The root is poisonous (this is destroyed by heat), and the raw juice of the old plant is an acrid purgative. The berries are harmless.

Prickly Pear

Opuntia. Several species. Dry, sandy soil. Along eastern coast, and on western prairies and plains.

The ripe fruit is eaten raw. The unripe fruit, if boiled ten or twelve hours, becomes soft and resembles apple-sauce. When the leaves are roasted in hot ashes, the outer skin, with its thorns, is easily removed, leaving a slimy but sweet and succulent pulp which sustains life. Should be gathered with tongs which can be extemporized by bending a green stick in the middle and beathing it over the fire.

Primrose, Evening

Onagra biennis {Oenothera b.). Usually jn dry soil. Labrador to Fla., west to Rocky Mts. June-Oct.

Young sprigs are mucilaginous and can be eaten as salad. Roots have a nutty flavor, and are used in Europe either raw or stewed, like celery.

Purslane. Pussley

Portulaca Oleracea. Fields and waste places. A weed of almost worldwide distribution. Summer.

This weed was used as a pot-herb by the Greeks and Romans, and is still so used in Europe. The young shoots should be gathered when from 2 to 5^ inches long. May also be used as a salad, or pickled. Taste somewhat like string beans, with a slight acid flavor. The seeds, ground to flour, have been used by Indians in the form of mush.


Cercis Canadensis.

French-Canadians use the acid flowers of this tree in salads. The buds and tender pods are pickled in vinegar. All may be fried in butter, or made into fritters.

Saxifrage, Lettuce

Saxifraga micranthidi-folia. In cold brooks. Appalachian Mts. from Pa. to N. C. May-June.

Eaten by Carolina mountaineers as a salad under the name of "lettuce".

Shepherd's Purse

Bursa Bursa-pastoris (Capsella B.). Fields and waste places everywhere. Naturalized. Jan.-Dec.

A good substitute for spinach. Delicious when blanched and served as a salad. Tastes somewhat like cabbage, but is much more delicate.

Skunk Cabbage

Spathyema foetida (Symplo-carpus f.). Swamps and wet soil. Throughout the east, and west to Minn, and Iowa. Feb.- April.

The root of this foul-smelling plant was baked or roasted by eastern Indians, to extract the juice, and used as a bread-root. Doubtless they got the hint from the bear, who is very fond of this, one of the first green things to appear in spring.

Solomon's Seal

Polygonatum biflorum. Woods and thickets. New Brunsw. to Mich., south to Fla. and W. Va. A pril-July.

Indians boiled the young shoots in spring and ate them; also dried the mature roots in fall, ground or pounded them, and baked them into bread. The raw plant is medicinal.

Sorrel, Mountain

Oxyria digyna. Greenland to Alaska, south to White Mts. of N. H. and in Rocky Mts. to Colo. July-Sep.

A pleasant addition to salads.

Sorrel, Sheep

Rumux Acetosella. Dry fields and hillsides. Throughout the continent, except in extreme north. May-Sep.

The leaves are very acid. Young shoots may be eaten as a salad. Also used as a seasoning for soups, etc.

The European sorrels cultivated as salad plants are R. Acetosa, R. scutatus, and sometimes R. Patientia.

Sorrell, White Wood

Oxalis Acetosella. Cold, damp woods. Nova Scotia to Manitoba, mts. of N. C, and north shore of Lake Superior. May-July.

Not related to the above. "The pleasant acid taste of the leaves, when mixed with salads, imparts an agreeable, refreshing flavor." The fresh plant, or a "lemonade" made from it, is very useful in scurvy, and makes a cooling drink for fevers. Should be used in moderation, as it contains binoxa-late of potash, which is poisonous. Yields the druggist's "salt of lemons".


Pin-clover. Erodium cicutarium. Waste places and fields. Locally in the east, abundant in the west. April-Sep. Naturalized.

The young plant is gathered by western Indians and eaten raw or cooked.

Strawberry Blite

Blitum capitatum (Chen-opodium c). Dry soil. Nova Scotia to Alaska, south to N. J., 111., Colo., Utah, Nev. June-Aug.

Sometimes cultivated for greens. Used like spinach.

Trillium. Wake-Robin

Beth-root. Trillium erectum; also T. undulatum and T. grandiflorum. Woods. Nova Scotia to Minn., and south to Fla. A pril-June.

The popular notion that these plants are poisonous is incorrect. They make good greens when cooked. The root has medicinal qualities.


Pachyma cocos. A subterranean fungus which grows on decaying vegetable matter, such as old roots. It is found in light, loamy soils and in dry waste places, but not in very old fields or in woodlands. Outwardly it is woody, resembling a cocoanut or the bark of a hickory tree. The inside is a compact, white, fleshy mass, moist and yielding when fresh, but in drying it becomes very hard, cracking from within. It contains no starch, but is composed largely of pectose. The Indians made bread of it, and it is sometimes called Indian Bread. (For details, see an article by Prof. J. H. Gore in Smithsonian Report, 1881, pp. 687-701).

Unicorn Plant

Martynia Lousiana (M. pro-hoscidea). Waste places. Me. to N. J. and N. C. Native in Mississippi Valley from Iowa and 111. southward. July-Sep.

Cultivated in some places. The seed-pods, while yet tender, make excellent pickles. The Apaches gather the half-ripe pods of a related species and use them for food.

Vetch, Milk

Astragalus, several species. Prairies. May-Aug.

Used as food by the Indians. The pea is hulled and boiled.

Violet, Early Blue

Viola palmata. Dry soil, mostly in woods. Me. to Minn.; south to Ga. and Ark. April-May.

"The plant is very mucilaginous, and is employed by negroes for thickenig soup, under the name of 'wild okra.' " (Porcher).