Harvesting Nature's Bounty


Sample Writing

Chapter 3: Aquatic Wild Edibles

“And God said Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you shall be meat.”

Genesis 1:29

When searching for wild edibles, I am always drawn to water. I know that there will usually be an abundance of edible wild plants nearby in these transition areas. Transition areas are natural areas where two different biomes meet like field meets woods, water meets field, water meets woods, etc. These areas are richer in biodiversity than either of the adjoining areas making up the transition. The water to woods and water to field transition areas are particularly rich.


Besides choice aquatic edible plants, a selection of land loving edible plants that appreciate a steady supply of water from the moist soil may also be present. Some of these include members of the Labiatae or Mint family such as Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata). There are over 600 members of the Mentha genus along. Gray’s Manual of Botany lists 39 genera in the Mint family. As you can see this is a huge family of plants. One characteristic that most mints share in common is that they possess a square stem. However, not all plants that have a square stem are mints, but most are.


Look for Yellow Nut Grass or Chufa (Cyperus esculentus) near the water’s edge. This is really not a grass but a member of the Sedge family, which is often characterized by its three sided leaves. The many small tubers found growing on the end of their roots can be eaten raw or cooked. The tubers of groundnut grow at the end long fragile roots. Therefore, do not pull the plant from the ground and expect to collect the tubers, they will break off and be left in the ground. Dig a hole deep and wide to get to these hidden treasures.

Wild Edible Wilderness Survival Nut Grass

Yellow Nut Grass


One of my favorite wild edibles, Groundnut (Apios americana), is often found near the edge of the water, as it is a moisture loving plant. This member of the pea family possesses many pea-like characteristics including brown or lavender pea-like flowers, weak stemmed twining vines, green bean like seeds and peanut-like tubers the size of walnuts strung along its roots.

Boil the tubers in heavily salted water and eat while still hot for a delicious treat. The groundnuts become significantly less palatable when cold. They have a taste similar to boiled peanuts for those familiar with this Southern treat. The seeds found in the seedpods can be used like lentils.

Members of the bramble family including Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) and Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) frequently are found near water. Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) can also be found particularly in acidic soils that are often indicated by the predominance of pine trees. Willows (Salix spp.) grow along as well as in the water. These plants are primarily known for their salicin content that can be used similar to aspirin. This water-loving tree is also very useful in making willow baskets and other items.

Ground Nut for Wilderness Survival


“Digging one day for fishworms, I discovered the groundnut (Apios tuberosa) on its string, the potato of the aborigines, a sort of fabulous fruit, which I had begun to doubt if I had ever dug and eaten in childhood, as I had told, and had not dreamed it. I had often since seen its crumpled red velvety blossom supported by the stems of other plants without knowing it to be the same. Cultivation has well-nigh exterminated it. It has a sweetish taste, much like that of a frost-bitten potato, and I found it better boiled than roasted. This tuber seemed like a faint promise of Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply here at some future period. In these days of fatted cattle and waving grain-fields this humble root, which was once the totem of an Indian tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only by its flowering vine; but let wild Nature reign here once more, and the tender and luxurious English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes, and without the care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed of corn to the great cornfield of the Indian’s God in the southwest, whence he is said to have brought it; but the now almost exterminated ground-nut will perhaps revive and flourish in spite of frosts and wildness, prove itself indigenous, and resume its ancient importance and dignity as the diet of the hunter tribe.”

Henry David Thoreau


As you expand your search into the water, you may find other desirable edible plants. These include Cattail (Typha latifolia) with its multiple edible parts and Sweetflag (Acorus calamus) with its aromatic root that can be used to make candy. Make Sweetflag candy by boiling small chopped sections of the roots in several changes of boiling water and then rolling in sugar and dry. Be extremely careful not to confuse the aromatic Sweetflag and the familiar seed head bearing Cattail with the extremely poisonous members of the iris family including Blue Flag (Iris versicolor) and Yellow Flag (Iris pseudoacorus). The water is where you may find the most poisonous plant in North America, Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata). Water Hemlock is a member of the carrot family that sports multiple parsnip-like roots. Ingesting only small amounts of this deadly plant may result in an extremely painful and gruesome death. Although this plant may be hard to confuse with other aquatic plants it does bear a resemblance to other members of the carrot family. These include the edible Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) and Poison Hemlock (Conium macullatum) that Socrates used to take his own life. Become familiar with these poisonous plants and always ensure positive identification by using reliable identification guides. If you are not positive, do not take any chances.

American Lotus

Other choice edible plants to look for in aquatic environments include American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea), Arrowhead (Sagittaria spp.), and Watercress (Nasturtium officinale). American Lotus may be easily confused with Spatterdock (Nuphar advena) or Bullhead-Lily (Nuphar variegatum). Both of the latter plants are edible, but are not as palatable. Watershield (Brasenia schreberi) is a member of the same family as American Lotus. Watershield has smaller elliptical floating leaves. The young leaves of Watershield can be cooked like greens (McPherson, 1977). Phragmites or Reed Grass can also be harvested and boiled for a winter vegetable. They also grow extremely long roots with large starch rich tubers. American Lotus is also noteworthy as a possible mushroom poisoning antidote. Young American Lotus leaves may be eaten along with their seeds. Look up these three plants in a reliable identification guide and their differences will become readily apparent.

Medicinal Plant American Lotus

American Lotus


Arrowhead can be easily confused with poisonous Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica) or the edible Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata). Arrowhead leaves are highly variable in shape. Sometimes the leaf will have the classic arrowhead shape with the two tails and sometimes they are oval. Veins radiating from the base of the leave identify arrowhead. The Slender Arrowhead has almost grass-like leaves. Arrow Arum contains the same caustic compound, oxalate acid crystals found in Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens) and other related plants. Eating this plant may result in an experience described as eating a handful of wasps in which the tongue and throat feel as if they are receiving continuous stings. The throat can also swell, causing choking and possible strangulation.

Arrow Arum has pinnate veins while Arrowhead and Pickerelweed leaves veins are palmate. Parallel veins all originate from a central vein running the length of the leaf. Palmate veins originate from the base of the leaf as your fingers originate from the base of your hand. Arrowhead is also known as duck potato or by its Indian name Wapato. Native women gathered these tubers in the cold autumn waters by dislodging them from the bottom with their toes. The duck potatoes would then float to the surface where they could be easily plucked from the water. Pickerelweed seeds can be eaten like nuts and young tender leaf stocks can be used in salads or boiled as a potherb. Again, be sure to avoid the caustic Arrow Arum.

Arrowhead Wild edible with P:oison Look Alike

Caustic Arrow Arum on left and edible Arrowhead on right


© Copyright 2004 by Hooterville Farm - All Rights Reserved

Edible Wild Plants Lunch

Cossack Asparagus Cattail

Lamb's Quarters

Jurusalem Artichoke

Arrowhead Poison Look Alike

Cattail Torches



Wild Morel

Persimmon Pudding

Wildersness Survival Shelter

Wild morel mushrooms survival food

Hooiser Banana Wild pawpaw pie wild edible

Wild Allspice Spicebush

Cattail Torches Wilderness Survival

Prickly Pear Cactus Wild vegetable

Echinacea Medicinal Herb

Medicinal herb Soldiers woundwort

Persimmon Pudding
Nature Classes
Book Signings and Class Schedule
About the Author
Table of Contents
Sample Writing
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup

Surive in the Wild

WIlderness Survival Book

What others are saying about Kevin's new book

Spiritual Enlightenment

 Awaken to The Here and Now

This book belongs among the elite volumes (its neighbors THE BOOK by Alan Watts, BE HERE NOW by Ram Dass, and MERE CHRISTIANTY by C.S Lewis) that pragmatically illustrates the value of spiritual practice upon everyday life. It may well outstrip THE POWER OF NOW in its transformative power for troubled souls.
David Bischoff
New York Times Bestselling Author.
"I thought this book was very well written and sheds light on the advaita tradition
of non-dual awareness which defines natural perception as the freedom of enlightenment.
The author has taken 30 years of experience and translated his knowledge to point
directly at liberation."

-Barclay V. Powers

Independent filmmaker and
author of "The Answer."


Share |