Wild and Wayside Plants: The Nutritional Advantages

green parsley on marble table

Do you enjoy hiking or playing outside? Perhaps you simply want to eat more healthily, reducing your consumption of processed foods and upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. If so, you might be interested in wayside and wild plants, which are both edible and provide an excellent source of nutrition. Wayside plants grow wild along the sides of the road, such as dandelions and common clover, while wild plants usually grow in forests, fields, or other areas that are not cultivated by humans, such as blackberries and cattails. Remember to rinse all edibles with drinkable water.

Wild Greens
Along with being low in calories, many of these wild plants are also high in fiber. A study published in a 2006 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed more fiber had lower body weight, smaller waist circumference and reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. Examples of dietary fiber include whole grains, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables; all these items can easily be included in a healthy diet. In addition to helping, you maintain a healthier weight overall, eating more fiber may reduce your risk for diabetes as well as heart disease. Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants — an important part of any healthy diet because they may help to reduce your risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease.

bunch of delicious ripe blueberries lying on market stall
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Wild Edible Roots
There are many wayside plants to choose from, but wild edible roots are a particularly good choice because they can be found in various places across America—in forests, fields, even ditches. While eating these plants is not for everyone, those who enjoy foraging for food should consider adding them to their diet. First off, wild edible roots are nutritional powerhouses. Many of them contain more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach. And that’s just two of a long list of nutrients these tasty tubers pack. Second, since wild edible roots are native to North America, you won’t have to worry about genetic modification or harmful pesticides that you might find on imported vegetables or fruits; organic or not, buying root vegetables at grocery stores could expose you to chemicals you don’t want in your body.

Wild Herbs and Flowers
A Healthy, Natural Choice: Eating wild herbs and flowers may seem strange at first, but these plants can serve as an easy, healthy way to round out your daily diet. Many of these plants have medicinal properties, are high in fiber, or offer a different kind of taste that you may not be able to find elsewhere. From chickweed to dandelions, there’s something for everyone! Pick fresh flowers from your garden or take a walk around your neighborhood—there’s probably some free food growing right under your nose!

wayside plants along the roadside

Wayside Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes
These foods are often overlooked as sources of vitamins and minerals, but they’re nutritious enough to eat in abundance. Whether you’re foraging for food or plant-based supplements, you can learn a lot from grasses, sedges, and rushes. Lots of plants in these categories have medicinal properties as well. They contain more nutritional value than most other types of wild plants but are also easier to harvest than some other edible plants. If it’s an extreme survival situation, you can live off wayside grasses, sedges, and rushes until you can gather or hunt for better options.

Black and white photo of medicinal plants.

References: http://props.org/docs/Edible%20Wild%20Plants%20-%20A%20North%20American%20Field%20Guide.pdf

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