Edible Foraging in the PNW

One of the major concerns about being in a long term emergency is how we will feed ourselves and our families. Doug Vorwaller presented the North County CERT group with a presentation and resource list on how we can go about finding information for how to find local plants that are safe to eat and use to add new flavors to the foods you already use.

The following information is not medical or nutritional advice. You are responsible for what you put into your body. Before you eat anything you are unsure about, please be aware of any reactionary medical conditions and/or allergies that you or your family may have.

Finding Wild Plants

  • Know the foraging rules for public areas. On public owned land it may be okay to take parts of plants but taking the entire plant may not be.
  • Have permission to harvest on private land and beaches.
  • Do not take an entire plant
  • Do not take plants from areas that have been sprayed. (The sides of major roadways, and similarly up-kept areas may be sprayed with harmful chemicals to reduce weeds or overgrowth)
  • In an emergency, work together.

Know Our Local Poisonous Plants

There are many plants and trees that grow naturally around us that can be very harmful or fatal if eaten. Some examples are:

Water Hemlock is the one of the most poisonous plants in our area

  • Water Hemlock (one of the most poisonous).
  • Hemlock – all parts
  • Death Camas
  • Foxglove
  • Woody Nightshade
  • Lupine
  • False Hellebore
  • Poison Oak

Unless trained, avoid mushrooms.


Common Edible Plants

Below are some examples of common plants in our area that you may not know are edible.

Edible Water Plants

Land plants aren’t the only edible things to forage. There are many water plants in our plants in our area that can be a nutritious additive to you foods as well.

  • The edible ones may require preparation, some need to be avoided but should not kill you. Example: Acid Kelp (Desmarestia Ligulata) can cause intestinal distress
  • Seaweed washed up or found on a beach may be rotting and should be avoided.
  • As with land plants, carefully ID the seaweed to ensure it is edible
  • Seaweed can be high in protein, contain vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and iodine

From our beaches, most seaweed is edible. Some examples include bull-whip kelp, sugar kelp (also known as sea belt or devil’s apron because of its shape), and sea lettuce.

Do You Have Edible Landscaping?

When we plan our gardens and decorative plants, we can make them edible as well. Your own yard could be a great way to get experience in foraging. Some examples include:

Redwood Sorrel
Oxalis oregana
  • Moist, shady areas
  • Groundcover
  • Stems and leaves in Spring
  • Use as a mix with other leafy greens
  • PNW Sedum Species
  • Dry, sunny areas
  • Groundcover
  • Leaves
  • Use raw or cooked
Stinging Nettle
Urtica dioica
  • New leaves in Spring
  • Collect with gloves
  • Use cooked like spinach
  • Tea, pesto, soup, casserole
Lady Fern
Athyrium filix-femina
  • Wet, part shade
  • Use as a groundcover, shrub
  • Fiddleheads can be eaten raw or steamed
Camassia quamash
  • Moist to wet but dry in summer, full sun
  • Meadow, borders, mass planting
  • Use like sweet potatoes
Sagittaria latifolia
  • Wetland, sun
  • Use in ponds and marshes
  • Tubers
  • Use like water chestnut
Garry Oak
Quercus garryana
  • Dry or well drained, sun
  • Use in large open space, broad spreading branches
  • Acorns
  • Dry, then soak
Hazelnut, Beaked Filbert
Corylus cornuta
  • Wet/dry, Part Shade
  • Small shrubby tree
  • Nuts
  • High in Vitamin E


Special thanks to:

  • Kathryn Wells of Snohomish County
  • Ashley Shattuck of Snohomish
    Conservation District
  • Robert Branigin of Sno-Isle Libraries

Planting wild and edible plants


  • “Sustainable Landscapes & Gardens” by Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
  • “Edible Gardening for Washington and Oregon” by Binetti & Beck

Online Sources:

  • Snohomish Conservation Distrect
    • www.snohomishcd.org
  • Grow Your Own Native Landscape
    • http://jeffersoncd.org.s13831.gridserver.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Grow-your-own-native-landscape.pdf

Wild Plant References


  • “Foraging Wild Edible Plabts of North America” by Christopher Nyerges
  • “Foraging Washington” by Christopher Nyerges
  • “How to Eat in the Woods” by Bradford Angier
  • “Incredible Wild Edibles: 36 Plants That Can Change Your Life” by Samuel Thayer
  • “Northwest Foraging” by Doug Benoliel
  • “Pacific Northwest Foraging” by Douglas Deur
  • “Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine” by Jennifer Hahn
  • “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast” by Pojar and Mackinnon
  • “The Forager’s Feast” by Leda Meredith
  • “Wild berries of Washington and Oregon” by T. Abe Lloyd
  • “Wild Edible Plants of Western North America” by Donald Kirk
  • “Wild Edibles” by Sergei Boutenko

Online Sources:

  • Washington Native Plant Society(look under Island Country)
    • https://www.wnps.org/
  • Washington State University
    • https://extension.wsu.edu/snohomish/garden/gardening-resources/wild-edible-plant-links/
  • King County Native Plant Guide
    • https://green2.kingcounty.gov/gonative/index.apsx
  • Hanson’s Northwest Native Plant Database
    • http://pnwplants.wsu.edu/



  • “Fat of the Land” by Langdon Cook
  • “Pacific Feast: A Cook’s Guide to West Coast Foraging and Cuisine” by Jennifer Hahn
  • “The New Wildcrafted Cuisine” by Pascal Baudar (with brewing wild beers)
  • “The Wild Cookbook” by Roger Phillip
  • “The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes” by Connie Green & Sarah Scott

Online Sources:

  • Hunter-Angler-Gardener-Cook blog by Hank Shaw
    • http://honest-food.net/cooking-blue-camas
  • Fat of the Land blog
    • http://fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com/
  • Wild Harvest by Abe Lloyd
    • http://arcadianabe.blogspot.com/