It’s easy to issue a blanket “Don’t eat that!” when you’re a parent who wants to keep your outdoor-loving kid safe. And there are plenty of things growing in your yard, your park, and your campground that no one should ever eat, it’s true. But teaching your kid what is safe to pick and eat can go a long way towards raising a child who will grow up a little more aware of their world.
A few basics first. Forage with your child; don’t encourage them to do so alone. Only forage where you’re sure it’s safe and you have permission. Be confident that you have your plants straight (A good field guide is a good friend). Be conscientious about what you take, and teach your child to do the same.
Here are ten edible plants that are easy to identify and grow throughout most of the US.
- Stinging nettle
- Garlic mustard
- Wood sorrel
- Wild mustard
Sorrel, dandelions, and cattails are especially popular with the kids.
A foraging kit will help your child feel like they’re part of the action. Depending on their age, their own journal and field guide are a good place to start. A water bottle, a pocket knife, and brown paper bags for their haul come next, and a small messenger bag or backpack to carry it all in makes a neat package.
Once you’ve brought home your harvest, take time teaching your kid how best to store them if you’re not going to include them in dinner right away. Wash the plants and let them dry on a dishtowel, then bundle them loosely in paper bags to store in the fridge. Remember to label! Leaves that have begun to wilt can all look the same.
If you’re not comfortable just going out with a field guide and starting on your own, contact your local parks department and see if they have an expert–or check your farmer’s market. Foragers and wood herbalists often love to share their secrets and take out first-timers for a lesson.