Harvest Edible Wild Herbs


| June/July 2010

  • Wild ginger can be planted as a groundcover in any shady, moist corner of your yard. It grows easily, and the rhizomes can be used to make tea and other treats. You can also find it growing wild in deep woods and gather it.
    ©2010 Steven Foster
  • Small redbud trees pack a powerful punch of color in early spring, when their bright pink flowers begin to bloom.
  • Some of these plants are useful to grow: Spicebush (shown here) thrives in shady areas and isn't invasive. Others, such as lamb's quarters, are better to harvest in the wild.
    Photo by Rob Cardillo
  • When he was young, Contributing Editor Jim Long's maternal grandparents encouraged his interest in plants, helping him identify delicious violets (shown here) and other edible wild plants in woods and meadows.
    Photo by Rob Cardillo
  • To gather spicbush leaves, berries and twigs, check out shady spots.
    Photo by Jim Long

• Native Plants: Guide to Edible Wild Plants 

  Jim Long's Resources  

Some of my earliest memories of exploring native plants as a child are of drying wild strawberry leaves and making hot tea from them. The tea was a beautiful yellow and, with honey, had a pleasant, wild herbal flavor.

I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family that loved plants. In early spring, my parents and I hunted wild mushrooms. We knew the patches in the meadows where the wild strawberries grew, and picked wild grapes and pawpaws in the fall. Persimmons were always a welcome delicacy, as were native lowland pecans from the Osage River basin. Those plants added wider variety to our traditional garden. My parents ran a grocery store, but despite the constant flow of cultivated produce, native plants always figured prominently in our diets.



My paternal grandparents were overly cautious, and with me as their only grandson, constantly cautioned me to be careful of what I ate from the woods. “Always ask someone before you taste it,” my father’s mother would say. Yet my maternal grandmother knew I had an interest in plants and would take me on walks in the woods and meadows, showing me how to identify plants. It is from these early family teachers that I gained an appreciation of the bounty of wild edible plants.

Many of the more traditional herbs we grow (such as parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage) are native to the Mediterranean regions. They have so easily adapted to a wide range of garden conditions that when most people hear the word herb, those foreign plants are what come to mind.



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