As a homesteader, it is valuable knowledge to know about edible plants, nuts, and berries. I have compiled a large list of approximately 110 different edible and medicinal plants from all over the world. Below I am sharing some of the plants from the e-book “A Homestead Guide to Edible Plants”, which is available for download at the end of this article.
Excerpts from “A Homestead Guide to Edible Plants”
Description: Acacia is a spreading, usually short tree with spines and alternate compound leaves. Its individual leaflets are small. Its flowers are ball-shaped, bright yellow, and very fragrant. Its bark is a whitish-gray color. Its fruits are dark brown and podlike.
Habitat and Distribution: Acacia grows in open, sunny areas. It is found throughout all tropical regions.
Note: There are about 500 species of acacia. These plants are especially prevalent in Africa, southern Asia, and Australia, but many species are found in the warmer and drier parts of America.
Edible Parts: Its young leaves, flowers, and pods are edible raw or cooked.
Description: These plants have large clusters of thick, fleshy leaves borne close to the ground and surrounding a central stalk. The plants flower only once, then die. They produce a massive flower stalk.
Habitat and Distribution: Agaves prefer dry, open areas. They are found throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of the western deserts of the United States and Mexico.
Edible Parts: Its flowers and flower buds are edible. Boil them before eating.
CAUTION: The juice of some species causes dermatitis in some individuals.
Other Uses: Cut the huge flower stalk and collect the juice for drinking. Some species have very fibrous leaves. Pound the leaves and remove the fibers for weaving and making ropes. Most species have thick, sharp needles at the tips of the leaves. Use them for sewing or making hacks. The sap of some species contains a chemical that makes the sap suitable for use as a soap.
Description: The almond tree, which sometimes grows to 12.2 meters, looks like a peach tree. The fresh almond fruit resembles a gnarled, unripe peach and grows in clusters. The stone (the almond itself) is covered with a thick, dry, woolly skin.
Habitat and Distribution: Almonds are found in the scrub and thorn forests of the tropics, the evergreen scrub forests of temperate areas, and in desert scrub and waste in all climatic zones. The almond tree is also found in the semidesert areas of the Old World in southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Iran, the Middle East, China, Madeira, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.
Edible Parts: The mature almond fruit splits open lengthwise down the side, exposing the ripe almond nut. You can easily get the dry kernel by simply cracking open the stone. Almond meats are rich in food value, like all nuts. Gather them in large quantities and shell them for further use as survival food. You could live solely on almonds for rather long periods. When you boil them, the kernel’s outer covering comes off and only the white meat remains.
Maranta and Sagittaria species
Description: The arrowroot is an aquatic plant with arrow-shaped leaves and potatolike tubers in the mud.
Habitat and Distribution: Arrowroot is found worldwide in temperate zones and the tropics. It is found in moist to wet habitats.
Edible Parts: The rootstock is a rich source of high quality starch. Boil the rootstock and eat it as a vegetable.
Description: The spring growth of this plant resembles a cluster of green fingers. The mature plant has fernlike, wispy foliage and red berries. Its flowers are small and greenish in color. Several species have sharp, thornlike structures.
Habitat and Distribution: Asparagus is found worldwide in temperate areas. Look for it in fields, old homesites, and fencerows.
Edible Parts: Eat the young stems before leaves form. Steam or boil them for 10 to 15 minutes before eating. Raw asparagus may cause nausea or diarrhea. The fleshy roots are a good source of starch.
WARNING: Do not eat the fruits of any since some are toxic
Various species including Bambusa, Dendrocalamus, Phyllostachys
Description: Bamboos are woody grasses that grow up to 15 meters tall. The leaves are grasslike and the stems are the familiar bamboo used in furniture and fishing poles.
Habitat and Distribution: Look for bamboo in warm, moist regions in open or jungle country, in lowland, or on mountains. Bamboos are native to the Far East (Temperate and Tropical zones) but have bean widely planted around the world.
Edible Parts: The young shoots of almost all species are edible raw or cooked. Raw shoots have a slightly bitter taste that is removed by boiling. To prepare, remove the tough protective sheath that is coated with tawny or red hairs. The seed grain of the flowering bamboo is also edible. Boil the seeds like rice or pulverize them, mix with water, and make into cakes.
Other Uses: Use the mature bamboo to build structures or to make containers, ladles, spoons, and various other cooking utensils. Also use bamboo to make tools and weapons. You can make a strong bow by splitting the bamboo and putting several pieces together.
CAUTION: Green bamboo may explode in a fire. Green bamboo has an internal membrane you must remove before using it as a food or water container.
Description: Beech trees are large (9 to 24 meters), symmetrical forest trees that have smooth, light-gray bark and dark green foliage. The character of its bark, plus its clusters of prickly seedpods, clearly distinguish the beech tree in the field.
Habitat and Distribution: This tree is found in the Temperate Zone. It grows wild in the eastern United States, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is found in moist areas, mainly in the forests. This tree is common throughout southeastern Europe and across temperate Asia. Beech relatives are also found in Chile, New Guinea, and New Zealand.
Edible Parts: The mature beechnuts readily fall out of the husklike seedpods. You can eat these dark brown triangular nuts by breaking the thin shell with your fingernail and removing the white, sweet kernel inside. Beechnuts are one of the most delicious of all wild nuts. They are a most useful survival food because of the kernel’s high oil content. You can also use the beechnuts as a coffee substitute. Roast them so that the kernel becomes golden brown and quite hard. Then pulverize the kernel and, after boiling or steeping in hot water, you have a passable coffee substitute.
Blueberry and huckleberry
Vaccinium and Gaylussacia species
Description: These shrubs vary in size from 30 centimeters to 3.7 meters tall. All have alternate, simple leaves. Their fruits may be dark blue, black, or red and have many small seeds.
Habitat and Distribution: These plants prefer open, sunny areas. They are found throughout much of the north temperate regions and at higher elevations in Central America.
Edible Parts: Their fruits are edible raw.
Description: This plant has wavy-edged, arrow-shaped leaves and flower heads in burrlike clusters. It grows up to 2 meters tall, with purple or pink flowers and a large, fleshy root.
Habitat and Distribution: Burdock is found worldwide in the North Temperate Zone. Look for it in open waste areas during the spring and summer.
Edible Parts: Peel the tender leaf stalks and eat them raw or cook them like greens. The roots are also edible boiled or baked.
CAUTION: Do not confuse burdock with rhubarb that has poisonous leaves.
Other Uses: A liquid made from the roots will help to produce sweating and increase urination. Dry the root, simmer it in water, strain the liquid, and then drink the strained liquid. Use the fiber from the dried stalk to weave cordage.
Description: The canna lily is a coarse perennial herb, 90 centimeters to 3 meters tall. The plant grows from a large, thick, underground rootstock that is edible. Its large leaves resemble those of the banana plant but are not so large. The flowers of wild canna lily are usually small, relatively inconspicuous, and brightly colored reds, oranges, or yellows.
Habitat and Distribution: As a wild plant, the canna lily is found in all tropical areas, especially in moist places along streams, springs, ditches, and the margins of woods. It may also be found in wet temperate, mountainous regions. It is easy to recognize because it is commonly cultivated in flower gardens in the United States.
Edible Parts: The large and much branched rootstocks are full of edible starch. The younger parts may be finely chopped and then boiled or pulverized into a meal. Mix in the young shoots of palm cabbage for flavoring.
Description: The cashew is a spreading evergreen tree growing to a height of 12 meters, with leaves up to 20 centimeters long and 10 centimeters wide. Its flowers are yellowish-pink. Its fruit is very easy to recognize because of its peculiar structure. The fruit is thick and pear-shaped, pulpy and red or yellow when ripe. This fruit bears a hard, green, kidney-shaped nut at its tip. This nut is smooth, shiny, and green or brown according to its maturity.
Habitat and Distribution: The cashew is native to the West Indies and northern South America, but transplantation has spread it to all tropical climates. In the Old World, it has escaped from cultivation and appears to be wild at least in parts of Africa and India.
Edible Parts: The nut encloses one seed. The seed is edible when roasted. The pear- shaped fruit is juicy, sweet-acid, and astringent. It is quite safe and considered delicious by most people who eat it.
CAUTION: The green hull surrounding the nut contains a resinous irritant poison that will blister the lips and tongue like poison ivy. Heat destroys this poison when roasting the nuts.
Description: Cattails are grasslike plants with strap-shaped leaves 1 to 5 centimeters wide and growing up to 1.8 meters tall. The male flowers are borne in a dense mass above the female flowers. These last only a short time, leaving the female flowers that develop into the brown cattail. Pollen from the male flowers is often abundant and bright yellow.
Habitat and Distribution: Cattails are found throughout most of the world. Look for them in full sun areas at the margins of lakes, streams, canals, rivers, and brackish water.
Edible Parts: The young tender shoots are edible raw or cooked. The rhizome is often very tough but is a rich source of starch. Pound the rhizome to remove the starch and use as a flour. The pollen is also an exceptional source of starch. When the cattail is immature and still green, you can boil the female portion and eat it like corn on the cob.
Other Uses: The dried leaves are an excellent source of weaving material you can use to make floats and rafts. The cottony seeds make good pillow stuffing and insulation. The fluff makes excellent tinder. Dried cattails are effective insect repellents when burned.
Description: These cacti are tall and narrow with angled stems and numerous spines.
Habitat and Distribution: They may be found in true deserts and other dry, open, sunny areas throughout the Caribbean region, Central America, and the western United States.
Edible Parts: The fruits are edible, but some may have a laxative effect.
Other Uses: The pulp of the cactus is a good source of water. Break open the stem and scoop out the pulp.
Description: The European chestnut is usually a large tree, up to 18 meters in height.
Habitat and Distribution: In temperate regions, the chestnut is found in both hardwood and coniferous forests. In the tropics, it is found in semievergreen seasonal forests. They are found over all of middle and south Europe and across middle Asia to China and Japan. They are relatively abundant along the edge of meadows and as a forest tree. The European chestnut is one of the most common varieties. Wild chestnuts in Asia belong to the related chestnut species.
Edible Parts: Chestnuts are highly useful as survival food. Ripe nuts are usually picked in autumn, although unripe nuts picked while green may also be used for food.
Perhaps the easiest way to prepare them is to roast the ripe nuts in embers. Cooked this way, they are quite tasty, and you can eat large quantities. Another way is to boil the kernels after removing the outer shell. After being boiled until fairly soft, you can mash the nuts like potatoes.
Description: This plant grows up to 1.8 meters tall. It has leaves clustered at the base of the stem and some leaves on the stem. The base leaves resemble those of the dandelion. The flowers are sky blue and stay open only on sunny days. Chicory has a milky juice.
Habitat and Distribution: Look for chicory in old fields, waste areas, weedy lots, and along roads. It is a native of Europe and Asia, but is also found in Africa and most of North America where it grows as a weed.
Edible Parts: All parts are edible. Eat the young leaves as a salad or boil to eat as a vegetable. Cook the roots as a vegetable. For use as a coffee substitute, roast the roots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them.
If you have found this useful information, I hope you download the book, and share it with your friends and those interested in homesteading.
Download: A Homestead Guide to Edible Plants
Feel free to leave a review for A Homestead Guide to Edible Plants in the comments.