The dog days of summer are here and wild food is abundant, especially if you know where to find it. On hikes, the sweet smell of wild mint often greets me, thorny wild raspberries scrape my knees, and dark blue huckleberries provide welcome nourishment. If you’re interested in identifying and harvesting food from the wild, let this be a beginner’s guide, but always have a plant identification book along.
While I’d never considered it edible, stinging nettle is commonly foraged in Idaho. When cooked, it tastes similar to spinach, contains many vitamins, and is a good source of both iron and protein. Stinging nettle leaves are dark green and heart shaped with serrations along the leaf edge. Run your finger along the leaf - if it stings, you’ve found it! Before eating, boil the leaves for a few minutes to neutralize the stinging chemicals, then enjoy as pesto for past and in summer salads!
Wild mint grows along many shaded trails. Easily identified by its smell, mint often has a small group of purple to white flowers at the top with leaves growing in pairs on either side of the stalk. Mint aids digestion and complements many cold drinks – try a fresh mint and ginger lemonade.
The huckleberry, Idaho’s state fruit, only grows in the wild. Huckleberry shrubs typically grow from 2-6 feet tall and are found on lower mountain slopes. The leaves are thin with pointed tips and have dark purple (to blue) berries growing in clusters.
Wild raspberries can be found wherever a bird “drops” their seeds, often in sunny spots alongside trails. Raspberry bushes have thorny stems and spade-shaped leaves that are toothed along the edges.
We’re lucky to have so many delicious wild foods that grow just out our back door - happy foraging!