15 Edible Plants to Forage in Your Own Back Yard

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Spring is in full swing over here in Suffolk. It’s really nice, I have to say! One of the things I look forward to the most when the ground thaws is the beginning of the foraging season. So far, we have only been on one official foraging walk, and it was to collect stinging nettles. But I have seen a lot of good edible plants in my back yard lately. Yesterday, I decided to just go take some photos of the wild edibles there, so I could show you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see some familiar plants and find some food or medicine in your own back yard! There are actually a lot more edibles out there than these– but these are the ones popping up right now, many of them “weeds.”

15 Plants to Forage in Your Own Back YardViolets
The leaves and stems can be eaten either raw or cooked, and have a very mild flavor. The flowers are aromatic and tart– lovely for garnishing desserts with. I’d also like to make some violet honey with them this year.IMG_8541Lesser Celandine
This plant is best eaten before it flowers, and should be cooked first because it contains protaonemonin, which is a toxic compound that is destroyed by heat. It was popular in the past for providing vitamin C to otherwise scurvy-prone people.
This plant wants to live! It’s growing between our patio bricks, and I do believe I’ve tried to remove it a number of times. Now that it’s in flower, I’m happy to see it and try not to step on it. I love the flavor of primrose flowers, and they do have a rosey smell and taste. Some people make wine with primroses!IMG_8549Annual Honesty (or Lunaria Annua)
Part of the mustard family, the flowers, young leaves and seed pods can be eaten. The seeds can be turned into a mustard substitute, too– but this plant is usually ornamental. They have a cabbage-y flavor, so the flowers will be great in salads and to decorate your dinner plates.IMG_8534Field Garlic
At first I thought these were wild onions, but I am pretty sure now they are field garlic. In any case, they have the flavor of both garlic and onion. They are pungent and so tasty. The bulbs stay quite small, you have to gather a few at a time to use them. This year, I think I will chop this bunch and make an herbed salt. Yum!IMG_8522 IMG_8518Lungwort
This has been popular as an herbal remedy for… You guessed it– lung problems. The leaves are said to be good cooked like spinach, and I can vouch for the fresh flavor of the pretty flowers. These were the first to bloom in my garden, and I am forever thankful to them for so much cheerful color at the end of winter.IMG_8525Daisies
The greens and petals can be eaten and have medicinal purposes, as well. The flavor is a little bitter, but that didn’t keep the little girls at Amelia’s flower party last year from gobbling them up.IMG_8546Lemon Balm
Both the leaves and flowers may be eaten raw, and the leaves are also good cooked. I like to make infusions with them. Lemon balm (also known as Melissa) is a very popular herb– I like to drink the tea when I am feeling stressed or wired, as it’s a good nerve calmer.IMG_8536Garlic Mustard
It’s considered an invasive weed, but all parts of this plant are edible: flowers, leaves, roots and seeds. The leaves are best eaten in cooler weather– they get bitter in the summer heat. Flowers can be chopped and added to salads. The roots can be harvested in early spring and in late fall, when there are no flowers, and you can pound them to make a spicy mustard!IMG_8537Elderflowers
These are just in the bud stage, but I can almost smell them already! Heavenly. Last year, I used them for elderflower champagne and elderflower soda. I also have tasted a really nice elderflower beer from a local brewery. You can hang bunches upside down and dry them for tea.IMG_8542Dandelion
This is one of the most well-known edible “weeds.”  As I mentioned in this post, I have used the flowers, buds, leaves and roots– both for food and medicine. I am looking forward to the harvest again this year!IMG_8545Purple Dead Nettle
The flowers are really nice, and are great for garnishing desserts. The tender leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Although it has  “nettle” in the name, they do not sting. Here is a list of some of the medicinal uses.IMG_8538Stinging Nettles
You already know I love this super nutritious, useful and medicinal plant. Now is a great time to harvest stinging nettles and use them in a whole bunch of different ways, including making nettles beer.IMG_8543Ground Elder
This is by far the most prevalent plant in my back yard, and tends to strike fear in the heart of every gardener. This culinary plant is extremely invasive, and will take over everything if you let it. One of my best methods for controlling it is to eat it. The flavor is very herbacious– it tastes like celery and parsley, and I think it’s really delicious! I love to add it to salads and blend it into herbal marinades for meat. I intend to find a lot more ways to use it this year, and hopefully share those recipes with you.IMG_8523So, did you see any plants you recognize from your own back yard? Which ones have you eaten before?

Common Sense Caution: Don’t go around eating plants you are not familiar with. Do some research first to make sure you know what it is. Google image search is your friend! I have a good collection of foraging books to help me spot edibles and avoid toxic plants. Here are a few I recommend: Food for Free, Foraging and Feasting, Thrifty Forager, The Forager’s Harvest.

If you are interested in more foraging posts and ideas, you can check out my foraging board on Pinterest. And please come along on our foraging walk in the woods.
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15 Edible Plants to Forage In Your Own Back Yard

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30 Responses to 15 Edible Plants to Forage in Your Own Back Yard

  1. Joanna March 31, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    We had our first crop of nettles this year, we are further behind than where you are in the UK and they were still tiny but at least it was something fresh, I threw them into the frying pan with some onions, pumpkin seeds and broad beans from the freezer, added to pasta with olive oil and cheese – very nice . Last year we made dandelion syrup, which was a welcome addition to the diet, as a friend of ours didn’t have much honey from her bees. I take great delight in eating ground elder as it is such a pest on our land and the animals won’t eat it. Mind you, I don’t think we will ever get rid of it by eating, we have rather a lot of it. I like lemon balm too and grow it in my herb garden. I did try the garlic mustard, but I think it was a little late in the year and had got bitter, must look out for it again. As for the rest, I shall be looking out for them, as we certainly have some of them, but not all.

    • ariana April 16, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      That sounds really nice, Joanna. I think it was you that told me about ground elder– probably the most prevalent plant in my garden! I read a post from a guy who said that he enjoyed it so much that he did actually eradicate it from his garden, and has to plant a patch. It does sound far-fetched, though, doesn’t it?

      We have recently enjoyed a lot of garlic mustard– they are bitter, but it’s a different sort of bitter than old dandelion greens. I really love it!

    • Ken October 28, 2016 at 12:03 am #

      I don’t want to be rude but, as an experienced forager, the “field garlic” you mentioned is actually wild onions!
      You can tell because field garlic has round leaves and a hollow stem, but wild onion has flattened leaves, like the ones you showed us.

  2. Naomi March 31, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Thanks for the list! I grew up foraging for wild plants but the flora is so completely different that I haven’t gotten much past nettles and ramps. I recognize quite a few on this list and am looking forward to trying them out!

    • ariana April 16, 2014 at 8:19 am #

      I can’t wait to get my hands on some ramps– haven’t seen any quite yet! But we have found wild onions, and I have also been eating some hops shoots. I can hardly keep up with all of the wild edibles right now!

  3. Andi April 10, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

    I think it’s amazing that you have all those edible weeds all around you! Especially wild garlic. Love me some omelets with wild garlic & chevre. I would love to see some recipes with English foraged foods!

    • ariana April 16, 2014 at 8:21 am #

      Yes, we have tons of things to eat in our back yard. I am thinking of doing a follow up post or two– “15 MORE edible plants in our backyard.” It’s kind of amazing, and I am trying to figure out all of the ways to use them. I’ll try to post a couple of recipes. The preparations are usually so simple that I don’t think much about writing recipes– but maybe I should!

  4. Lisa Pedersen May 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    purslane is the most prevalent in our garden…we also eat wood sorrel too!

    • ariana May 20, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      We had purslane in Oregon, but I haven’t seen it here yet. Wood sorrel grows from the walls in the neighborhoods where I walk– but always too close to heavy traffic, so I haven’t eaten any of it. Hoping to find some in the woods soon!

  5. Alex Taylor July 23, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    Waaow, the picture selection are quite amazing as all of them are looking so real.

  6. goose May 4, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    I really liked your list. There is an edible part of Annual honesty that you didn’t mention, the root. If you dig it before blooming (when it will be in the way) there are bulbous roots that you can eat. Peeled and eaten fresh, they are spicy like a radish with a hint of floral sweetness. A fun addition to salads and sandwiches.

  7. Stephanie August 22, 2015 at 12:11 am #

    Horsetail is edible too!

  8. greentalk March 20, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    My lawn is like a big wild garlic patch. I actually grow dead nettle and lemon balm as well. Dead nettles loves my blueberries for some reason. Sharing your post.

  9. Daniel April 3, 2017 at 1:45 am #

    I live in Southern California… any idea if any of these wild weeds grow here

  10. Jen May 15, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    Becareful before you eat wild plants before or recommend others do. The picture you have for purple deadhead nettle is really ground cover not purple dead head nettle at all. You probably have purple dead head nettle around close by so make sure you’re getting the right stuff ?

  11. Devo May 19, 2017 at 4:42 am #

    Is that purple dead nettle or henbit in the pic u have? Or something else? It doesn’t look like purple dead nettle I’ve seen where the tops are all purple


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