By Wren Smith

Wren’s Tips for Harvesting Wild Edible Plants

  • Be respectful! Consider the relationship that other species have to the plants you intend to harvest; leave some for wildlife and others. Get permission if harvesting on other peoples’ property.
  • Acquaint yourself with the poisonous plants in your area, especially those that resemble something you wish to harvest.
  • Positively identify any plant before eating any part of it. Remember that both wild and domestic plants are, among other things, chemical factories.
  • Learn which part of the plant you can eat. Many plants have poisonous and edible parts; including those you purchase at the market (rhubarb has poisonous leaves).
  • Know how to safely prepare your harvest before you eat it. Some plants, like poke should only be harvested when very young (shoots less than eight inches high), and never eaten raw. Most recommend cooking poke in two changes of water to remove toxins before you eat it.
  • Harvest from sites that are likely safe. Busy roadsides are often contaminated. Don’t harvest in areas that have been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. This can be difficult to determine on face value.
  • Beware of wild food allergies. Most allergic reactions are mild, but if you tend to have lots of food allergies, your chances may be greater for an adverse reaction, including a serious one. Even if you don’t have known food allergies, don’t eat too much of any new food.
  • Avoid eating wild edible plants if you are pregnant. Some authorities caution against eating wild foods and unusual foods if you take medications.
  • Don’t rely on one person, one book or a single website for your knowledge about wild edible and poisonous plants. The more you research this subject, the more contradictory information you will find.
  • Don’t rely on common names when researching plants you plan on harvesting. While you don’t need to speak “botaneze”, you will want to make sure that the plants you are researching are the same. Most plants have many common names and some even share the same common name.
  • Be cautious when presenting wild edibles around children. Very young children may not be able to make the important distinctions between similar looking plants.
  • Don’t assume something is safe to eat just because you watch some little animal eat the plant. Many animals can handle toxins that we can’t.


Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Bernheim Buzz

Get the "buzz" of Bernheim activity weekly in your inbox by signing up below.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.