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Common Backyard 


Chapter IV Part III

Parents, we encourage you to complete this chapter with your children, to ensure safe identification of wild plants and enjoy the wonders of discovery together.

6 Common Edible Plants



Stellaria media


What does it look like?

Slender, smooth stems up to a foot long

  • One row of tiny hairs growing in a row on one side of the stem, switching to other side at each pair of leaves.

  • Oval pointed leaves opposite each other on the stem. 

  • Old leaves have stalks, young leaves do not. 

  • Flowers, small, white with five petals so deeply notched that they look like ten petals.  

  • Does NOT have milky sap. If you have a plant you think is chickweed and it has milky sap you have the wrong plant.

How to prepare?

Delicious chopped up and eaten in salad, soup, stir fries and more. Very nourishing and has many medicinal benefits. 










Galium aparine


What does it look like?

  • A square stem covered with little hooks that bend back towards the bottom of the plant.

  • Feels scratchy and will cling to almost any texture.

  • Leaves small and skinny, usually in a whorl around the stem, eight leaves at a time, lowest leaves petioled and roundish; upper leaves sessile, narrowly oblanceolate.

  • Minute  four petal-white flowers on small stalks where leaves meet the stem (axils).

  • Fruit a tiny two-lobed capsule, covered with fine hooks.


Where does it grow?

A wide variety, rich moist ground to upland scrub, woods, thickets, waste ground beside trails.


How to prepare?

Our favorite way to consume Cleavers is to break the stems and leaves into tiny pieces, crushed between fingers, and pack into a glass jar. Fill with water and let sit overnight. In the morning, you'll have a fruity, delicious and medicinal cold infusion to drink! Spring growth has strong medicinal benefits.

You can also chop cleavers up and add to soups and other cooked dishes. 







Wild Violet

Viola genus


What does it look like?

  • There are 500 species of violet around the world and at least 87 in North America.

  • Wild Violet flowers can be blue, violet, yellow, white, shades in between and multi-colored. Each flower slightly droops.

  • Five petals, with lowest petal heavily veined and going back into a spur. 

  • Low growing, there is a wide variety in the leaf shape. Violet leaves are palmate, alternate, and are somewhat an oblong heart or kidney shape. The leaf margin is serrated (toothed) and they do not have any hairs. 

  • Sweet violets are the most aromatic, wood violets tend to be larger.


Where does it grow?

Moist shaded areas, partial sun.


How to prepare?

Leaves and flowers raw, dried or cooked. Violet flowers and leaves are edible with the leaves having a high level of vitamins A and C. They can be used in salads or cooked as greens. The flowers can be made into jellies, candied, or tossed into a salad. Violets also have strong medicinal benefits.



Wild Onion

Allium canadense


What does it look like?

  • Grass like basal leaves, 

  • small six-petaled flowers, 

  • odor of onion or garlic, 

  • stems round, 

  • older stems hollow. 

  • Underground bulbs look like small white onions.

  • Wild Onion is also called Wild Garlic by some.

  • If a plant looks like an onion and smells like an onion you can eat it. If a plant looks like a garlic and smells like a garlic you can eat it. If you do not smell a garlic or an onion odor but you have the right look beware you might have a similar-looking toxic plant. For example, there are lilies that look like an onion but have no aroma and are toxic.

Where does it grow?

Onions like rich soil and sun but can grow in poor soil with adequate water.

How to prepare?

The entire plant is edible raw or cooked, in salads, seasoning, green, soup base, pickled. You can pickle them using red bay leaves, peppergrass seeds, and some vinegar.








Wood Sorrel

Oxalis stricta


What does it look like?

  • The leaves look like a shamrock. Leaves are divided into three heart-shaped leaflets, each leaflet having a center crease, from which the leaflets fold upward in half. The leaves are most often green, but may also be purplish or brownish red.

  • The wood sorrel flower is yellow or pink and has five petals and it is about 1 to 1.5 cm wide. 

  • Seed pods bend sharply upward on their stalks, and the stalks also grow at a sharp angle from the main stalk. 

  • Wood sorrel folds its leaves up at night and opens them again in the morning. It also folds its leaves when under stress, such as when growing in direct sun.

  • This edible plant usually grows to between 10 and 35 centimetres high.


Where can I find it?

Wood sorrel prefers moist soil, and partial shade. Patches of wood sorrel are prevalent on forest floors, and are often found near wild violets, cleavers, and wild onions.



How to prepare?

Wood sorrel is a tasty treat! The leaves, flowers, and immature green seed pods are all edible having a mild sour flavor that resemble lemons. Wood sorrel can be added to salads, used in soups, sauces and it can also be used as a seasoning. Wood sorrel tea when cooled can make a refreshing beverage especially when sweetened with honey. In moderate dosages. 



Narrow Leaf Plantain, Ribwort 

Plantago lanceolata


Distinguishing Features

  • Easy to identify by its long, narrow leaves, coming from a central point on the ground, with prominent, parallel veins, sparsely toothed and sparsely hairy edges.

  • It has a slender, stem tipped with short, dense, oval spikes of tiny flowers. This is a drought-tolerant plant so it stands out in areas that have not seen much rain.

  • Flowers are small, white and they surround a brown, cylindrical head on a grooved stalk. Flowers can be present at anytime throughout the growing season.

  • Ribwort grows anywhere from 10 to 50 cm (4 to 20”). The stem is leafless, arched base–straight, clearly 5-edged, varyingly hairy scape.

Where can I find it?

Ribwort is found throughout North America and many other part of the world. This is a common weed in lawns and meadows.

How to eat it?

Ribwort can be eaten raw or cooked. The older the leaves the more bitter they will taste. They do have fibrous veins making it a little bit tricky to eat raw unless chopped. Seeds can be ground into a powder and added to flours in baking.


*Also look for Broadleaf Plantain, which has green, oval to egg-shaped leaves that grow in a rosette. These leaves have thick stems that meet at a base. When these stems are broken, they reveal string-like veins that resemble those in celery. Broadleaf Plantain can be used in the same ways as Narrow Leaf Plantain. 

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Are you ready?



Can you find 3 of the above plants near your home?


If you would like to try eating them with an adult, run through the identification steps in the previous part and make sure you are 100% sure you've identified them correctly. 

*Only harvest in clean, safe areas. Never harvest wild plants from a yard where chemicals are used in landscaping, or close to a road.


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