Wild Edibles in Southern Ontario
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.