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Edible plants

There is a separate index of common and latin names.

The thumbnail photos in the list below are links to more information on the subject and to a full size photo.

Ground elder
Aegopodium podagraria (Ground elder)
This very common weed is not to everyone's taste but can be very good to eat if it is to yours!

Garlic mustard
Alliaria petiolata (Garlic mustard or Hedge garlic)
Very common in shady lanes. I find it not worthwhile. It has a pleasant garlic smell when bruised, but this does not survive when eaten and it has a not pleasant additional taste. Nor is the texture particularly appetising.

Allium schoenoprasum (Chives)
Everybody knows the garden chive. However it is not uncommon in the wild. I continually notice large clumps of it in the roadsides around Cambridge.

Three cornered leak
Allium Triquetrum (Three cornered leek)
An allium that grows wild in the south west of England. We picked some bulbs up while on holiday in Cornwall, not knowing what it was.

Wild garlic
Allium ursinum(Ramsons)
Lots of photos and info!

Marsh Mallow
Althea Officinalis. (Marsh Mallow)
The marsh mallow, as well as being edible, is a splendid garden plant.

Angelica Sylvestris jpeg Angelica Sylvestris(Angelica)
A close relative of Garden angelica, it can be added to salads.

Anthriscus cerefolium Anthriscus cerefolium (Chervil)
Chervil is a naturalised British native, escaped from captivity and well worth cultivating for winmter salads.

Anthriscus sylvestris Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley)
The page has pictures and text to identify cow parsley and to differentiate it from the extremely poisonous hemlock.

Apium nodiflorum (Fool's watercress)
Despite its name, Fool's watercress is edible - though not, to my taste, very pleasant.

There's more about this on the watercress page

Armoracia Rusticana Armoracia rusticana (Horse radish)
Horse radish is very common on roadsides and waste ground. The root is well known, but you can also use the young leaves as a tasty addition to salads.

Atriplex Hortensis Atriplex hortensis (Orache)
A beautiful garden plant with various colour (red, orange, green) foliage. It is not particularly tasty and the texture is fine, though nothing special. We use some young leaves as decorative addition to salads but tend to leave it as a garden ornament.

Barbarea Verna jpeg Barbarea Verna(Land cress)
An excellent salad crop - best grown in your garden.

Beta vulgaris (Sea Beet)
Sea beet is the ancestor of all of the cultivated beets, including beetroot, sugar beet, swiss chard. Although the leaves of all of the cultivars can be eaten, somehow none of them is quite as good as a really good wild sea-beet (with the exception of swiss chard, which equals the wild parent).

Beta vulgaris is a member of the Chenopodiaceae - which include the goosefoots, oraches, spinach, glassworts - many of which are also edible and good.

Borago officinalis (Borage)
The blue flowers can be added to salads and the leaves can also be eaten, though they are rather hairy.

Napus1 jpeg Brassica napus Rape
Oilseed rape is very easily recognised. However - the young greens, before the flower has opened make an excellent cooked vegetable, probably the nicest 'spring greens' of all. It is also an excellent addition to spring salads - it has a mild, pleasant cabbagey flavour. It has its own page! It's also good for kimchee

Brassica Nigra jpeg Brassica Nigra()
Black mustard is one of the seeds used to make mustard powder.

Brassica OleraceaBrassica oleracea Brassica oleracea (Wild Cabbage)
Is this specimen true wild cabbage, or a cultivar reverting to a wild type?

Cardamine Amara Cardamine amara (Large bittercress)
There are several bittercresses, most are edible. This one is very appetising in appearance but not to everyone's taste (the clue is in the common name).

Cardamine Hirsuta Cardamine hirsuta (Hairy Bittercress)
A common garden weed. It's not very large so is easily overlooked, but the leaves have a pleasant peppery tase, like watercress so (if enough can be gathered) make a nice addition to salads. It is one of the earliest plants to appear in spring.

Cardamine Flexuosa Cardamine flexuosa (Wood or Wavy Bittercress)
Another member of the Bittercress (Cardamine) group of plants which contain many different and intersting flavours.

Cardamine Pratensis Cardamine pratensis (Cuckoo flower)
In some parts of the country cuckoo flowers are very evident in spring. The leaves (if you can gather enough of them) have a pleasant cress-like taste and are a fine addition to salads. Propagation details and more photos in the link.

Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian)
The common garden valerian can be used in salads: it's not a particularly notable taste but the young shoots are a good texture and start growing when other salad crops are in short supply. The commercial corn salad is a close relative: common valerian, to my taste, is just as good.

Chenopodium album (Fat Hen)
Chenopodium bonus-henricus (Good king henry)
Many members of the chenopodaceae are edible, some very good. Good King Henry seeds are available from seed merchants. Fat hen is a very common garden weed. However it's a very good spinach substitute (use the leaves, young stalks and the young flower heads) so we let it grow to a suitable size before weeding out for the cooking-pot! The young leaves are also of a pleasant texture raw and make a good addition to a salad.

Chenopodium Rubrum Chenopodium rubrum (Red goosefoot)
Another member of the Goosefoot family that is good to eat.

Chrysosplenium alternifolium Chrysosplenium alternifolium (Golden Saxifrage)
Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Golden Saxifrage)
Two related plants which are quite decorative and are said to have a pleasant peppery taste.

Claytonia Perfoliata jpeg Claytonia Perfoliata (Miner's lettuce)
Miner's lettuce is well worth a taste.

Cochlearia Anglica(Long-leaved scurvy-grass)
There are several scurvy-grasses. This is probably the best of them.

Crambe Maritima Crambe Maritima (Sea Kale)
Sea Kale - a delightful plant, but protected in the wild.

Crithmum Maritimum Crithmum maritimum (Rock Samphire)
Possibly an acquired taste, but one I find quite pleasant. My wife does not, so we don't use it, but it can be added to salads. Rock Samphire is an umbellifer and is no relation to marsh samphire and is a totally different flavour.

Cruciata Laevipes Cruciata Laevipes (Crosswort)
A plant related to goosegrass, bedstraws and Wodruffe.

Cymbalaria Muralis Cymbalaria Muralis (ivy-leaf toadflax)
Ivy-leaved toadflax is a common inhabitant of walls.

Epilobium parviflorum jpeg Epilobium parviflorum (Small-flowered Willowherb)
This common garden weed can be added to salads - it has vey useful medicinal properties too!

Eryngium Maritimum Eryngium Maritimum (Sea Holly)
Too rare and beautiful a plant to disturb!

Filipendula Ulmaria jpeg Filipendula Ulmaria(Meadowsweet)
An interesting plant, both in flavour and in medicinal properties.

Foeniculum Vulgare jpeg Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)
Surely everybody knows the common garden fennel. But it's not uncommon in the wild.

Galium Aparine Galium aparine (Goosegrass, cleavers, sticky willie)
This very common weed is in fact edible.

The Galium family includes nearly 300 similar species, including the bedstraws. Most are edible.

Galium Mollugo Galium Mollugo (Goosegrass, cleavers, sticky willie)
Another edible galium.

Heracleum Sphondylium jpeg Heracleum sphondylium
One of the best of all vegetables (whether wild or commercial). The young leaves, leaf and flower stalks are cooked, just as you would braise celery.

Humulus Lupulus Humulus lupulus (Hop)
Hops are quite common and the young shoots (the top two or three nodes) may be snapped off and steamed to make a fine vegetable. A sort or poor-man's asparagus! One wild vegetable we seek out eagerly when it's in season.

Lepidium Draba jpeg Lepidium draba
An increasingly common plant which is found on many roadside verges.

Levisticum officinale (Lovage)
A herb we would not be without in our garden. It once was a very popular pot-herb but it has fallen out of favour, However we find it as versatile as any other herb.

The fresh, young shoots and leaves make a fine and tasty addition to a salad, and it's a fine garden plant which we would not be without.

Malva Moschata Malva Moschata (Musk Mallow)
Musk mallow is a useful addition to salads as well as having medical benefit.

Malva Sylvestris Malva sylvestris (Common Mallow)
Common mallow is a useful addition to salads as well as having medical benefit.

Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)
Balm has been cultivated and there are now different flavours. It's not a particularly good textured plant, but a small amount of Lemon balm can make a nice addition to a salad. We find it a particularly good mix with garden mint.

Mentha aquatica etc(Water mint and others)
Ordinary garden mint is a hybrid between water mint and (mostly) spearmint. The mint family hybridises very easily and water mint is one on the parents. Water mint is very common and is quite edible although its flavour does not compare well with the cultivated hybrids. There are many other mints - all of them can make a useful addition to a salad, some tastier than others.

Montia perfoliata (Spring beauty)
The young leaves make a fine addition to a spring salad. They have a pleasant texture and a mild flavour. Can also be cooked as spinach.

Myrrhis Odorata jpegMyrrhis odorata - Sweet cicely
A wild herb that we grow in our garden and would not be without: as a basis for a spring salad, the young shoots (both leaf and flower) with their stalks are hard to beat.

In fact the whole plant can be eaten - the roots can be cooked, as can the leaves. We tried both and would not bother again: the roots are hard to dig up, difficult to clean and do not taste good when cooked. But that's simply our opinion

Sweet cicely looks very much like cow parsley, but is a paler green leaf, a denser white flower and is a much less straggly plant, so very decorative for a garden. Be aware that the poisonous hemlock looks very similar - though once you have smelled sweet cicely, you could not confuse the two.

Wild watercress bedNasturtium officinale Watercress
Nasturtium microphyllum
has a page to itself, photos, identification, similar plants.

Oreganum vulgare (Oregano or Marjoram)
A common enough herb which grows wild in United Kingdom and which has long been cultivated. The young leaves make a very tasty addition to a salad.

Oxalis Acetosella jpegOxalis acetosella (Wood sorrel)
A very common plant in some areas, and quite tasty!

P/Parietaria Officinalis Parietaria officinalis(Pellitory-of-the-wall)
A relative of the nettle, with useful medical properties.

Plantago lanceolata jpeg Plantago lanceolata(Ribwort plantain)
Plantains may be used is salads: they have definite medicinal values.

Plantago Major jpeg Plantago major(Common plantain)
Plantains may be used is salads: they have definite medicinal values.

Polygonatum Multiflorum jpeg Polygonatum Multiflorum(Solomon's seal)
A British native but it's more comon as a garden plant.

Poterium Sanguisorba Poterium sanguisorba (Salad burnet)
Why this is called 'Salad' burnett I do not know. Not worth eating in my opinion!

Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)
A common enough herb, but it has a lot more uses than you may be aware of. Try the fresh young growing tips chopped up in a salad - they are not as tough as you may have thought. Or try roasting your lamb joint on a bed of rosemary - that's common enough, but the crisp rosemary leaves, fried in lamb fat are absolutely delicious!

Rumex acetosa Rumex acetosa (Common sorrel)
There are several plants of the Rumex group (which also includes the Docks) that are acidic and can be eaten as 'sorrel'. Several of them are sold as herbs and are well worth cultivating for salads - especially if you have children!

Rumex acetosella Rumex acetosella (Sheep's sorrel)
very common, burt usually insignificant

Rumex scutatus Rumex scutatus (French or Buckler leaved sorrel)
Another of the plants of the Rumex group.

Salicornia sp (Glasswort or Samphire)
A family of woody perennials or annals inhabiting salt marshes. Many of them are so similar they are difficult to differentiate.

Samphire is picked from the marshes and is sold in the English marshes. It's a plant that if pleasant to eat raw as you walk through the marshes, having a mild, salty flavour. Cooked and served with melted butter it is delicious - the flesh of the slightly older plants slides easily off the somewhat woody inner stalk as you suck it.

Sinapsis alba Sinapsis alba (White mustard)
A very common weed of arable fields especially on the field edges as it is often used as a green manure.

Sinapsis Arvensis Sinapsis arvensis (Charlock)
A very common weed of arable fields especially on the field edges.

Smyrnium Olusatrum jpegSmyrnium oleastrum (Alexanders)
Once a seaside plant, over the last 30 years or so I have observed it spreading along roadsides in East Anglia and elsewhere - no doubt because of the salting of the roads - so that it is now a common roadside plant, even in Cambridgeshire. Makes a very tasty seasonal vegetable: preparation detail included.

Stellaria Media1 jpeg Stellaria media (Chickweed)
Chickweed, the common garden weed, is edible.

Symphytum officinale (Comfrey)
Not a plant I have fancied, but the leaves may be eaten. They are rather glutinous.

Tilia X Europaea (Lime tree)
Young lime tree leaves make an excellent snack. They don't have a lot of flavour but have a pleasant texture.

Tragopogon pratensis (Goat's beard)
A common plant realated to the dandelion: root, leaves and stem are all edible.

Typha latifolia (Bulrush, Cat's Tail, Reedmace)
The roots and inner core of the reedmace are a pleasant food. Other parts of the plant can also be eaten.

Tussilago Farfara Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot)
Flowers, flower buds and leaves are edible.

Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle)
Eating nettles is something of a cult. However young stinging nettles are a very pleasant substitute for spinach.

Veronica Anagallis Veronica anagallis-aquatica and V. catenata (Water speedwell)
Two similar plants, differing only in the flower colour.

Veronica Beccabunga Veronica beccabunga (Brooklime)
This can be added to salads. It's texture is fine and it's easy to grow and very common in the wild. However it's not very pleasant to my taste.

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Page first published 10th April 2004.
Last modified: Sat, 25 Nov 2017 11:37:03 GMT
Written by and © Richard Torrens