Because It's Friday

A mountain cornucopia: wild edible plants found in Vermont

by TImothy Page

Nature has always provided us with an abundance of resources, and one of its most intriguing gifts is the wide array of wild edible plants that can be found in various regions. Vermont, known for its picturesque landscapes and thriving ecosystems, is home to a diverse range of edible plants that have been enjoyed by foragers and nature enthusiasts for generations. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of wild edible plants found in Vermont, highlighting ten of the most common and delicious options available in the region.

The Cosmonaut, CC BY-SA 2.5 CA, via Wikimedia Commons

Fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris):

As spring arrives in Vermont, so too do the fiddleheads – the tightly coiled shoots of the ostrich fern. Fiddleheads are a beloved delicacy and can be found in damp, shaded areas, particularly near streams and rivers. These young fern fronds are harvested just as they emerge from the ground, before they unfurl into large leafy structures. Fiddleheads have a distinct flavor reminiscent of asparagus and are often sautéed or used in soups and stir-fries.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale):

While many consider dandelions to be weeds, they are, in fact, highly versatile and nutritious plants. Found abundantly throughout Vermont, dandelions offer both their vibrant yellow flowers and nutrient-rich leaves for culinary exploration. The leaves can be harvested when young and tender, providing a slightly bitter taste that works well in salads or sautés. Dandelion flowers can be used to infuse oils or make deliciously sweet and aromatic dandelion jelly.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum):

Ramps, also known as wild leeks, are a sought-after delicacy in Vermont and other parts of the Northeast. These wild plants emerge in early spring, carpeting the forest floor with their lush green leaves and pungent aroma. Both the leaves and bulbs of ramps are edible and possess a unique flavor that combines the pungency of garlic with a subtle onion-like sweetness. Ramps can be enjoyed in a variety of dishes, from pesto and soups to savory tarts and pickles.

Wild Strawberries (Fragaria virginiana):

Vermont’s woodlands and meadows offer a delightful treat for foragers in the form of wild strawberries. These tiny, intensely flavored berries are bursting with sweetness and can be found in late spring and early summer. Often growing close to the ground and hidden among foliage, wild strawberries require keen observation and patience to gather. Enjoy them fresh as a snack, or incorporate them into desserts, jams, and preserves to capture their essence.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.):

Wood sorrel, a delicate little plant with heart-shaped leaves and yellow flowers, can be found in Vermont’s forests and shaded areas. Its leaves have a tangy, citrus-like taste due to their oxalic acid content, which lends a refreshing zing to salads and garnishes. Wood sorrel is a delightful addition to wild herb mixes and can also be brewed into a delightful tea.

Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis):

Elderberries are small, dark purple berries that grow in clusters on shrubs or small trees. They are abundant in Vermont and are known for their rich flavor and numerous health benefits. Elderberries can be used to make jams, jellies, syrups, wines, and even medicinal remedies like elderberry syrup, which is believed to boost the immune system.

Nettles (Urtica dioica):

Despite their stinging reputation, nettles are highly nutritious and have been used for centuries for their medicinal properties. With their serrated leaves and tiny stinging hairs, nettles can be found in damp areas and along stream banks. When cooked or dried, the stinging hairs disappear, and the leaves can be used to make teas, soups, or even added to pasta dishes as a nutritious green.

Kristian Peters — Fabelfroh 11:51, 16 September 2007 (UTC), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis):

Wild mint is a fragrant herb that grows in Vermont’s meadows, marshy areas, and along riverbanks. It is easily identifiable by its square stems and aromatic leaves. Wild mint leaves can be used to make refreshing teas, added to salads, or used as a flavoring in various dishes. Its cooling properties make it a natural choice for summer beverages and desserts.

Burdock (Arctium spp.):

Burdock is a biennial plant with large, heart-shaped leaves and prickly burrs that cling to clothing or animal fur. While the root is most commonly used in herbal medicine, the young leaves of the plant are edible and can be harvested in the spring. They have a mild, earthy flavor and can be used in stir-fries, soups, or even battered and fried as tempura.

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.):

Milkweed is not only important for monarch butterflies but also offers edible parts for human consumption. The young shoots and flower buds of milkweed plants can be harvested and prepared like asparagus. They have a slightly sweet flavor and pair well with butter or lemon. It’s important to note that milkweed must be prepared properly to remove any bitterness or toxins.

Venturing into the woods and meadows of Vermont is an opportunity to explore the culinary treasures hidden within nature’s grasp. From the enchanting fiddleheads and pungent ramps to the delicate wood sorrel and vibrant wild strawberries, the state offers a rich tapestry of wild edible plants waiting to be discovered. However, it is important to approach foraging with caution, as proper identification and knowledge of sustainable harvesting practices are essential. Whether you are an avid forager or a curious food enthusiast, discovering and incorporating these wild edibles into your culinary repertoire can be both a rewarding and delicious experience in the beautiful state of Vermont.

Author is Assistant Editor for the Vermont Daily Chronicle.

9 replies »

  1. I first ate cooked fiddlehead ferns at the upscale restaurant in the WilloughVale Inn, on the lake in Westmore, Vermont. I don’t recall what the entire entrée was, but the ferns were very good: they tasted something like fresh green beans. I subsequently passed a very weird night, as described. I think that whatever (mild, natural) narcotic or soporific effect they may or may not have had on me is a plus.

    Fiddlehead Ferns

    Fiddlehead ferns are good, it seems,
    To seed our dinners with dark dreams
    Engendered on the forest floor:
    A world of wildness in each spore.

    They bloom with sylvan fantasy
    Less shocking than reality
    As we uncurl ourselves and spring
    Into the madness May will bring.

    A hint of mystery, where grieves
    An endless fall of golden leaves,
    Whose regal grandeur soon returns
    Within the lushness of the ferns,

    Is crispened by deep-fallen snow
    In April, where the ice-drops blow
    Across dead bracken, till spring’s flood
    Will feed the forest with fresh mud.

    Who plays that fiddle? It’s no man;
    Some say that it’s the Great God Pan,
    And that’s his music we still hear
    From days when folks danced with the deer.

    Yet some recall a different tune,
    Of chanting, where the Flower Moon
    Shed blessings from a twilight sky
    While Abenaki whispered by.

    Let ferns bring wealth; we’ll show our worth
    By treading lightly on the earth
    As in the woods where all grew strong
    In harmony with Nature’s song.

    But when the turbid turbines turn
    Where grew the dainty fiddle-fern,
    We’ve killed the forest, once a friend,
    And daydreams find a bitter end.

  2. Useful info.
    Thank you.
    In Biden’s vision for America, this data could be very useful, to help feed the surging, hungry masses, of Vermont, and the nation, in the not too distant future.

    • It could provide a nice side-income, to boot: check out It is basically the Amazon of wild products. Anyone can sell using the platform, like a digital farmers’ market reaching a global audience, and several Vermonters are indeed sellers there.

  3. I forgot to put in that Great Burdock (“Gobo” in Japanese) is renowned in Japan for it’s nutritious, not to mention versatile and delicious, roots. It has a long, slender shape with a brownish outer skin, and a crisp texture when cooked. Gobo is known for its earthy, slightly sweet flavor and is used in various dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and salads.

  4. Thank you Tim for reminding us of these wonderful natural foods. We may be in the woods a lot in the future in order to find foods that will sustain us!

  5. I would add Morels, and the other God given mushrooms for medicinal, edible and earth cleansing purposes. Best to purchase a field guide to know what is safe to consume. There is an abundence of natural gifts to keep all healthy – of course, that is not the plan and that knowledge is not to be shared per the Masters.

    • Yeah, I purposefully left mushrooms out, in part for a future article, but also due to the dangers involved with misidentification.

      • Cool! My Grandfather had a woodlot and gathered wild leeks, wild blackberries, black walnuts, butter nuts, chewed pine resin…much knowledge and wisdom from working the land and passed down from generation to generation. I miss those days!

  6. Great information. I will be printing out the page for the future. Ideally this article would have been much more helpful had it been filed in the Spring.

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