Wild Edibles in Southern Ontario

June 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Health Articles

Wild food is some of the most nutritious – even more than organic produce – because the soil hasn’t been tampered with compared to farming.

 

Here’s how to identify your local native plants, the health benefits, and how to consume them.

 

This season, we’ll have lots of wild harvested food on the House of Verona retreat menu.

We’ll also be offering wild edible walks in the Blue Mountain area for our guests to pick and discover their own wild, highly nutritious foods.

Book a customized retreat by emailing bookings@houseofverona.com or call 1-800-252-2826.

 

Disclaimer – NEVER eat anything unless you are 100% sure what it is – consult a field guide or herbalist expert if you are not sure.

 

Greens

 

Dandelions

Health benefits: High in vitamin A and protein; good to cleanse the liver.

To use: throw flowers in salads or dehydrate the roots to make an instant coffee substitute. Use the greens in smoothies or salads. Pick them in the spring so that they’re not as bitter.


Clovers

Health benefits: calcium, chromium, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, niacin, thiamine and phosphorus, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center.

To use: the flowers and leaves are edible in salads, smoothies or teas.

 

Wood sorrel

This clover look-a-like tastes very lemony and has darling heart shaped leaves.

Health benefits: high in vitamin C; also used by Native Canadians to relieve thirst.

To use: Throw in salads or smoothies.

 

 

Wild garlic mustard

Health benefits: shown to reduce “bad” cholesterol and strengthen immunity

To use: add to salads, soups, or anything else you’d use garlic or mustard in.

 

 

Wild leeks


Found in forests particularly in damp conditions.

Health benefits: source of manganese, vitamin C, iron, folate, and B6.

To use: use the entire plant just like you would an onion or a clove of garlic. Best picked in late spring/early summer

 

Wild peppermint

You can tell it is mint because the stem is square-shaped. Some species have purple leaves.

Health benefits: has been shown to soothe stomach aches, and a source of vitamin C and A.

To use: in teas, smoothies, or salads

 

 

Burdock

Recognized by its broad leaves and red root, this sucker is all over downtown Toronto.

Health benefits: removes toxins from the bloodstream.

To use: Use the root to make a detoxifying tea, rub the root on hives from stinging nettles to act as an antidote, or use the root as you would any other root vegetable (potatoes, carrots, beets..)

 

 

Jewel-weed, aka Spotted Touch-me-not

Crack open the stem and juice oozes out which is the Canadian answer to aloe vera.

Health benefits: Soothing – it treats insect bites, burns and poison ivy.

To use: Cut open stem and apply topically.

 

 

Dog-toothed violet, aka Troutlilly

Found in forests under thick canopies.

Health benefits: shown to reduce “bad” cholesterol

To use: Great in salads or smoothies.

 

Goldenrod

This green has an anise or “root beer” fragrance.

Health benefits: helps to cleanse the digestive system.

To use: Make a tea out of the leaves and yellow flowers.

 

 

Wild carrot aka Queen Anne’s lace
This ubiquitous flower is actually a wild carrot

Health benefits: high in vitamins A, K and C.

To use: just as you would any carrot: salads, soups, mixed vegetable dishes.

Careful: There are poisonous lookalikes – only eat this if it actually smells like carrot!

 

Catnip

Also known as cat-mint, it’s identifiable by its square purplish-green stem and purplish leaves

Health benefits: getting your cat high.

To use: slip under Muffin’s nose and watch her go wild.

 

Burgamot

Part of the mint family, it’s what many earl gray teas are actually made from

Health benefits: it’s a diuretic, so it’ll clean you out

To use: steep into a tea

 

 

Plantain

This little guy is a very common “weed”.

Health benefits: an antidote to skin irritants.

To use: Crush it up and use it to soothe bee stings, insect bites, and poison ivy.

 

Cat Tails

Called the supermarket of the wilderness, every part can be eaten.

Health benefits: loaded with raw starch, nutrients and carbohydrates to keep you alive in the forest

To use: pull a live green tail out of the water, peel off a few leaves and eat it like celery. Open up the fuzzy brown top to reveal pollen, which can be used just as flour is used – mix into batters.

 

St John’s Wort

This grows wild but is native to Germany. The green sprouts beside the brown dried seeds are what is used to harvest the herb. The purple dots on the underside of the leaves are what contain the medicinal chemical.

Health benefits: a potent anti-depressant – but never to be used by pregnant women, as there are negative side effects

To use: Don’t. It’s not advised to experiment without knowing the real dosage level. Best to buy a natural supplement instead.

 

Wild rice (which is actually a grass) and wild asparagus can also be found in Ontario.

Trees

 

Willow trees

All willow trees are a source of ASA, or a natural source of aspirin

Health benefits: a reliable non-opiate painkiller found in the forest

To use: cut off a branch and steep slowly on medium or low heat for an hour in water. Strain & drink. Never boil.

 

 

White Cedar

Health benefits: very high in vitamin C; prevents insect bites when used topically.

To use: crush the greens between your hands and rub on your skin as a natural bug spray, or steep into a tea. Never boil.

 

All Evergreens

Any evergreen tree is high in vitamin C
Steep needles slowly to make a tea – never boil for a tea it unless you want to ingest a toxic syrup.

Fruit

 

 

Black Cherries

These come from the black cherry tree, identifiable by bark that resembles Corn Flakes.

Health benefits: high in antioxidants.

To use: gather the fruit which has fallen at the base of the tree.

 

 

Mulberries

Found all over Toronto, ripe mulberries are nature’s gummi bears.

Health benefits: high in antioxidants.

To use: shake the tree & eat. Careful: only eat if it’s ripe. Unripe mulberries and leaves are hallucinogenic!

 

 

Staghorn sumac tree

Her fuzzy antler-like branches are easy to spot.

Health benefits: very high in vitamin C.

To use: Steep red fruit & strain to make a tart tea. Chill to make sumac lemonade.

Tip: The berries are the best picked in the fall.

 

 

Juniper Berries

These tiny blue berries have a distinct cedar taste.

Health benefits: high in antioxidants, but an old wives’ tale says that too much can make you sterile.

To use: Add dried & crushed berries to sauces

 

Rosehip

Any rose flowers are edible, regardless of the species.

Health benefits: very high in vitamin C

To use: Rosehips are the fruit when the petals of the flower falls off. The leaves and flowers are also edible in salads or teas.

I wouldn’t eat roses grown for the “love industry” – not sure the dyes or pesticides sprayed on there.

 

Wild grapes, wild raspberries, and wild strawberry can also be found in Ontario.

 


 

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2 Comments on "Wild Edibles in Southern Ontario"

  1. Raw.la - Raw Food in The News and Around The Web on Wed, 1st Jun 2011 4:15 pm 

    [...] Wild Edibles in Southern Ontario [...]

  2. Airtol-New Blog » Wild Edibles in Southern Ontario on Thu, 2nd Jun 2011 4:07 am 

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