Edible and Medicinal Plants often found in urban settings

Many people associate foraging with living in rural areas, or off the grid, or surviving in the forest. While those are all areas where foraging is a great way to supplement you diet, urban foraging is something available to everyone. Unless you treat your yard with herbicide, I would be willing to bet that you have multiple edible plants growing right outside your door. You can also forage in parks, fields, and the lawns around schools and churches. Urban gardens are an excellent place to forage. That seems like a no brainer, but believe it or not, I am not talking about the planted fare. My favorite garden plant is considered a noxious weed, and the scourge of gardeners everywhere. Purslane grows in disturbed rich soils. Much to the chagrin of just about every gardener, vegetable and herb gardens provide ideal conditions for it to flourish.

It truly saddens me that children have to go to bed hungry because their parents are unaware that a delicious salad is more than likely growing right outside their door. And it is all free for the taking. Lets look at my yard and garden as an example. In my yard I have chickweed, chicory, dandelion, japanese knotweed, lamb's quarters, mullein, pineapple weed, plantain, queen anne's lace (wild carrot), red clover, violet, sow thistle, white clover, wild lettuce, wild mint, wood sorrel, and last but definitely not least purslane. That is not including the maple, willow, and walnut trees I have. All of that growing on a city lot less than ¾ of an acre in area. We are all surrounded by highly nutritious foods, and healthful medicinals, free for the taking.

Garden Purslane photo
Purslane is my favorite wild edible

I went to visit a friend one beautiful summer afternoon. As we sat on his deck overlooking his huge garden, drinking a cold beer he told me of the awful morning he had spent pulling weeds. He promptly asked me to follow him to his garden, where he proceeded to show me two large lawn waste recycling bags full of in his words, "those damned weeds". I looked in the bag and could not stop the smile from splitting my face. I asked him why he plants a garden. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I asked him to humor me, and answer my question. He said "for vegetables to eat". The "you idiot" part of his answer was implied. I said do you like to eat salad? Again he looked at me like I had lost my marbles, but simply said "yes", humoring me much the way you would a child. I said he had just spent the day pulling what is arguable the best salad green he will ever eat. He just looked at me like I had lost my mind. I continued without waiting for his response. This bag appears to be full of Purslane. He said it is, as a matter of fact the other bag is full of it as well. I reached in and grabbed a handful of the succulent plant, put it in my mouth, chewed it up, and swallowed it. He could not take it any longer; "are you nuts?" "Yes but that is beside the point" I answered. "For centuries purslane has been grown across the world as a food crop." It is not native to the North America, but was rather brought here by immigrants as an easy to grow highly nutritious food source. It was not until the early 20th century that it fell from our diet, and was relegated to the status of obnoxious weed. At my insistence, he warily gave it a try. "Hey this is pretty good. It has a really mild flavor." I found out a while later that he then had his wife research purslane on the internet. He called me to say I was right. That even his sister-in-law knew about purslane.

Interested in edible plants? Come along on one of our Plant Walks.

Autumn Olive

Eleagnus umbulata

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Black Cherry

Prunus serotina

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Black Raspberry

Rubus occidentalis

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Burdock

Arctium spp.

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Pot Marigold

Calendula officinalis

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Cattail

Typha spp.

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Chickweed

Stallaria media

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Chicory

Cichorium intybus

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chokecherry

Prunus virginiana

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Clover-Red

Trifolium pratense

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Clover-White

Trifolium perens

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Coltsfoot

Tussilago farfara

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Comfrey

Symphytum officinale

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Cowparsnip

Heracleum maximum

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Creeping Bellflower

Campanula rapunculoides

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Curlydock

Rumex crispus

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Dandelion

Taraxacum

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Daylily

Hemerocallis fulva

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Eastern White Pine

Pinus strobus

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Echinacea

Echinacea purpurea

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Elderberry

Sambucas nigra

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Evening Primrose

Oenothera spp.

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Garlic Mustard

Alliaria petiolata

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Goldenrod

Solidago canadensis

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Japanese Knotweed

Fallopia japonic

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Juneberry

Amelanchier medik

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Kava Kava

Piper methysticum

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Ladys Thumb

Polygonum persicaria

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Lamb's Quarters

Chenopodium album

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Mallow

Malva neglecta

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Mullberry

Morus rubra

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Mullein

Verbascum thapsus

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Oxeye Daisy

Chrysanthemum leucanth.

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Pineapple Weed

Matricaria discoidea

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Plantain

Plantago spp.

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Purslane

Portulaca oleracea

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Queen Anne's Lace

Daucus carota

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Salsify

Tragopogon spp.

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Sheep Sorrel

Rumex acetosella

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Shepherd's Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

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Staghorn Sumac

Rhus typhina

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Swamp Rose

Rosa palustris

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Tall Blue Lettuce

Lactuca biennis

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White Cedar

Thuja occidentalis

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Wild Bergamot

Monarda fistulosa

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Wild grape

Vitis riparia

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Wild Lettuce

Lactuca canadensis

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Willow

Salix spp.

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Wintercress

Barbarea vulgaris

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Wood Sorrel

Oxalis spp.

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Yarrow

Achillea millefolium

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