They’re natural, they’re tasty, and they’re edible. Little do many know, Colorado actually has several edible plants in our natural areas that are consumable. Whether you’re on the trails or in your backyard garden, here are some of the edible plants of Colorado that you can find around our home state.
These yellow bursts of sunshine are more than just field fillers. Sunflower seeds are the most commonly consumed part of the plant and can be used in a variety of ways. Grind them up to make sunflower flour, bring them to your local baseball games, or snack on them by the pool. Some people have allergic reactions to sunflowers, so be sure to know your allergies before approaching them.
They’re found on dry, rocky slopes usually between August and September. Their bright red outer coloring makes them easy to identify and can be used to make jams or jellies. Be sure to rinse them off to avoid consuming any chemicals or pests.
Native to the western slope of Colorado, serviceberries are typically one of the most heat and drought tolerant of the shrub type. They’re three-season plants that flower in the spring, are showy in the fall, and have edible pink-white fruits in the summer. Their blueberry-like flavor is delicious in jellies or just fresh off the tree.
Pick them when they’re green to be used in pies and jams or when they’re fully ripe to be used as dessert-quality fresh fruit. Gooseberries are easy to care for and can be grown right in your back yard. They’re self-fruitful, meaning only one variety of the plant is needed for fruiting.
Also being self-fruitful, currants are a Eurasian shrub that produce small, edible black, red or white berries. As a mild-tasting red berry, these are one of the best choices of edible plants that Colorado gardeners can grow.
It can be invasive to your lawns, but wild garlic can spice up any of your homemade meals. Be careful not to consume their close look-a-like, death camas. If they don’t smell like onions and have bright, pink flowers, it’s not wild garlic!
If it smells like mint, it must be mint. Native to North America, menthe arvenis, or wild mint can be used to make teas and spices. The spearmint flavor and scent is so refreshing that it doesn’t seem real. It typically grows alongside streams and in moist areas, but can survive as a garden plant with the right attention and care.
It probably wouldn’t be your first choice for a quick, trail snack, but you can use freshly bloomed flowers raw in your salads. Its best to gather them before they fully open to avoid too many bugs. You can also use their roots to make some homemade soaps!
Not the kind of fruit you first think of when you hear the word, ‘pear.’ They’re found in dry, rocky areas at lower elevations, but pickly pear, or opuntia phaecantha bear fruits that can be eaten raw or cooked. The fruits should be carefully removed, sliced and served cooked. The petals from the flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. Just watch out for those prickly spines!
Other Edible Options:
False Solomon’s seal
There are quite a few others that you can eat in the wild, these are just the most common ones we typically see! Grab your packs, gather some naturally grown snacks, and enjoy these last few days of summer in the great, Colorado outdoors.