The American landscape is covered with thousands of types of naturally growing plants, many of which are edible. Every state and region within the country has several species of edible plants that are native to it, from the hot, humid southern states to the drier, cooler northern states. Indiana, the Hoosier state, is one of those northern states. Its climate and terrain support a variety of wild edible plants.
Indiana has several trees with edible parts. The Sugar Maple is one example, well-known for its sought-after sap used to make maple syrup. Several species of hickory are also found in Indiana, including Mockernut hickory, Bitternut hickory, Shellbark hickory and Pecan, that have edible (though very hard to open) nuts. The Black Walnut, which has a very tasty nutmeat, is also found wild in Indiana. Also, the American Beech tree is found in Indiana; its nutmeats and young stems can be safely eaten.
Flowers and Grasses
Beyond the dandelion, which is edible and found on lawns across the country, other wild flowers and grasses are edible in Indiana. In the cabbage family of plants, India mustard, field mustard, and rapeseed are edible and found in Indiana. The sawtooth sunflower and common sunflower have edible seeds. Among the edible grasses in Indiana are the common wild oat, wild barley, wild rice and alfalfa.
Roots and Tubers
Certain flowers in Indiana have edible roots (also tubers, rhizomes and corns). Chicory is a common weed whose roots can be roasted and grounded to make coffee. Other plants include the groundnut, wild carrot, American lotus, Atlantic camas, common cowparsnip, American pokeweed, sasaffras, salsify and cattail. Be careful when foraging for plants with edible roots, as some can be easily confused with poisonous plants; for example, the common cowparsnip looks very similar to the water hemlock, a deadly poisonous plant.
Berries and Fruits
Lastly, Indiana has several edible wild berries and fruits. Among the edible berries are the common serviceberry, Eastern teaberry, black huckleberry, oldfield blackberry, Bailey's dewberry, American red raspberry and American black elderberry. The wild fruits in Indiana include the pawpaw, green hawthorn, American plum, pin cherry, common pear, American black currant and graybark grape.
- "Wild Food Plants of Indiana & Adjacent States;" Alan McPherson; 2007
- WildCrafting: Wild Plants of Indiana
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