affiliate links based on my personal experience with products that support a seasonal lifestyle. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I hope you find them useful.
What are beginner friendly wild edibles?
Wild edibles in your yard are often called weeds. And, this is the perfect place for a beginner forager to start!
These are the plants we will focus on in this post designed to help newbies become familiar with edible wild plants.
Wild edibles are plant friends who show up in disturbed spaces like the edges of garden beds and untreated lawns. You can also find them along wild hedgerows and brambles in unkept areas at the border of properties.
They are easy to identify, often highly nutritious, and frequently tasty.
Plant Identification | Wild Edibles for Beginners
Every wild edible discussed in this post is easy to identify and safe to eat, even for beginners. If you give some of them a try and become hooked as a backyard forager, you should invest in one of the field guides listed above.
You want to stay safe. While most wild plants in your backyard are not poisonous, some will give you stomach cramps if ingested. It’s best to be cautious in the beginning and build your foraging knowledge over time.
Keep track of your exploits with the Wild Forage Tracker. It’s a free downloadable workbook that will help you keep track of what you harvested, when, and where. If you find a wild edible you like in your yard, you can cultivate that space like a garden bed. Build a relationship with the plant and gift it the area it needs to flourish!
Many of these plants are natives that nourish soil and wildlife as well as the forager. Rewild your yard in tiny spaces as a radical personal act of conservation!
Sustainable Foraging, even in your own backyard!
When exploring edible wild plants as a beginner forager, you want to begin with a survey of the place.
The phrase for ethical foraging is: take some, leave some.
Never take all of a wild edible. You are sharing its nourishment with the soil, the birds, pollinators, and other beneficial insects.
Be sure to leave enough behind so that the plant can easily recover from your harvest. Bring minimal disturbance to roots. Return any natural mulch to the base of the plant. Make it seem as if the plant were never disturbed.
Know your plants and environment
The wild edibles listed in this post are not endangered in any way. But, if you begin to expand your knowledge and use of these plant allies, and I hope you do, you must educate yourself about the plant’s status.
Is it endangered? Overharvested? Does it serve an essential purpose best left to nature?
The Wild Foraging Plant Tracker can help you keep track of where you find these treasures so you can visit it often. If a precious plant introduces itself to you, build an intimate relationship with it. Plant healing comes in many forms.
Be sure to take pictures and post to Instagram so we can share in your discovery!
Leave spaces better than you found them!
Whether foraging in your yard or on a local wild space, be sure to make the world a little better than you found it. Leave no trace. Clean and restore.
Also, remember to do something better with the plant than what you took from it. This means no waste! Take only what you know you will use and use it well!
Is the space clean and safe?
Any area that is sprayed with herbicides or pesticides is not to be used for foraging.
If you use these chemicals in your yard, stop now! They disrupt the environment and kill the soil.
Never forage from roadsides where exposure to vehicles creates the potential for contamination of soil and plants.
Be safe and thoughtful.
Seasonal Wild Edibles for Beginners
Wild edibles appear in the environment in time worn seasonal cycles.
It is delightful to see nettle shoots in early spring, letting us know the soil is warm enough to begin working in the garden.
The appearance of goldenrod announces the arrival of fall with its golden light shimmering along roadsides and pastures in late August. Chickweed in a late-winter covered 4-season garden bed announces the inevitable arrival of spring!
Perhaps my favorite is the arrival of ripe wineberries along the perimeter of the farm, ready for harvest 4th of July weekend. Here come those lazy, hazy days of summer we all crave in February.
I think of each blooming as its own little season! They mark time and help me know what to do next. Seeing nettle reminds me it is time to cleanse by drinking spring tonics. When I see the goldenrod, I know it’s time to check my pantry and see if I am prepared for winter.
The wild edibles listed below are easily identified and very safe to eat. Use your Wild Foraging Tracker to keep notes on:
- where you found them
- when you harvested
- how much you harvested
- recipes and other uses
Always be sure to clean your wild edibles thoroughly. They are sure to be riddled with soil and may very well be harboring a bug or two. I’ve heard some teachers recommend not washing organic foods, and this is just foolish. Always wash your food.
Wild harvesting is such an enjoyable hobby! I know once you start, you’ll be hooked for life.
Wild Edibles of Spring
The arrival of bright green things in early spring is a jolt to a slumbering soul! Use the notes below to harvest some for salads, teas, and soups.
Any discussion of wild edibles must begin with the dandelion. It’s easy to identify, and the entire plant is edible!
In spring, we harvest the young leaves of the dandelion for salads. The younger the plant, the less bitter the leaves. Once the plant ages enough to have blossomed, the leaves will be quite tough and bitter but still edible.
I just learned we can use tight buds for fermenting like capers. Remember, the flowers are edible as well!
Dandelions are a nutritional powerhouse!
One cup of chopped, raw dandelion greens (about 55g) has 25 calories, 1.5g protein, 0.4g of fat, 5.1g of carbohydrates, 1.9g fiber, and 0.4g sugar. Dandelion greens are an excellent source of vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, and vitamin C (in its raw form), and a good source of calcium and potassium.precision nutrition
One of my absolute favorite wild edibles is violets. Simply harvest the flower and sprinkle over salads and meals to bring a bit if spring brightness to your meals, 3 times a day!
Stinging Nettle is reported to be the most nutritionally dense food available. Its flavor is gentle and green. And, yes, when fresh, it stings.
Harvest stinging nettle with gloves on and pruners in hand. Protect yourself while processing the plant. Once macerated or cooked, the plant loses its sting.
My favorite uses for nettle are in tea, in soups, and as a pesto.
Chickweed is an early spring wild edible that is tender, sweet, and ubiquitous!
It’s a plant that loves it cool and moist. It grows under my frost protection cloth and UV plastic as early as February. It is very easy to identify and even easier to use in late winter and early spring meals.
Uses for Chickweed
The best way to use chickweed, in my opinion, is to think of them as a sprout. Add them to salads, top sandwiches with them, and enjoy chickweed by the handful.
They also make a great addition to green smoothies. Add about a quarter cup to a 12-ounce smoothie that calls for fresh greens.
Wild Edibles of Summer
Oh, the list of wild edibles come summer is endless. Here’s a collection of the safest and easy-to-identify summer wilds. Just writing about them makes me smile…
Wild Edibles of Fall
The best part about foraging in fall is that you have the lingering edibles from summer and the re-emerging ones from spring.
In the fall, you’ll want to harvest the roots of dandelions.
Other wild edibles easy to identify and use in the fall are:
Winter Wild Edibles
It’s not easy to harvest winter wild edibles in my neck of the woods, but here’s a grand tour of a more moderate climate’s early winter offerings.
The video is a great watch for newbie foragers because he demonstrates sustainable harvesting techniques as well.
Be sure to bookmark this post because I will be updating as I go forage on the farm through the seasons!
Download the Amazing Wild Forage Tracker!
The Wild Forage Tracker is a 9-page free download that helps you keep track of the wild edibles you harvest, plant-by-plant and season-by-season. It’s printer friendly and forever downloadable.
Wild Edibles for Beginners | Helpful Resources
While researching for this post, I found a multitude of free online booklets detailing edible and medicinal plants in the wild. The hotlinks to the best of them are below. Enjoy!
Preserve Wild Edibles by Making Gin!
Making gin is an easy process for preserving seasonal flavors. All you need is vodka, juniper berries, and a pleasing combination of seasonal flavors to handcraft spirits for tasty cocktails.
This post offers 4 seasonal recipes for gin. It’s a must-have resource for your seasonal kitchen!
Use it with the 2021 Seasonal Living Planner
The 2021 Seasonal Living Planner is a free planner that helps you set intentions and goals for creating your seasonal life. It then offers planners and trackers to help you monitor your effort and successes as the year rolls through the seasons month-by-month and day-by-day!
There’s a party happening and we’re waiting for you to arrive!
We also gather over email once a week to focus on one specific garden, kitchen, or wellness topic in-depth, with lots of step-by-step how-to’s. The best way to jump into the email conversation is with the Seasonal Living Workbook, you can download it here and explore the seasonal living framework with an email course!
So much love and free information in one place, but it’s not the same without YOU!
- How do you know if a plant is edible?
Luckily, in these days of the internet and ease of access to information, it is easy to identify wild edibles as a novice forager. But, if you are experimenting and exploring, know that bitterness is often a sign that the plant is not edible. This is also true if the plant has a soapy flavor. Spit either out and wash out your mouth.
- What wild plants are best eaten by beginners?
If you are new to wild foraging, search out these beginner-friendly edibles:
– Violets, sprinkle them on your spring salads.
– Stinging Nettle, use it to make a nourishing tea. Make sure to protect your hands while handling the plant. It does sting!
– Wild berries like wineberries and blackberries.
- What should I know before I begin foraging for wild edibles?
You should know the following essentials:
1. Never forage at the roadside or near lawns that have been sprayed with weed killers and pesticides. The food gathered is not safe to eat.
2. Leave no trace of your activity after foraging. This includes not overharvesting, cleaning up after yourself, and not over disturbing the site.
3. Use a tracker to document the plant in its native location in case you have adverse effects from eating it or want to find it again in the future.