When was the last time you looked at your back yard for more than a few seconds? With your hectic schedules, you might struggle to remember. But little do you know, there could be plants growing in your backyard that are edible and can be added to some of your favorite dishes. Foraging is an important skill for preppers, and there’s no better place to start than your own backyard!
In this post, we will give you a list of the common edible plants in your backyard and we will discuss each type to give a little idea of their background.
15 Backyard Edible Wild Plants
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelions are one of the common edible plants in your backyard. They can be easily recognized due to their eye-catching yellow flowers, and they are hard to miss since they are spread around lawns throughout North America and Europe. Their flowers, leaves, buds and roots are all edible and have medicinal uses—and these parts can be eaten either raw or cooked.
You can start by pulling the small leaves which can be found in the middle of their clump. Their taste depends on the area you live in, but they usually taste bitter. They are rich in minerals and vitamins A, C, as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium.
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)
Purslane, or also known as ‘pigweed’, is a small plant with smooth, thick leaves that look like a teardrop. They look a bit like a cross between spinach and okra. This plant can be found in grassy pastures almost anywhere and is notable hardy, since they can grow even in poor soil conditions—they blossom from early summer into the fall.
They have a mild taste, but to be specific, they taste sour yet refreshing. Moreover, the leaves and stems are rich in iron, calcium and fatty acids.
Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Sheep sorrel is related to French sorrel, a gourmet green, and tastes nearly the same as its fancy counterpart. They look a bit like an arrow, with spade-shaped leaves and a reddish-green stem. They are typically found in grasslands all across the USA.
They give a strong tangy flavor with a slight hint of bitterness. Moreover, they are rich in vitamin C and E, and they can aid inflammation and diarrhea. Despite their benefits, you should not consume a large amount of Sheep Sorrel due to their high oxalate levels. Consuming too much oxalate can cause kidney stones in some people. That’s the last thing a prepper needs!
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
Here’s another plant related to French sorrel, the yellow dock, a great one of the edible plants in your backyard. Also known as ‘curly leaf dock,’ this is a plant that can grow up to 1.5 meters in height. They can be often found along the roads across the United States. You can recognize a yellow dock by its distinctive narrow-looking leaves with curly edges.
You may not believe it, but this plant tastes like lemon. You should always cook Yellow Dock, as it can be harmful raw. And don’t consume too much- unless you want diarrhea.
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.)
Regardless of the name, this plant is botanically unrelated to other sorrels when it comes to edible plants in your backyard. However, it shares that same distinctive tangy taste. It’s hard to miss a wood sorrel due to its heart-shaped leaves and delicate texture. In addition to its appearance, its leaves grow in a set of three and it blossoms small flowers of three colors which come in white, yellow—often mistaken for clover.
Wood Sorrel tastes like lemon because of the high oxalate levels- therefore it should not be consumed in large quantities, as we discussed with Sheep Sorrel. Still, it is rich in vitamin C and people say small amounts help with fever, sore throat, and nausea.
Lamb’s Quarters (Chenopodium album)
Lamb’s quarters is perhaps the most widely recognized yet an underrated of the edible plants in your backyard. It can help restore a soil’s poor condition while giving a decent nutrition to its consumer at the same time. You can recognize one by its diamond-shaped leaves, usually looking like its leaves are coated in powder.
You can eat its leaves either raw or cooked. Additionally, you can eat its seeds since they are rich in protein, calcium and potassium. But be careful preppers: practice and be very careful picking this plant. There are toxic look-alikes out there.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed stems are one of the edible plants in your backyard that can grow tall- up to a foot and a half tall. However, it grows closely to the ground surface, spreading like a carpet. You may also recognize it by its oval-shaped leaves which grow in pairs. This plant sprouts small white flowers over time.
Chickweed’s taste, in all honesty, is just like grass. We all ate grass as a kid at least once, right? Or was that just me. But some would describe it as pleasant and mild. You can eat it either raw or cooked. Despite the taste, it is rich in vitamins, minerals and can be used as anti-inflammatory and digestive aid.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
Garlic mustard has spread to many parts of North America and is one of the common edible plants in your backyard. You can recognize it by its delicate lily pad-looking leaves. You can harvest their roots from the early spring to late fall.
All parts of this plant are edible, which are the flowers, leaves, roots and seeds. Its taste can be described as having a hint of horseradish and garlic or even mustard greens. You should look for this one during the fall and winter, as it gets bitter in the summer.
Violets (Viola spp.)
Violets are a bit like dandelions, but arguably the better looking of these two edible plants in your backyard. They can spread like wildfire through your home lawn and gardens. As its name betrays its color, you will recognize it by the violet-colored flowers. But when it is not yet in full-bloom, you will see heart-shaped looking leaves.
The stem, flower and the leaves can both be eaten either raw or cooked. Their smell is quite nice and most folks describe it as mildly sweet.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory is considered to be a high-value plant from its petal to root. This plant often grows in the wild and you can recognize it by its small white, lavender and blue flowers. It might not show up in your backyard, but if it does, it’s worth noting.
The taste is very woody yet a bit spicy, and its leaves are pretty bitter. You can eat everything in Chicory such as flowers, leaves and roots. It is known for curing constipation or an upset stomach due to its toxicity against internal parasites. It’s a great thing for a prepper to have on-hand when SHTF and there’s no more drugstore.
Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
Ground ivy, also known as ‘gill-over-the-ground’, is a low-profile plant that is famous for being missed by lawnmowers. It’s a creeping ground ivy, and it can easily colonize a yard by spreading out its roots.
It has a strong minty taste- you don’t want to eat much.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Milk thistle has distinctive spikes and purple flowers. It is often used as an alternative to spinach. It can grow up to one meter tall after two years of completing its growing cycle.
It has the bitterness followed by a sweet aftertaste. You can have it either raw or cooked but before trying to eat one, make sure to remove the spines first.
BEWARE: Some people experience nausea and diarrhea after eating milk thistle. This is gonna be one to try out before you add it to the list of edible plants in your backyard
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
The stems of cleavers typically form to be angular or square-looking while being covered in small and sticky fibrous hairs with little white flowers.
The leaves and stem can be eaten, despite its stickiness. Despite being sticky, this plant actually tastes similar to pea shoots. Believe it!
Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea)
Pineapple weed is often mistaken for a bare chamomile flower, so if you ever come across one, just squish the leaves between your fingers and the scent will give you the answer what it is. If it doesn’t smell like chamomile, it’s Pineapple Weed. In addition to its appearance, you can recognize it by the conical-shaped head and its yellowy-green color, giving a bit of a pineapple-like appearance.
As the name implies, it tastes like mild pineapple. Look for the younger leaves and flowers because the older ones will most probably begin to taste bitter. You can eat this raw or you can boil some water and make tea.
As you can see, there are many species of plants that could be growing in your backyard that help with minor health issues or add nutrition and flavor to meals. But before you try gathering plants you think might be edible, you should do your part of making sure that you have enough knowledge and experience, because eating the wrong plant can put your life in danger. This is just a little primer on what nature can offer you from your own backyard. It’s up to you to do the real work in picking, identifying, and being 100% positive that a certain plant is safe to eat if you ever need to supplement your food supplies with backyard edible plants
Above all else, you MUST be careful picking and eating wild plants. If you aren’t sure if you should eat it, DON’T! Some wild plants can be dangerous and deadly. This guide is here to help start your knowledge base- don’t run outside and start eating wild plants without the proper guidance.