5 Wild Plants You Can Forage By Yourself Right Now

Foraging is the oldest way of feeding oneself. It was practiced universally and by everyone at one point. How only a small collective is finding and harvesting wild plants for consumption. These people are called foragers. Because people now own land a cultivate it to provide the exact foods they want to eat, the need to forage has lost its appeal and necessity. It has also become harder. This post is to entice the average foodie to start their foraging journey.  

This post is going to cover five wild plants you can forage yourself to eat!

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Foraging Safety

There are some important things to remember when foraging wild plants. Just like wild animals they are wild and not always easy to identify. When foraging for a wolf plant the first few times should be for identification purposes only. Find the wild plant. Observe its surroundings. Take note of how much of the wild plant there is for harvesting. Most importantly compare your wild plant to multiple references for proper identification. 

forage ID

1. Stinging Nettles

Where to Forage

Stinging Nettles grow all across North America with the exception dry plains, high mountains and in the far northern cold. When trying to find stinging nettles for harvesting look in ditches, along fences, or on the edges of cultivated fields. Stinging nettles often grow near rotten piles of manure or old hay. Abandoned farms can be a bountiful spot for foraging stinging nettles.  

How to Identify

To identify stinging nettles and anything you need references to check. Below is a video of what stinging nettles will look like when growing wild.  

Nettle Identification

2. Wild Leek, Ramp

Where to Forage

Wild leeks are found from northern Minnesota across southern Ontario and to New Brunswick. They are also found in the southern Appalachians, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, and Iowa. The environment they will most often grow in is a nutrient moist soil. This can mean forest floors or near small rivers. Wild leeks are spring plants they will start popping up early in the season.  

How to Identify

Wild leeks or ramps will have a white bulb that grows in the ground. To spot wild leeks look for the long thin green leaves that sprout out of the ground as pictured below.  Check out this video for additional visuals to use when identifying wild leeks.  

Forage Wild Leeks

3. Sumac

Where to Forage

Sumac grows throughout northeastern United States and southeastern Canada. The sumac you will find in this region is a shrub or small tree ranging from 8-12 feet. Sumac is commonly found on roadsides, railroad tracks or in open fields. It can also grow in forests after fires or when trees are cut down. Look for sumac in dry or well-drained soil in plenty of sunlight.  

How to Identify

Sumac growing in North America can be found as trees or large shrubs. The leaves are small and leathery to the touch. There are several varieties that grow in North America. Use the link below to identify common types of sumacs you can find growing wild. 

Watch this video for more information on sumac identification.

4. Burdock

Where to Forage

Common burdock is native to Europe but can be found growing across the United States. Look for burdock growing in ditches, next to roads, pastures and open fields.  

How to Identify

Burdock is a stout weed with prickly burrs. The wild plant grows tall with deep roots. It had purple flowers on top of the burrs and its leaves are heart shaped green on top and whitish on the bottom.  

See here for further identification references.

5. Wild Grape

Where to Forage 

North America has dozens of varieties of wild grapes. They can be found growing on fencerows, along roads, in woodlands, and near rivers, lakes or ponds. Riverside grape is the most common wild grape in North America. Wild grapes are sun loving plants and will not survive in shady areas. Keep that in mind when looking for wild grapes. 

How to Identify

Wild grapes are produced on woody vines with brown bark that grows in climbing matter. Wild grape leaves are large and heart shaped or three lobed. The grapes themselves will grow in clusters. Wild grapes are smaller in size than cultivated grapes. See the video below for another identification reference. 

Forage Wild Grapes

Start your foraging journey now with the five wild plants we just covered. To further your wild plant knowledge, you will need this book, The Forager’s Harvest by Samuel Thayer. It is an essential guide to wild plants and a foragers’ best friend. Now that you are equipped with some starter knowledge of wild plants, it’s time to start getting in the field and identifying some wild plants.  

This post has been a guide to five edible wild plants you can start foraging on your own right now.

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