Take a hike through the meadows, cool your feet in the edges of a stream, or explore the majestic forests of the Great Smoky Mountains and you’ll discover delicious food hiding in plain sight! Nature’s edible bounty is right at your fingertips…if you know what you’re looking for.
We’ve collected an extensive list of wild edible plants in North Carolina, many of which can be found growing right here near the Meadowlark Motel. From roots to petals, you’ll be amazed at the wonders of what is available for foraging in the mountains of North Carolina. Read on to discover the rich and fascinating nourishment opportunities that our Appalachian ancestors practiced as they learned to live off the land.
Edible Wild Dandelions
Every single part of the dandelion is edible. If you’re using it in a salad or stir-fry, pick the youngest, greenest leaves, usually in the center of a bunch. Don’t add too many. Otherwise, your lunch will have a bitter taste. Throw in the blossoms for a pop of color and crunch. Dandelions are also a medicinal plant – great for the liver. And the roots can be chewed on or brewed into a strong drink.
Chickweed might just be the tastiest and tenderest of all edible plants in North Carolina. It tastes a lot like spinach. So, it’s great to use as the base for a salad, or you can stew it and eat it on its own. Chickweed thrives in cooler weather, so keep an eye out for it in the spring and fall. The best time to enjoy this edible plant is when the flowers are in full bloom.
The roots of this underground tuber can be cut up and used in hearty soups and stews. Chock full of nutrients like vitamins C and E, burdock contains powerful natural antioxidants, along with other minerals like iron, manganese, and magnesium.
The blooms of the redbud taste like snow peas and add a delicious flavor to any stir-fry dish or salad. They also contain large amounts of vitamin C, and their bright color adds a gorgeous visual presentation to any dish.
Elder has a wide variety of uses. Their berries, flowers, and leaves can all be used to make flavorful cordials, syrups, and even medicine.
Wood sorrel is a delightful edible plant found in North Carolina, high in vitamins C and A. Its lemony taste is a great addition to a morning salad – although the flavor can be strong. So, use it in moderation. Because of its three heart-shaped leaves, it is often confused with clovers or shamrocks. You can tell the difference by the leaf shape – sorrel leaves are heart-shaped while clover leaves are oval.
Chicory is probably best known as an alternative to coffee. You can harvest the roots and dry them or store them to make a steaming cup of a rich, deep, and flavorful drink.
Pansies (AKA Johnny Jump Ups)
The bright and colorful flowers of pansies are edible and give a slightly minty flavor to any dish.
Use the leaves of wild garlic in the same way you might use chives. Chop them up and sprinkle a small amount in a salad or on top of a baked potato. Or cook them down to mellow out the flavor. Some of the health benefits of this popular edible plant in North Carolina are vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. They also have antibacterial and antibiotic properties.
Wild violets can generally be found in shaded areas. Their leaves have a gentle and mild flavor that is great for balancing out sharper tastes of other greens. And the edible blooms make a beautiful addition to any salad.
Similar to raspberries, wineberries can be found along the edges of roads or in thickets. These tiny berries pack quite a nutritional punch. They’re chock full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as well as immune-boosting vitamins E and C.
This well-known edible plant of North Carolina is so sought after that it is legally protected, and rules and regulations surround its harvesting. You need dapoxetine buy blog a permit to harvest it and can be fined a significant amount if you’re caught without one. Before trying to gather any ginseng, be sure to check out your local regulations to make sure you’re within the law.
Learn More About Edible Plants in North Carolina at the MSMHC’s Naturalist Weekend Event
August 27-28, the Meadowlark Smoky Mountain Heritage Center is hosting an exciting and educational weekend all about ginseng, granny medicine, and herbs. Visit our events page to learn more about the weekend and how to register. There will be discussions about herbs, heirloom seeds, foraging, music, and more. Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity!
This article is for education and entertainment purposes only. Please consult an expert when foraging. Be sure to confirm the identity and health effects of any and all plants before eating them. Never eat anything that you are not 100% sure about. Some edible plants in North Carolina must be cooked before eating. Some parts of plants are edible, while another part of the same plant may be poisonous. Do not experiment if you are not completely sure about what you are eating. Do your research beforehand and always ask an expert.