Category Archives: Edible Plants

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

Hazelnut Plant Identification Guide

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General

hazelnut leaves are serated and oblong

The Hazelnut is a native shrub to North America. You should be able to, except for the US southwest and Gulf coast, find hazelnut plants growing. Once located, remember where they are since nuts are an important food source. Count yourself lucky if you can forage such a free food. Their leaves, twigs, and catkins (male flowers) are important for wildlife. They are browsed by rabbits, deer, and moose and are winter food for turkey and ruffed grouse to name just a few of the dependent animals. The dense shrub provides cover and nesting sites for many wildlife species.

This plant has separate male and female parts on the same branch. A single shrub will produce some nuts, but as a wind-pollinated species 3-5 shrubs are recommended for optimal nut production.

Common names

American hazelnut, American Filbert, American hazel, America hazelnut, beaked hazelnut, California hazelnut

Description

The shrub is deciduous and grows from 3’ – 15’ tall. Once established, it grows by its spreading rhizomes forming thickets.

The main stems are straight with spreading branches. The coloration is light brown with red-hairs. 

Leaves grow alternate and are broad oval with a heart-shaped or rounded base. They are approximately 3 inches – 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. The leaf edges are doubly serrate, hairy beneath, the petiole with stiff, glandular hairs. The leaves turn orange to red or purple in the fall.

hazelnut fruit grows in clusters

Male and female flowers are separate, but both types grow on each plant. Male flowers, in small clusters – maybe 2 to 3 flowers per cluster, form as catkins that are 3 inches to 5 inches long in the fall. They will winter and open the next spring as yellow. Female flowers form and are tiny and inconspicuous with only bright red stigma and styles protruding from the gray-brown buds near the end of the twigs.

Clusters of 2 -6 of the acorn-like nuts about 1 inch long and a bit wider will grow after pollination. The nuts are enclosed in two toothed leafy husks

Location

Plants can grow in sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Hazelnut map

They (several species) are widespread in North America, Maine west to Saskatchewan and North Dakota, south to eastern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Georgia, not found along the Gulf coast region or Southwest USA

When foraging, look in moist to dry woods and thickets, forest margins, roadsides, and fencerows and other disturbed areas. Also search streamside as long as the soil is not boggy.

Harvest

Hazelnut shrubs flower from March thru May before the plant leaf’s out. The nuts (fruits) form and ripen in the July – October time period. Late summer thru fall is the time to harvest. Be careful if you wait to long you will lose out to wildlife. Visa versa – if you get there first, make sure you leave a good amount for wildlife.

Edible

The nuts of hazelnuts are sweet and may be eaten raw, dried and roasted or ground into flour (gluten free).   

Interesting Notes

The nuts of American hazelnut, which have a higher nutritional value than acorns and beechnuts, also are eaten by squirrels, foxes, deer, northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse, turkey, woodpeckers, pheasants, and deer. 

Plants of American hazelnut may begin producing seed after the first year and produce good seed crops every 2-3 years. 

American hazelnut is not affected by any serious pests. 

Hazel flowers are wind-pollinated, so no bees or butterflies are needed for pollination.

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USDA plant guide

Rose Plant Wild edible

Rose Plant Wild edible

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General

The wild rose plant found widely across North America

The wild rose plant found widely across North America, as well as many places around the world, is an overlooked forage food. Most people look at the plant and see flowers and thorns not thinking of the multitude of food choices the entire plant provides over an extended harvest period. For the semi-initiated into foraging, wasted comments such as, “You can make rose hip tea.”, is about all you will get. Yet this is a must if you want to forage wild food. Rose hips contains vitamins such as C and A as well as antioxidants, along with nutrients such as zinc. The seeds can contain vitamin E.

There are 35 or so species of the wild rose family in the USA. Some species were brought to North America and became naturalized over time (invasive).

Common Names

Pasture rose, Scotch briar, Prairie rose, Wood rose, Wild brier, Sweetbrier

Description

Roses grow on thick canes; the ends of old canes turn gray to tan. Newer growth is dark green in color; all stems and branches have thorns

Wild rose can be anything from small bushes to large shrubs to vining plants growing upward

Most truly wild roses have flowers with only five petals, usually pink to white. Most also bloom only once, in early summer. Any rose blooming later in the season may be a cultivated variety gone wild.

The plants, because there are so many varieties, can be anything from small bushes to large shrubs to vining plants growing upward. The most important visual characteristic will be the thorns on branches and the leaves that look very much like domestic rose plant leaves. In late summer to fall the hips developed from pollinated flowers are the dead give-away.

Location

As the map shows, wild roses can be found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They prefer partial shade and moist well-drained soil in dry fields to open woods.



Harvest

You can pick the ripe hips in the fall when it is full and, typically, red. The buds can be picked right into winter.

Harvest young shoots and peel off any thorns during spring and summer.

Pick flowers when they are in bloom. Make sure to take only healthy looking flowers. Cut the portion at the base as that may be bitter.

Leaves can be pick and used in teas.

Edible

Rose hips can be eaten raw or cooked. wild rose edible

Rose hips can be eaten raw or cooked. There are multiple ways to use them. You can bake rose hips into breads or pies, puddings, soups, jellies and their pectin has been used as a thickener. Remember, rose hips and leaves make a nutritious tea!!

The rose petals are edible. You can candy rose petals add to cakes for decoration and yes they can be eaten. Petals can also be made into jams, jellies, vinegars and syrups.

The young shoots peel and eat the young shoots raw or cooked with other vegetables.

Interesting Notes

The pollen and nectar of the wild rose is a valued food source for many beneficial insects, including many types of bees.

Rose hips are a winter food for birds and mammals such as waxwings, pine grosbeaks, grouse, squirrels and mice to name a few.

Native Americans used the roots as an ointment for sore eyes, and the wood of the plant for arrows as well as a food source.

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USDA plant guide

Bunchberry Wild Edible

Bunchberry Wild Edible

General

bunchberry plants in autumn with ripe berries

Bunchberry Plants are perennials growing 4” – 8” tall. Because they spread by rhizome they generally form a carpet-like mat. They are not overly tasty but in a foraging situation they are edible. Additionally, they are widespread and hence can be found in many places if you are looking and know what you are looking for.

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Common Names

Bunchberry, dwarf cornel, creeping dogwood, crackerberry

Description

bunchberry drawing showing stem, leaves, flower heads and berries

As previously stated, bunchberry are small plants that form carpet like colonies. Each “individual” plant grows a singular stem with about six leaves positioned at the top. 

The elliptic, dark green leaves form as wheels at the nodes. Leaf veins follow the leaf margin as is seen in other dogwoods. In autumn, the leaves may develop red and yellow tones.

The plant generally puts forth four white leaves from the top center. These are not the flower. The true flowers are small white to purplish-white clusters in the center of the white leaves. The flowers are formed in late spring and early summer.

From the true flowers, clusters of red berry fruits grow beginning in mid-summer as the white leaves typically drop.  The fruit can stay viable into late autumn.



Location

springtime bunchberry with the white leaves surrounding the true flowers

Bunchberry can be found growing in forested areas and is native to Canada, parts of Alaska and the northern to Central portions of the contiguous United States. It can be found coast to coast. It grows best in acid soils that are not overly dry. The plant grows best in shade, (4 hours or less of light daily).

Edible

The red ripe berries are the edible parts of the plant. They can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be combined with other fruits even added to puddings and sauces.

Harvest

In late summer into late fall the red berries are picked. The berries can be rather dry and tasteless but are edible.

Interesting Notes

Bunchberries were collected and eaten by Native Americans raw, cooked, even put into sauces and puddings.

The berries are a source of food for deer, grouse and small mammals.

Birds are the main dispersal agents of the seeds, feeding on the fruit during their fall migration.

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USDA plant guide

Burdock Plant wild edible

Burdock Plant Wild Edible

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General

Burdock plant wild edible, a member of the aster family, is a native plant to Europe and Northern Asia. It was brought into North America by colonists and is now widespread throughout the United States. Like the dandelion, it is an invasive species that competes with native plants.

Burdock plant stems, leaves and root picture

Burdock is a biennial. In its first year it has no large central stem or flowers. It grows only as a basal of rosette leaves that stay close to the ground.

The burdock plant contains minerals and vitamins. This should be considered an important year-round forage plant since most parts can be eaten and different parts can harvested year-round.

Common Names

Common Burdock, Gobo, bur weed, clotburbeggar’s buttons

Description

Burdock is a tall, about 3’ – 7’ in height, weed with burrs that stick to clothing. The basal rosette of leaves stays close to the ground the first year and the beginning of the second. These basal rosettes can grow over 3 feet wide.

Burdock plant flowers bloom between June and October

The plant has purple flowers on tips of a prickly ball of bracts (Velcro like) on long stalks that bloom between June and October. Flower heads are ½” – 1 ½” across.

The lower leaves are broad and lightly lobed and can grow almost 2’ long and about half as wide – as a comparison, they are somewhat rhubarb like. They are dark green and egg shaped.   

Location

Burdock, like many such plants, thrive along riverbanks, disturbed habitats, roadsides, edges of forest, vacant lots, and fields. Except for the southern areas, it grows throughout North America.



Edible

Leaf stems can be peeled and cooked by boiling for about 20 minutes.

Young leaves can be boiled or steamed and eaten like spinach.

Roots should be scrubbed to remove the skin. Chop off and discard the top few inches of root, which can be tough. The root should be boiled until tender.

Immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or boiled, their taste resembles that of artichoke.

Harvest

Immature flower stalks may be harvested in late spring before flowers appear.

The root can be rather long (up to 3’). The best parts are fragile. Dig carefully.  

Leaves and stems are best when picked young.

Grow Your Own

Burdock plant territory map of locations in North America

Sow seeds directly outdoors in spring as soon as the soil can be worked and when the danger of frost is over. Cover the seeds with light soil and lightly tamp down. Because it is a biennial, the first year growth only forms a cluster of large leaves. The large leaves grow from a long tap root that can grow over two feet down. In year 2 a branched stalk with smaller leaves will grow out of the plant and, in the late summer, purple-pink flowers will form. In autumn, these flowers are replaced by round brown burrs that persist into the winter.

Notes of Interest

Cultivated in China, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and in various countries in Europe as a vegetable.

The inspiration for Velcro came from the burdock bur. The inventor, a Swiss electrical engineer named Georges de Mestral, was walking along one day in the mountains and saw burs sticking on his wool socks and his dog’s fur.

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USDA plant guide:

Partridgeberry

Partridgeberry Facts and Information

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberry is a low growing perennial woodland plant of the eastern United States. It is in fact an evergreen non-climbing vine, no taller than 6 ½ inches with Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) also known as twinberrycreeping stems 16 inches long. It blooms from late spring to mid-summer and sets berries that typically turn red when mature. Partridgeberry is highly ornamental and is used in gardens and landscaping. It is easy to find on online nursery shops. It grows typically by its spreading vines setting roots. The seeds will sprout, but only after a period of dormancy, called stratification.

The berries are a food source for many native animals – deer, birds, small mammals, etc. Native Americans made partridgeberry leaf tea as well as using the berries medicinally and for food.

Description

As noted above, Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant. Its flowers are fuzzy white, each having four petals, and as the picture indicates, grow in pairs. What is interesting is that the flower pairs generally create one red berry. Partridgeberry is a low trailing evergreen vining plant.

The stems are mostly light green to light brown and either glabrous or hairy; old stems become brown, smooth, and woody.

As the first picture indicates, pairs of opposite leaves occur along the stems and are ½ inch to 2 inches long and similarly across; they are oval in shape and smooth to slightly undulate along their margins. The upper leaf surface is shiny, and usually dark green. The glossy green leaves are small and broad with a conspicuous white midvein.

Habitat

Partridgeberry grows in both dry and moist wooded areas. The upper most picture was taken streamside in a mature deciduous Adirondack forest. Habitats include rocky woodlands, sandy savannas, slopes of wooded sand dunes, sandstone ledges along ravines, mossy boulders in wooded ravines as well as edges of swamps and bogs.

Range

This plant has a territory somewhat similar to mayapple and is found across a wide area of eastern North America. Partridgeberry is found from south Eastern Canada south to Florida and Texas all the way to Central America into to Guatemala.

Edible

Both leaves and berries are edible. Leaves are typically made into a tea.

The berries can be eaten raw, dried and cooked. They are basically bland tasting. The berries can be mixed with other forest berries. They are reported to be high in vitamin C, tannin, anthocyanins and antioxidants

Pickerelweed Facts

Pickerelweed Facts Basic Information

classic picture of pickerelweed in habitat
classic picture of pickerelweed in habitat

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) also called pickerel weed, tuckahoe, black potato, wampee or wampi is an aquaticplant native to the Americas (both North and South). It is perennial plant that can grow from either seeds or rhizomes. Pickerelweed forms large colonies along shallow shorelines, usually growing from its spreading rhizomes. The seed of the plant needs a period of cold dormancy, called stratification, for about 2 months before it will sprout a seedling. In temperate zones the growth dies back in late fall only to emerge again in Spring when weather is favorable.

Pickerelweed is important for wildlife. Deer are fond of it, as are muskrats and ducks. It also has its own bee for pollination!!

Description

As named, pickerel weed is an aquatic plant. It is a rather large plant,
reaching up to 4 feet tall. The leaves and stems of the plant are green and somewhat waxy in appearance. They develop at the ends pickerelweed is an aquatic plantof stems and are highly variable in shape and size. Leaf shape ranges from an oval to almost lance shaped. Leaf sizes are also variable, ranging from as small as 2 inches to as much as 10 inches long and from less than an inch up-to 6 inches wide. Leaf veins run parallel in the leaf and are never “net-like”.

The small flowers are violet-blue in color and bloom in summer. They are small and cluster around a stalk-like stem (see picture). The flowers are the key to really identifying the plant.

Habitat

Just like water lily, pickerelweed grows in a variety of wetlands including pond and lake margins and the edge of a slow moving streams. It prefers shallow water, a foot or so deep. Pickerelweed does not do well in salt water, so you will never find pickerelweed growing in salt marshes.

Range

Pickerelweed has an extremely large range, its northern most
reach is eastern Canada as far north as Nova Scotia, west to Minnesota and south to Florida and Texas. It is found as far south as Argentina in South America.

Edible

The seeds are edible, when dried, roasted and ground they make a good flour for bread. They can also be eaten raw, cooked even boiled like rice or roasted like nuts. Young unfurled leaves can be eaten raw or boiled and eaten. Stalks are edible as well and are prepared just like leaves. Please make sure the water you take the plant from is clean and unpolluted.