The use of unusual ingredients, such as edible flowers or edible plants, is not a prerogative of famous chefs; wouldn’t it be fun to learn which wild plants and flowers can be used in cooking? This computer graph by Uk Oak Doors provides a practical guide to edible wild plants; over 16 different natural ingredients are indicated as being edible without causing any unpleasant side effects, whether it is a question of survival or a simple desire to create original recipes.
It is not always easy to understand whether a wild plant can be used as a cooking ingredient: for instance, it is better to refrain from eating mushrooms if you are not completely sure they are safe, and neither can you assume that a certain type of grass is fit for human consumption just because an animal eats it.
But which wild plants and flowers can be used safely and in what ways are they good for us? Here is a list of 16 edible wild plants you can use in cooking.
It grows practically everywhere in the world and its leaves are edible, but watch out when it flowers: once its yellow flowers have blossomed, the leaves taste bitterer, even though it can still be used.
Photo: Wikipedia / FoeNyx
Sorrel can be found almost everywhere in Europe and in some parts of Central Asia and North America. Its leaves and stem can be eaten. Don’t confuse it with Dock, however, which is extremely bitter albeit edible.
Photo: Wikipedia / left lifar /right Panterka
Fat Hen is mainly to be found in Europe, Africa, Australia, North America and Oceania. It grows in nitrogen-rich soil. The leaves, shoots and seeds of this plant are all edible. Curiously, it is related to Quinoa, which is cultivated for its seeds.
Photo: Wikipedia / Enrico Blasutto
To be found in Europe and North America, especially in gardens and fields. It is possible to eat its stems, leaves, flowers and seeds. But don’t overdo it: Chickweed contains nitrates and is therefore poisonous in large quantities.
Photo: Wikipedia / Enrico Blasutto
It is widespread in North America, but frequently sold on European markets. The edible part of the plant is a tuber. Its name is obviously misleading. In actual fact, Jerusalem artichoke is a type of sunflower.
Photo: Wikipedia /left /right Hans.B
This seaweed, whose leaves are edible, is obviously found in the sea. If possible, dry it before eating.
To be found in North America and Cuba. As with all onions, the bulbs are the edible part but do be careful: many plants may look deceivingly similar to wild onion. So, if you cannot smell that characteristic onion odour, leave it where it is.
Photo: Wikipedia / Eurleif
Purslane grows practically everywhere in the world from the start of the summer through to autumn. Its leaves are edible and have a pleasantly sour taste; the earlier in the morning you pick it, the sourer its flavour will be. Don’t confuse it with its poisonous look-alike, spurge, which can be detected thanks to a milky white sap that appears when its stem is snapped.
Commonly found in North American forests and fields, its fruit is edible but only when fully ripe, that is to say, when soft and yellow. The unripe fruit is hard and green. It is preferable, however, not to overindulge because, even when ripe, this fruit can cause indigestion.
Photo: Rural Ramblings
This plant grows in America (Central and South) and in the UK. Its leaves, flowers and stems are edible. It owes its name to the fact that Californian Gold Rush miners used to eat it frequently for its high Vitamin C content, which helped protect them from scurvy.
This plant can be foraged in Europe, North and South America, Africa and Eurasia. Its stems and rhizomes are edible. The best part to eat is the stem closest to the ground, where it is whiter in colour.
Herb Robert grows in Western Europe and in other temperate areas of the world, in woodlands and on shingle beaches. All parts of the plant may be eaten.
To be found in North America, Russia, Mexico, East Asia and England growing by the roadside, along footpaths and in waste areas. Its leaves and flowers are edible. They may be used to cure upset stomachs, high temperatures and infections.
It grows in Europe. Asia and in some parts of North America, even along the roadside. It is possible to eat its leaves, flowers and seeds.
WILD BEE BALM
This herbaceous plant is typically found in North America growing in fields and on the edge of limestone glades. Both its leaves and flowers are edible.
Photo: Wikipedia / MGA73bot2
Mallow can be found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, America and Australia and is entirely edible. Used as a medicinal herb, it is anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emollient and laxative.
These are tough times for chefs and restaurant professionals around the world, but there has never been a better time to seek advice and help around a number of topics affecting hospitality workers. Here's a round-up of some of the most useful resources for chefs.