Recently we've rekindled our love for preserving flowers through the drying and pressing practice. Let me tell you a few things I've learned to make foraging for wildflowers with kids a fun and successful adventure for you!
- 10 Great Reasons Why You Should be Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
- In Preparation: Before You Start Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
- Supplies You May Want When Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
- Best Foraging Practices to Take With You
- 10 Easiest Plants to Identify When Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
- 01 Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
- 02 Wood sorrel flowers (Oxalis)
- 03 Chickweed (Stellaria media)
- 04 Wild Berries - Blackberry, Raspberry, Elderberry, Juniper Berry, Serviceberry Etc.
- 05 Curled/Curly Dock (Rumex Crispus)
- 06 Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) & White Clover (Trifolium Repens)
- 07 Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum) & Wild Onion (Allium)
- 08 Eastern Redbud Flowers (Cercis Canadensis)
- 09 Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago Major)
- 10 Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)
10 Great Reasons Why You Should be Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
There are many good reasons to learn to properly identify edible plants as the native Americans did. But I'm going to focus on the main 10 benefits of this activity.
- Nature Study & Art. Learning to dry and press wildflowers (in a flower press) as a nature study and art. If the idea of using dried and pressed flowers in art appeals to you, check out my post DIY Floating Frames with Pressed Flowers.
- Fun Activity. It is a fun activity to do, especially with kids.
- Potential Emergency Food Source.
- Free Food. Not just as an emergency, but to include in your everyday eating.
- Knowledge About Edible Wild Plants. Additionally, there is an added benefit of the wisdom your children will learn about edible wild plants. Therefore, potentially keeping them safe from ingesting poisonous plants.
- Salvaging Native Plants for Our Garden. We hope to build a sizable garden with native plants. Therefore our focus would be on medicinal plants, medicinal herbs, and native wildflowers.
- Locating Plants to Harvest Seed Heads. My hope is to harvest the seeds to use for my own gardens. However, they'd be great for a community garden as well.
- Identifying Invasive Species. Another helpful thing to learn so we can avoid adding any to our own gardens.
- Educational Aspect. You can learn all about wild foods, their plant species, and the names of the flowers. As well as their life cycle and growing season. Also, when it's best to forage at different times like early spring, late spring, or late winter. There's also learning what part of the plant is edible.
- Medicinal Properties. Many wild foods, such as wild edible flowers, are rich in vitamins a and vitamin c as well as many other medicinal properties. Also, not available in your local grocery store.
In Preparation: Before You Start Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
Consider Your Foraging Location
As with any activity involving foraging, there will be a few things to consider prior to jumping into it.
Where Can You Legally Forage for Edible Wildflowers or Wild Herbs?
Ensure you're not foraging in rural areas that are private lands without permission. Therefore, try to stick to areas you know you're free to forage. Some areas that may or may not be ok to forage such as:
- Council Parks. Many times you can forage responsibly from these areas. In Missouri, you can read about it here.
- Nature Reserves. This acts as critical habitat for endangered plants. Read about the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
- National Parks. Another critical habitat with natural areas, open fields, and stream banks for native species.
- A Local Park. Beware: the city likely poisons their grasses here, therefore they will not be safe to ingest even if you clean them.
A great rule of thumb is to call your Conservation Department, as well as the local college or university for agricultural, local history, or plant sciences extension office. They can give you information about foraging permissions and any rules you may need to follow.
We are lucky and have family in our area that owns acreage we are free to forage from. But I bet if you reach out in your local Facebook Groups you can find someone who will allow you free access as well.
Supplies You May Want When Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
Depending on the area you are taking your kids to forage for wildflowers and other wild edibles you may want to consider these supplies to keep on hand.
5 Categories of Supplies to Use In Preparation
Things To Wear
Gardening Gloves. There is a potential for touching a plant that is toxic. So, to avoid this possibility it's a wise plan to just wear protective gear.
Proper Attire. (Hats, Long Sleeves, Hiking Shoes, etc.) Another protective clothing alert. You may not touch a plant purposefully, but even brushing up against a few of them like the Stinging Nettle would be dangerous. Those plants are highly beneficial, but require a lot of safety precautions to use.
Insect Repellant & Sunscreen. Optional, but especially in the woods and high grasses you are likely to experience unwanted bug attention like Ticks. Tickborne illnesses can be devastating, so we like to take precautions. Sunscreen may not be needed if you're in a lot of shady spots, use your best discretion.
Native Wild Edibles Book for Your Area. I use a book called Wild Edibles of Missouri to help identify plants. But in the end, taking photographs myself and trying to identify them using Google is much more beneficial. Find a Wild Edibles book for your state and area to help you avoid toxic plants.
Cellphone with Google Lens Access. Google Lens is one of my favorite tools to use in helping identify plants. You simply snap a photo and hit the google lens button and it pulls up images and articles matching the plant in the photo. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. There are other plant-identifying apps as well.
For Longer Adventures
Snacks & Drinks. This is a really fun activity. I can easily spend hours identifying, gathering, and photographing plants. It's good to bring nourishment with you so you don't jolt out of a daydream to rumbling tummies. Especially when you're taking children along.
Keep Plants Fresh
Basket & Bucket with Water. My daughters were happy to carry small baskets to store their foraged treasures in. But you also need a bucket with water to keep many of them fresh while you're out, especially in the heat. They will quickly wilt otherwise.
Pruning Sheers. This helps you quickly and efficiently clip the wild edibles you want without fighting with stubborn stems.
For Safety Sake
Wildlife Deterrent like Bear Bell or Bear Spray. It's good to be aware if you're foraging in the woods that there is wildlife also looking for food you may run into. Also, please instruct your kids to beware of snakes. They blend in really well with their surroundings very well so be extra cautious and aware of your surroundings before you grab for anything on the ground etc.
Best Foraging Practices to Take With You
- Don't over-pick in any singular area. This is the best practice for all foraging. If you over-pick you could seriously harm the ecosystem, food for wildlife, and the plants' ability to reproduce and come back next year.
- When in doubt don't eat it. There are many plants that have deadly look-alikes, like Queen Anne's Lace and Water Hemlock/Hemlock. Don’t assume that if an animal eats something, it isn’t poisonous to humans. Don’t let your children eat any part of a plant without your permission.
- Avoid plants that have a strong offputting odor. Take the leaves, crush and smell if they don’t have an initial odor.
- Do not touch or consume plants with leaves that grow in groups of three (such as poison ivy). The saying 'Leaves of three let it be' is good to learn.
- Learn about the whole plant before consumption. Certain plants are not for eating raw. Certain plant parts may not be edible at all like: young leaves, flower buds, top of the plant, edible roots, etc. It's just good to know for sure before you eat.
- Do not eat fruit or berries that have the appearance of spoiling.
- Be Wary of Possible Unknown Allergies. To be smart, try new wild, edible foods one by one.
- Eat a small amount to start. Then wait a while before eating more to make sure you don’t react negatively.
- As with any outdoor activities, always practice the Leave No Trace principles to leave your surroundings as good, or even better, than you found them.
10 Easiest Plants to Identify When Foraging for Wildflowers with Kids
After you've found your location and gathered your supplies you're ready to head out to fill your baskets with goodies. If you're completely new at this then you may want to stick with a few very easy to identify plants.
The best advice I can give you is to start in your own backyard! There are likely a ton of wild edible plants right outside your door.
All of these plants flower, but when you find them they may not have flowered yet. It's a great idea to forage at different times of the year and try to identify plants all throughout their growing season.
This list does not specifically include native or indigenous plants as your area will vary from mine. What is native to the state of Missouri may not be elsewhere. But here's a list of the 10 easiest plants to identify when foraging for wildflowers with kids for beginners.
- Dandelions taraxacum officinale
- Wood Sorrel Flowers oxalis
- Chickweed Stellaria media
- Wild Berries: Blackberries, Raspberries, Elderberry, Juniper Berry, Etc.
- Curled/Curly Dock Rumex Crispus
- Red Clover Trifolium Pratense & White Clover Trifolium Repens
- Wild Garlic Allium Ursinum & Wild Onion Allium
- Eastern Redbud Flowers Cercis Canadensis
- Broadleaf Plantain Plantago Major
- Mullein Verbascum Thapsus
01 Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
Probably the most well-known weed out there. But did you know that this is a highly nutritious plant and flower?
Native to Europe, the dandelion is an invasive species everywhere else. Though the plant can be annoyingly pervasive, it’s completely edible. The leaves are surprisingly nutritious (especially if you’re in need of vitamin A or K) but should be eaten young to avoid bitterness. More mature leaves, as well as roots, should be boiled before consumption for a better taste. The yellow flower can be eaten raw as a snack or thrown into a salad for some color.Foraging for Beginners: Tips for Safely Gathering Wild, Edible Food
02 Wood sorrel flowers (Oxalis)
Wood Sorrel is all over our lawn. I find it amazing how much edible food is literally right on our lawn. It makes me grateful I never bought into the "lawn" mentality and killed off all the native stuff for grass seed.
Wood sorrel is easy to find and to love, with beautiful heart-shaped leaves and showy yellow or sometimes purple flowers. It is lemony in flavour and is one of the most plated garnishes in high-end restaurants right now. The leaves and flowers are used as a finishing touch, both for dishes and crafted cocktails.
Common and widespread, wood sorrel is usually found lurking under other plants, where it is shaded and protected. Some types have branched roots, while others produce little onion-like bulbs. Depending on the species, wood sorrel can be an annual or a perennial plant. It can grow up to 30cm tall and form 2-3 meters wide clusters. It can be in flower for most of the year and it is important to wait for flowering to confirm identification as it can be easily confused with clover (see below for comparison images). All of these are edible.How to Identify and Eat Wood Sorrel, Check Your Lawn for this Sour Edible Ghttps://www.diegobonetto.com/blog/wood-sorrel-id-forage-edible-weedreen
03 Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Its flowers and leaves are, indeed, edible, though in large quantities the saponoids it contains can cause stomach upset. Chickweed flowers and leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Fresh flowers and leaves are tossed into salads, stir fries, stews, or pesto.Can You Eat Chickweed – Herbal Use Of Chickweed Plants
You may ask yourself, 'What is the best way to eat chickweed?'
It's best eaten fresh so plan to use it quickly as it doesn't stay fresh long. You can eat the stems, leaves, flowers, and seed pods.
Since chickweed easily spreads, it's really easy to get enough to get a single meal or ten in a short amount of time. It is delightful to eat raw. So, put it in a salad or prepare as you would spinach: steamed or sauteed.
04 Wild Berries - Blackberry, Raspberry, Elderberry, Juniper Berry, Serviceberry Etc.
In rural areas, seek out the edges of forests, or openings within the woods that offer enough sun for berries to grow and thrive. Remember that berries can creep along the ground, grow on a vine or bramble, come from a tree, or grow on a bush (which may or may not be as large as a tree).Foraging for wild berries - Backwoods Home Magazine
We actually invested in 6 native blackberry plants a few years ago to plant in our backyard. They quickly took root like most native plants do and have required little to no maintenance, besides pruning in the spring. I'm all about edible landscaping.
05 Curled/Curly Dock (Rumex Crispus)
If it's tender enough, eat it raw; otherwise it's delicious steamed or sautéed. You could even pickle it! The flavor is similar to the leaves, except more “green” tasting—something like green beans. Dock leaves and stems contain oxalic acid, which is what gives them their yummy sour flavor.Curly Dock: A Plant for Year-Round Sustenance - Four ...
Here is yet another wild edible that grows quite prolific in our backyard and I was completely unaware for years! It's amazing how we treat these voluntary plants as though they're weeds when really God is providing us with what we need.
They grow like weeds and therefore we expect they aren't useful.
06 Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) & White Clover (Trifolium Repens)
All the above-ground (“aerial”) parts of white and red clover plants are edible: flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds. Clover flowers are the tastiest part of the plant, with a bit of sweetness to them. The flavor is reminiscent of fresh green beans or snap peas.Edible Clover: Identification, Cautions + 10 Best Uses
This is another very common plant that grows in our area and we have found giant patches of it. It's beautiful, fragrant, and obviously quite beneficial. I'm looking forward to using it in our own home.
07 Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum) & Wild Onion (Allium)
These two species have a tendency to take over marginal pasture space that may have been overgrazed or become too compacted to grow much else. This also makes field garlic especially common in lawns and gardens – if you’ve ever caught a whiff of onions while mowing your lawn in the spring or summer, you probably just ran over a tuft of field garlic poking through the grass.
North America’s A. canadense (wild onion, meadow garlic) can be found all throughout the eastern half of the continent. A. oleraceum (wild garlic), though also native, is quite uncommon and restricted to a small range encompassing parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario, Virginia, and Kentucky.
A. tricoccum (wild leeks, ramps) is found throughout eastern North America from Georgia up into southern Canada. It generally prefers higher elevations and north-facing slopes, and is often found close to streams or creeks. As an understory species it prefers mostly shade with dappled sunlight.How to Identify Edible Wild Onions - Field Garlic, Ramps, Wild Leeks and More
I spent a good part of my spring cleaning these out of my garden beds. They really are everywhere! This is actually kind of a huge benefit of wild edibles in that, they're very available.
But the best advice is to only pick what you need unless you plan on drying or dehydrating them.
08 Eastern Redbud Flowers (Cercis Canadensis)
Native Americans ate redbud flowers raw or cooked as well as the young pods and seeds raw or cooked. The flowers can be pickled. They have a slightly sour taste and are high in Vitamin C . They're a pleasant addition to salads and can also be used as a condiment.Eastern Red Bud: Pea Pods Tree - Eat the Weeds
I've seen these made into jelly and syrups! But I have yet to try it for myself, which is why I'm ramping up my foraging adventures. Spring is the perfect time to find all of these goodies in full bloom.
09 Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago Major)
Plantago major is an herbaceous perennial and member of the Plantaginaceae family. Native to temperate Eurasia, plantain has since spread across to the Americas and Australia. The young, spring leaves are consumed as an edible food and can be eaten in salads and added to soups. Our organic plantain leaf is wonderful infused in teas and herbal blends.
Plantain loves disturbance. It is a common weed of cultivated pastures, cracks in sidewalks, back yard gardens, and any place that experiences regular activity. Plantain has been used for centuries as an edible food and for its beneficial properties. According to western folklore, the leaf was chewed and placed on the skin for its ability to draw a splinter, or similar nuisance, out.Mountain Rose Herbs
I've been seeking this one out for a while. I have great hopes to dry the leaves and use them as a medicinal plant.
10 Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)
I just recently realized how beneficial this plant is. Recently I went walking down the aisles of my local health food store and recognized so many weed names while looking at natural or homeopathic remedies.
It's lit a fire under me to find out more about all these plants that grow so prolific in my area.
Verbascum thapsus is a fuzzy-leaved, herbaceous biennial in the Scrophulariaceae family. In its second year of growth, a flower spike emerges with bright yellow, densely clustered flowers. Although the plant is considered a weed that thrives in compacted, poor soils, mullein leaf has been traditionally used for its many beneficial attributes since the time of Dioscorides, over 2,000 years ago. Mullein herb can be macerated into mullein extract, brewed as mullein leaf tea, or made into syrup.Mountain Rose Herbs
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