Anyone walking through Alabama's woods and fields can find edible plants amid the landscape. Berries, roots, stalks and leaves of various plants can be added to various dishes for added flavor or eaten raw. But, be wary. Do not eat a plant unless you are certain that it is edible. Many edible plants look similar to poisonous plants.
Plentiful in Alabama and often called "brambles," blackberry bushes offer more than just edible berries. When dried, the leaves and roots can be steeped in hot water for tea. Blackberry root tea has been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, while tea from the leaves has the reputation of purifying the blood. Young blackberry sprouts and tender twigs can be eaten raw in salads.
Wild carrots, commonly known as Queen Anne's Lace, grow abundantly in fields and along roadsides. The stems and leaves have the same frilly look as that of domesticated carrots. As biennials, they bloom with a grouping of tiny white flowers (hence the name "lace") on a tall stalk during the plant's second year. The root, although white in color, resembles domesticated carrot in smell and taste. It may be eaten raw or cooked in the same way as domesticated carrots.
Oxalis, also known as wood sorrel, looks similar to clover. It has tiny pink, white or yellow flowers. Found in bunches, especially along the edges of wooded areas, oxalis grows plentifully in Alabama from February through July. Some consider it an invasive weed, but the leaves, flowers and bulbs are all edible. Oxalis has a tart flavor, similar to lemon or green apple. Add the fresh flowers and leaves to salads or use them to flavor fish, beans, soups and sauces (see Resources for an oxalis soup recipe). One word of caution: oxalis contains oxalic acid. Consuming large amounts of oxalic acid causes nausea and vomiting. Concentrated oxalic acid removes calcium from the blood, obstructing kidney tubules and causing kidney damage. Cooking reduces the oxalic acid content in oxalis, but eat in moderation.
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