One common plant found in most any pond, backwater or beaver dam is the cattail. The entire plant is edible and was the main staple of many Native American tribes. The roots and white part of the lower stalk are sweet and very tasty. In the late spring and very early summer, the corn-dog looking top can be boiled, and it tastes a lot like sweet corn.
Dandelions are everywhere and are edible, but they’re a little bitter. Lots of people eat the young greens, but the flowers make a better wine.
Another great plant is the wood sorrel. I’ve seen it many times along the trails and among the trees. It is a small plant with leaves that look like a three-leaf clover, except that each leaf sort of hangs down. You may easily notice the pretty white flower with blackish veins running through the petals. It has been used for food and medicine for centuries. Eating the leaves quenches your thirst and the roots can be cooked. It’s a great source of Vitamin C and tastes a little like potato.
Burdocks are found everywhere and are edible. The leaves, however, are very bitter. The best part is the stalk and root. Burdocks are commonly eaten in Japan.
There are a number of safe, edible plants, berries and nuts available in the wilds. I took a wilderness first-aid and survival course one time and learned a lot, but there are some good books available to guide you safely along. Sure, I could survive for a while if I had to, but a freeze-dried meal by Mountain House tastes a heck of a lot better.
Many of the edible woodland plants don’t have the best flavor, but they would do in a pinch. It would be better than going to bed hungry.
Remember, when in doubt, avoid it. And leave the mushrooms alone. Many of those are deadly.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.