10 wild plants you can eat in the Ontario region

Published: April 9, 2018

hazelnut-tree Photo by flaviano fabrizi/Shutterstock

As each passing day grows longer, buds of green are beginning to appear — and in just a few short months, some those buds will be ready for harvest.

When it comes to delicious treats, Ontario’s forests and meadows have far more to offer than just maple syrup. Here are 10 wild foods that can be found throughout cottage country.

Wild Leeks

wild-leeks
Photo courtesy of Outdoor Canada

With a sweet taste like onions, wild leeks are native to eastern Canada, including Ontario’s hardwood forests. Also called ramps, they can be found growing in the spring and look like scallions with wider leaves.

Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads

fiddleheads
Photo by Kelly Marken/Shutterstock

Rich is antioxidants and vitamins, fiddleheads are essentially baby ferns. They can be found near rivers and streams in the springtime, but be careful before you pick — foxglove and bracken ferns are toxic.

Asparagus

wild-asparagus
Photo by Pfeiffer/Shutterstock

Finding asparagus spears in the wild is much like learning to identify mushrooms — once you spot them, you’ll see them everywhere. Check out areas near water and in full sunshine, which the plant likes best.

Stinging Nettle

stinging-nettle
Photo by DNikolaev/Shutterstock

Understandably, anything with “stinging” in the name would make you think twice about eating it. But nettle leaves are a delicious green that can be cooked as a side dish or with other veggies. Plus, they’re resilient, so you don’t have to worry about over-foraging them.

Common Dandelion

dandelion
Photo by Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

When dandelions first began appearing on the menus of Toronto restaurants several years ago, farmers were left shrugging in confusion. However, dandelions are similar in flavour to arugula or radicchio and even the flowers are edible. Be sure to harvest in the summer before the leaves turn bitter.

 Common Morel

morel-mushrooms
Photo by Mircea Costina/Shutterstock

One of the best parts of foraging for morels — other than eating them afterwards — is that there’s endless potential for “dad jokes.” (Maybe you’ll even find yourself in a “morel dilemma”?) These mushrooms can typically be found in forested areas, growing around dead trees or under decomposing leaves.

Wild Strawberries

wild-strawberry-plant
Photo by Plotitsyna NiNa/Shutterstock

Easy to find and packed with flavour, wild strawberries grow widely across cottage country, including in fields and even in sandy areas in the full sun. Look for their characteristic white flowers, which appear in May, and be sure to pick the tiny treats in late June or July before the woodland critters do.

Watercress

watercress
Photo by hjochen/Shutterstock

Sought-after by chefs, wild watercress is edible raw and can be found growing in or around calm water year-round. Look for a floating or creeping plant with small white flowers — but ensure the water that you’re picking it from is clean and unpolluted.

Black Walnuts

black-walnut-tree
Photo by Michael Richardson/Shutterstock

There are around six types of nuts that can be foraged in Ontario, including black walnuts. In June, keep an eye out of a green fruit, which turns to a brownish beige colour when ripe in the early fall.

Northern Wild Rice

northern-wild-rice-plant
Photo courtesy of Outdoor Canada

Northern wild rice, which resembles ornamental grass, is native to the Great Lakes Region and can be found in shallow lakes and waterways. It’s high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals but low in fat, making it a foragable superfood.

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