Foraging for edible wild plants is a fun way to embrace the beauty of Newfoundland's nature. In the province, there are many nourishing plants and berries that can be found growing in forests, pastures, and along the seashore. From dandelion greens to blueberries, these natural edibles give us an opportunity to get back in touch with the Earth and to reap the rewards of its bounty.
Not only are wild edibles delicious, but foraging for them is also a great way to get some fresh air and exercise! Whether you're looking to supplement your regular diet or just want to explore the outdoors, try your hand at foraging in Newfoundland and discover all the wonderful wild edibles the province has to offer. You may be surprised by just how many edible plants and berries you can find!
Of course, there are some safety precautions to consider when foraging in Newfoundland and Labrador. Make sure you properly identify any edibles before consuming and take care not to overharvest. Many wild foods, like blueberries and mushrooms, can be easily spotted and collected in large quantities, but remember that these plants still need to reproduce in order for them to remain abundant.
Join us for a Farm & Forage Workshop to gain hands-on experience under the guidance of an experienced forager. We’ll cover most of the plants below (and more) plus get a chance to pick you’re own and build skill at identifying. You’ll get to sample many edibles and build the confidence to begin foraging on your own. Come each month to taste the next bloom of edibles!
Okay, now let's look at some of the common plants that are edible and how you can add them to your daily meals. For all the edible berries, check out our Beginners Guide to Newfoundland Berries.
What is dandelion?
Known as a common weed, this whole plant is edible. The leaves, flowers, and root can all be eaten raw or cooked. Try adding the leaves to salads or sautéing them as a side dish. The flower petals are great for making tea, while the roots can be roasted then used as a coffee substitute.
Locals also enjoy Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine is a refreshing and unique beverage that can be made from the bright yellow flowers of the common dandelion. Many people are surprised to learn that these pesky weeds can be transformed into a delightful drink that is perfect for sipping on a warm summer day.
Here are the steps to making dandelion wine:
1. Harvest the flowers: The best time to collect dandelion flowers is in the morning when they are fully open. Look for flowers that are bright and free from any blemishes. You will need about 4 cups of flowers to make a gallon of wine.
2. Prepare the flowers: Use scissors to snip off the yellow petals from the green base of the flower. Be careful not to include any of the green parts as they can make the wine bitter.
3. Make the infusion: Boil 1 gallon of water and pour it over the 4 cups of dandelion petals. Add 1 sliced orange and 1 sliced lemon, and leave the mixture to steep for 24 hours.
4. Add sugar and yeast: Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth and add 3 pounds of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add a packet of wine yeast. Pour the mixture into a fermentation vessel and add an airlock.
5. Ferment the wine: Leave the vessel in a cool, dark place for about 2-3 weeks, allowing the yeast to ferment the sugar and turn the mixture into alcohol.
6. Bottle the wine: Once the fermentation process is complete, use a siphon to transfer the wine into a clean bottle. Cork the bottle and store it in a cool place for at least 6 months before drinking.
Dandelion wine is a sweet and floral beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries. In addition to its delicious taste, it also boasts health benefits such as being rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. So why not try making some for yourself and experience the unique flavor of this wild edible? Just be sure to properly identify the flowers before harvesting!
What is red clover?
Clover is a wild edible that can be found growing in the meadows and pastures of Newfoundland. This plant has small, delicate leaves that are trefoil-shaped, giving it its distinct three-leaf clover appearance.
Clover is most commonly used as an animal feed, but it also offers health benefits to humans. It is high in protein, fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. In addition to its nutritional value, clover has also been used for medicinal purposes such as treating sore throats and coughs.
How do you gather red clover?
Collecting clover is simple and easy. The best time to harvest is in the late spring when the plant first starts to flower. Look for bright green patches of clover in meadows or pastures, and clip the flowering tops with scissors.
What can you do with red clover?
Picking the flowers offers a sweet and crunchy addition salads or drop them in hot water for a light tea. Use the flower tops to make tea or infuse into honey. The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw, and are great in salads or sautéed with other vegetables.
What is fireweed?
Fireweed is a wild edible and medicinal plant native to Newfoundland. This herb grows tall and has leaves that are slightly fuzzy in texture. Its flowers have an orange-red hue, giving the plant its name.
Fireweed is full of health benefits, making it an excellent addition to your diet. It is high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It has also been used to treat digestive issues such as indigestion and bloating.
How do you pick fireweed?
When gathering fireweed, look for plants that are green and free of any blemishes or discoloration. Gather the leaves in the summer months and the flowers in late summer or early fall.
How do you dry fireweed?
Hang-drying is the best way to preserve fireweed. Gather the leaves and flowers into small bundles, then hang them upside down in a warm, dry place such as a pantry or kitchen. Leave the herbs for several days until they are completely dry, then store in an airtight container.
What can you use fireweed for?
Fireweed can be used to make teas, infusions, syrups, and tinctures. The flowers can be added to salads while the leaves provide a unique flavor when cooked into dishes such as soups and stews. Fireweed is also an excellent addition to homemade jams, jellies, and preserves.
What is Labrador Tea?
Labrador Tea is a wild edible found growing in the bogs and wetlands of Newfoundland. This plant has small, evergreen leaves that are highly aromatic and can be used to make teas with a unique flavour profile. The leaf tops are like dark green leather while the underside of the leaf is covered in a tangled mat of yellowish hairs. It has small white flowers that grow in clusters.
In addition to providing an interesting flavour, Labrador Tea offers health benefits such as being high in antioxidants and vitamins. It has also been used to help treat colds and coughs, as well as reduce inflammation. Collect the leaves for tea in early spring, dry them in a paper bag and then store them in air tight container.
How do you harvest Labrador tea?
Carefully harvest the leaves and flowers of the Labrador Tea. Look for plants that are moist, fresh-looking, and free from disease or blemishes. Gently clip off a few leaves from each plant, leaving enough so that the plant can continue to grow.
What can you do with Labrador tea?
To brew the tea, place 1-2 tablespoons of dried leaves in a cup of boiling water that has sat for 1 minute. Allow the tea to steep for 7-10 minutes, strain and enjoy. You can also sweeten it with honey or add lemon slices for added flavour. Be sure to never use boiling water as the high temperatures
release a toxin from the tea leaves.
What is wild rose?
Wild rose is a beautiful and fragrant wild edible found in Newfoundland. This plant can grow up to 2 meters tall and has thorny stems and branches. Its leaves are serrated and glossy green, with a slight oval shape. This plant produces showy pink or white flowers with five petals and a bright yellow center, which bloom in late spring to early summer. As the flowers fade, they are replaced by a round, red fruit known as rose hips.
Wild rose hips are not only beautiful, but they are also highly nutritious. They are a rich source of vitamins, especially vitamin C, and are used in a variety of ways, such as making jams, jellies, and tea. The rose hips can also be dried for later use.
In addition to being a popular food source, wild rose has a long history of medicinal uses. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including sore throats, colds, and respiratory infections. It has also been used as a natural remedy for skin irritation, swelling, and pain.
How do you harvest wild rose?
When harvesting wild rose, it is important to wear gloves and protective clothing as the thorns can be quite sharp. Look for plants that are healthy and free of any signs of disease or infestation. When harvesting the rose hips, wait until they have turned a deep red color and are slightly soft to the touch. To preserve the rose hips, remove the seeds and chop or puree the fruit, then freeze or dry for storage.
How do you make rose hip jelly?
Rose hip jelly is a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy the benefits of wild rose hips. Once harvested, remove the stems and blossom ends from the rose hips, and wash them thoroughly.
Next, chop or puree the rose hips and place them in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the rose hips, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the rose hips are soft and starting to break down.
Once the rose hips are cooked, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, and measure the resulting juice.
For every cup of juice, add one cup of sugar to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and continue boiling until the mixture thickens and forms a gel-like consistency. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Once your rose hip jelly has reached the desired texture, ladle it into clean glass jars and seal tightly. Allow the jars to cool to room temperature, and then store them in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Rose hip jelly can be enjoyed on toast, with cheese, or as a glaze for meats. Its delicious taste and impressive nutrient profile make it a wonderful addition to any pantry.
What are fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads are a unique wild edible found in Newfoundland, and their distinctive spiral shape makes them easy to identify. Fiddleheads are the young, coiled fronds of ferns, typically the ostrich fern. They are harvested in early spring when they first emerge from the ground and are still tightly coiled.
Fiddleheads are highly nutritious and are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as iron and potassium. They are also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
How do you harvest fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads should be harvested when they are still tightly coiled, no more than 4 inches in length. It is important to exercise caution while harvesting fiddleheads as their stems can cause irritation to the skin.
When locating fiddlehead patches, look for an area that has plenty of moisture and a dark, loamy soil. Once the fiddleheads have been identified, use a sharp knife or scissors to cut them from the stem close to the ground. Gently rinse off any dirt or debris and discard any wilted or discolored fronds.
How do you prepare and store fiddleheads?
Fiddleheads should be cooked prior to eating. Boil or steam the fiddleheads for 5-10 minutes, or until they are bright green and tender. Fiddleheads can be enjoyed hot or cold in a variety of dishes, such as salads, stir-fries, and soups.
Fiddleheads can also be frozen for up to 6 months for later use. To freeze them, blanch the fiddleheads in boiling water for 2 minutes, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain off excess water and place the fiddleheads in an airtight container or bag before freezing.
In addition to their culinary uses, fiddleheads also have a number of traditional medicinal uses. They have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including arthritis, as well as being used to aid in digestion and stimulate the appetite.
What are spruce buds or tips?
Spruce bud or tips are the young, conical growth at the end of spruce branchlets. Spruce bud tips can be identified by their characteristics, bright greenish colour and a piney-bitter taste. A spruce tree is a coniferous evergreen tree that is commonly found in Newfoundland and other cold climates. There are several species of spruce trees, including the black spruce, white spruce, and red spruce.
Spruce trees can grow up to 60 meters tall, with a narrow, conical shape and dense branches that extend horizontally from the trunk. The needles of a spruce tree are 4-sided and attached individually to the twig, often appearing to be arranged in a spiral pattern along the stem. The needles are typically dark green to blue-green in color, and can be up to 3 centimeters long.
When do you harvest spruce tips?
Spruce tips can be harvested in the spring, when they are still young and tender. The best time to collect them is when the buds just start to open, usually around May or June.
How do you prepare spruce tips?
Once you have collected your spruce tips, it’s important to clean them properly before using them in food. To do this, simply rinse the tips in cold water and remove any brown or wilted parts. Then, you can use them fresh or dry them for future use.
What are spruce tips used for?
Spruce bud tips can be eaten raw or cooked and used in various dishes such as jams, preserves, sauces or even pesto! They are also popular for making tea or infusing honey or vinegars for added flavor.
In addition to being used for food purposes, spruce bud tips have traditionally been used medicinally due to their high content of vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants like quercetin which help boost immunity. Additionally, some people use them for liver detoxification purposes or to soothe sore throats when steeped into tea with lemon juice .
What is Alder?
Alder is a deciduous tree found in moist environments across Newfoundland. It can be identified by its reddish-brown bark, diamond-shaped leaves and small cones that appear on the same branch as female flowers. The male flowers are catkins which form before the leaves emerge in late spring.
How do you gather & dry alder?
Harvestable items from alder include its fresh young shoots, buds, catkins and bark which can all be used for food purposes. We collect the catkins for making alder pepper. Alder pepper is a unique seasoning that can add a flavorful kick to any dish.
How do you make alder pepper?
To make alder pepper, you will need to first gather the catkins from the alder tree in late spring. The catkins are the long, cylindrical clusters of tiny flowers that hang from the branches and will soon release pollen into the air.
Once you have collected the catkins, you will need to dry them out thoroughly. This can be done by spreading them out on a clean, dry surface and leaving them in a warm, well-ventilated area for several days until they are completely dry and brittle.
After the catkins are dry, you can grind them into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. The resulting powder can be used as a flavorful seasoning for meats, vegetables, soups, and stews.
Alder pepper has a unique flavor profile, with a mild sweetness and a subtle smokiness that pairs well with many different foods. In addition to its culinary uses, alder pepper has traditional medicinal properties, including being rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body.
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow is an herbaceous perennial plant commonly found in Newfoundland. It can be identified by its white, umbrella-shaped flowers and long, feathery leaves. Yarrow has been used for centuries as a soothing diaphoretic, diuretic, stimulant and tonic. Known botanically as Achillea millefolium, yarrow is a member of the Asteraceae family and contains many active compounds including essential oils, flavonoids, phenolic acids and tannins.
Yarrow can be harvested for its leaves, flowers or roots throughout the summer months. Its leaves are typically dried and used to make herbal infusions.
How do you dry yarrow?
Yarrow can be dried for use in teas, tinctures, salves and other remedies. To do this, you will need to harvest the leaves and flowers when they are at their peak in late summer or early fall. Once harvested, spread them out on a clean surface in a warm, well-ventilated area and allow them to dry for several days until they are brittle. Then, store the dried herb in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one year.
How do you make yarrow tea?
Yarrow tea is an herbal infusion made from dried yarrow leaves and flowers. To make yarrow tea, you will need 1-2 teaspoons of dried yarrow and 8 ounces of boiling water. Place the yarrow into a mug or teapot and pour the boiling water over it. Allow the mixture to steep for 5-7 minutes before straining and enjoying the tea.
Yarrow tea has a pleasant, mild flavour with notes of pepper and honey. It is believed to be beneficial for digestive issues, inflammation, stress relief and pain relief. As always, it is best to consult a healthcare professional before incorporating any new supplement into your diet.
Foraging for wild edibles in Newfoundland can be an exciting and rewarding experience that allows us to enjoy delicious and nutritious local foods while connecting with nature. Whether you’re harvesting spruce bud tips for flavor, or Labrador Tea, and fireweed, for tea the options are endless. Whether you’re looking to add more superfoods to your diet or just want to explore the outdoors in a new way, foraging for wild edibles in Newfoundland can be a great way to do so.
Get out there and start exploring the wild edible bounty of Newfoundland!
Join a Farm & Forage Workshop
Join us for our guided foraging tours, where you will have the opportunity to taste various fresh wildflowers, berries, mushrooms, and even some wild game. Our expert guides will educate you on sustainable foraging methods and how to recognize edible plants in the wilderness. Whether you are an experienced forager or a complete beginner, you will have an enjoyable and informative experience.
During this experience, we'll take a walk in the backwoods of Cormack and share stories about the people, places, and culture of the area. You'll get to taste some delicious wild food, and we'll teach you how to forage for your own sustenance like people used to do in the past. Come each month to taste something new!
How did we learn all of this and the many other things we know about plants?
Some times I feel like I have always known which plants and flowers I could eat, like the clover and the dandelion. I knew about jams and jellies from wild berries from traditions and childhood experiences. I went fishing and Mark's been snaring rabbits and hunting grouse since he could fire a slingshot. From our mothers and fathers we learned many things. As we began to provide our own subsistence we broaden our knowledge through workshops, books, research, and in recent years through culinary experiences.
Lori McCarthy Photo made available by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
Lori McCarthy, an expert in food and culture, conducts various workshops covering topics such as foraging, harvesting, preserving, and storytelling. Mark & I have had the opportunity to attend multiple workshops of hers and learned how to identify, harvest, store and use many of these plants. We have continued our learning through cooking and understanding how to add these new flavours to our daily meals and make saleable products like tea. If you would like to more about her work read our blog through the link below.
Thank you to the amazing resource team of Q'alipu First Nations and Gros Morne Institute of Sustainable Tourism for making many of these sessions available to us.