11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (2023)

How many edible plants are growing in your yard right now? It’s almost certainly more than you think. While writing this story, I counted at least six consumable species that have flourished in my Central Austin backyard—and that’s excluding all the typical herbs and vegetables we grow in our garden. My list included yaupon holly, marigold, dandelion, winecup, mulberry, and chickweed, most of which I had no idea I could eat.

Like most Texas Monthly readers, I’ll probably never be a forager—my anxiety level is too high for that, especially after watching a spine-chilling episode of Midsomer Murders in which the victim dies by amanita mushroom, better known as the destroying angel. (Fun fact: this deadliest genus of mushrooms, which can be fatal, flourishes in East and Central Texas.) Luckily, there’s a plethora of unconventional fruits, greens, herbs, and other foods you can plant in your garden, sample at a local farm, or (carefully) find thriving right outside your door. For advice, I turned to Mark Vorderbruggen, a lifelong forager based in Houston and founder of the website Foraging Texas, as well as Scooter Cheatham and Lynn Marshall, who run the Useful Wild Plants project in Austin. All three offer hands-on foraging classes (which Cheatham, delightfully, likes to call a “speedy weed feed”), and these are the best way to get started.

The experts stress the importance of safety above all else. “People often get what we call ‘chlorophyll fever,’ ” Marshall says, referring to enthusiastic novice foragers. “They start thinking that everything they see is Mother Nature’s bounty. Well, it isn’t.” Never rely on a book, website, or identification app such as iNaturalist to decide if a plant is safe to eat. Instead, join a class, go out with an experienced forager, and learn how to confirm multiple identifying features on each plant. “For mushrooms, you need to match up at least eight to ten structural features,” such as color, size, shape, and where it’s growing, Vorderbruggen says. “With plants, you can get away with five or six”—but more is always better, and again, if you’re a beginner, you should partner with someone who knows what they’re doing and is absolutely certain that a specific plant is safe to eat.

With those words of warning in mind, on to a list of edible Texas plants.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (1)

Chicken of the woods

Range: Central and North Texas
How to eat it: Sautéed with rice, pasta, and/or veggies

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Okay, so it’s a fungus, not a plant. But the chicken of the woods mushroom is the gateway drug that introduced me to the world of wild, foraged, and unconventional foods. A friend dropped off some she’d gathered earlier that day in the woods near Lady Bird Lake, and I sautéed them with a little butter and garlic. The fresh, rich, umami flavor blew me away; I’d even venture to say it’s better than chicken, which can often be bland on its own.

Foraging for mushrooms requires ample caution. Since some species are deadly, you want to be absolutely certain of what you’re eating. That said, chicken of the woods is a good choice for beginners because it’s unmistakable. “It looks like a bunch of raw chicken breasts, stuck to a tree and coated with that orange Doritos cheese stuff,” Vorderbruggen says. Before biting into one, though, make sure to identify those aforementioned eight to ten structural features specific to the species, such as what surface it’s growing on (chicken of the woods prefers rotting trees) and the shape of the stem. You can also make a spore print, which is akin to taking a mushroom’s fingerprint.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (2)

Chickweed

Range: Statewide
How to eat it: Blend into a pesto or add to smoothies

This humble green weed, which is found in abundance across Texas and the continental U.S., often grows up against the sides of houses. The plant usually pops up in late winter and early spring, though you can pick it year-round. With a texture similar to spinach, it’s a good addition to a sandwich or a salad; Vorderbruggen suggests adding it to a smoothie. “Chickweed has a creamifying effect that makes a vegan smoothie a little more decadent, more like a milkshake,” he says. “It’s good on its own, too, but I highly recommend it in that role.” The folks at Central Texas Gardener recommend using it in a pesto recipe.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (3)

Chile pequin

Range: Central and South Texas
How to eat it: In a salsa or jelly

Also known as bird pepper, chile pequin is ubiquitous across much of the state. You might even have one in your yard and not know it. “A lot of people cut them down because they don’t realize what they are,” Marshall says. Texas’s official (and only) state native pepper thrives in both sun and shade; in late summer or early fall, its round, green berries turn red and are ready to pick. Most of the hot peppers sold in grocery stores are descended from the chile pequin, Marshall and Cheatham note, including jalapeño and serrano. This little red chile, whose spiciness Texas Monthly’s Pat Sharpe once described as “incendiary,” is stellar in homemade salsa or jelly. Try our recipe for the latter, which cuts the heat with grapefruit.

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11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (4)

Dewberry

Range: Central, East, and North Texas
How to eat it: Fresh off the vine, baked in a pie, or cooked in a jam

If you’re skeptical about eating strange and unusual wild plants, this one might be a comfortable place to start. The wild dewberry tastes and looks exactly like a blackberry, because it is one. “Genetically, it’s almost identical,” Vorderbruggen says. “Think of them as two different breeds of dogs.” Find the low-slung shrub growing along roads and highways, as well as in fields and thickets. You’ll want to wear gloves while picking these to avoid getting scratched by the thorns. Dewberry season is early and fleeting, lasting from late spring through early summer.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (5)

Horehound

Range: Central and West Texas
How to eat it: Brewed in a tea, or boiled down into a candy

A member of the mint family with medicinal properties, horehound is a great natural remedy for a sore throat or cough; cultures around the world have been using it for this purpose for thousands of years. You can brew the leaves into a tea or make a candy similar to a cough drop. Vorderbruggen describes the strong herbal flavor as a pleasant combination of root beer and licorice. His website has recipes for both horehound tea and horehound candy.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (6)

Jujube

Range: Statewide, especially Houston
How to eat it: On its own, fresh or dried

Jujube trees are originally from China; the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced them to America in the early twentieth century. These hardy trees grow well in harsh, dry environments, so USDA officials thought they’d be a good option in California, Texas, and across the arid Southwest. Though it never became as popular as they’d hoped, the low-maintenance plant produces a sweet fruit that draws comparisons to apples, plums, and pears. “It does really well in the Houston area,” Vorderbruggen says, noting that a jujube harvest is usually a big one. “They are very prolific, producing pounds and pounds of fruit.” Unlike the sensitive pawpaw (see below), the fruit is sturdy and easy to transport or preserve. Dried jujubes taste a lot like dates. Can’t find one or don’t want to search on your own? Your local Asian grocer likely has them.

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11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (7)

Loquat

Range: Statewide, especially South Texas
How to eat it: Fresh, in preserves, or as a liqueur

Another Asian import, cold-hardy loquats grow easily across much of the state. I always look forward to spotting the bright, sunflower-yellow fruits ripening all over my Austin neighborhood in late spring and early summer. While they’re lovely as an ornamental fruit, loquats also have a delicious flavor evoking that of apricots. When I received some in a produce box a few years back, I didn’t know what to do with them, and eventually settled on loquat margaritas, which were a hit. Peeling and preparing the fruit takes a little time but is well worth the effort. Joe Urbach of the San Marcos Daily Record suggests making loquat chutney or syrup, which brings a hit of sweetness to lemonade, iced tea, or the aforementioned margaritas. Vorderbruggen, meanwhile, has a recipe for loquat liqueur, which has an amaretto flavor.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (8)

Mayhaw

Range: East Texas
How to eat it: Cooked in a jam or jelly

Families in East Texas pass down time-honored jam recipes for this slightly tart red berry, which looks a lot like a cranberry and comes from a tree that’s part of the hawthorn family. At the Jellytree Mayhaw Farm in Huntington, Texas Highways’ Susan L. Ebert writes, you can take home not just an excellent mayhaw jelly, but also preserves with other local wild fruits, such as muscadine, beautyberry, and redbud blossom. Often found along the Trinity River and in other low-lying swampy areas, especially in the Big Thicket region, the tree is increasingly at risk from deforestation and disease. Vorderbruggen points out that the fruit naturally contains a high level of pectin, so you may not even need to add extra when making your own jam (though the folks at Jellytree swear by it).

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (9)

Pawpaw

Range: East Texas and Houston area
How to eat it: Straight off the tree

This elusive, ephemeral fruit has a tropical flavor that’s often compared to banana custard, mango, or pineapple. If you’re lucky enough to find one, give it a gentle squeeze to make sure it’s soft, and look for a light green or slightly yellow hue. Then, don’t hesitate. “The moment you pick the fruit, it starts to spoil,” Vorderbruggen says, “so you have a very short window of opportunity to enjoy it.” Wash and eat immediately after picking, scooping the fruit out with a spoon.

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Because it spoils so quickly, pawpaw is rarely found in processed foods. A recent surge in popularity among young foragers has earned it the nickname “hipster banana,” but the fruit is nothing new—according to lore, it was one of George Washington’s favorite desserts. In fact, this ancient tree evolved before bees, so it’s pollinated by flies. The flowers attract them by emitting an atrocious odor similar to that of rotten meat. But flies aren’t as efficient as bees, so if you want to grow a pawpaw tree, you’ll have to help its unusual pollination process along. “Some gardeners have been successful by hanging strips of raw meat in the branches,” Vorderbruggen says. Thankfully, there’s a milder option: simply pollinate by hand with a small paintbrush, following these tips from the Dallas Morning News.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (10)

Winecup

Range: Statewide
How to eat it: In a salad (flowers) or as a crunchy snack (tubers)

Also called purple poppy mallow, this cheerful magenta flower is popular with gardeners because it’s easy to grow; the trailing vine spreads quickly, making it an excellent ground-cover plant. I’ve had it in my front yard for years, but never knew it was edible. Vorderbruggen suggests you stick to cultivating rather than foraging this plant, because harvesting it in the wild can be tricky. “They’re almost impossible to transplant,” he says. “So if you dig one up and damage the little fine roots coming off the tuber, it’s going to die.” Better to buy the seeds from Junction-based Native American Seed and grow your own.

Scatter the flowers in a salad or as a stylish decoration on a frosted cake. If you’re feeling more adventurous, slice the radishlike tubers thinly, then roast or fry them. “They taste just like sweet potatoes,” Vorderbruggen says. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a recipe for wild onion and winecup tuber stew.

11 Texas Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat (11)

Yaupon holly

Range: East and Central Texas
How to eat it: Brewed in a tea

The only caffeinated plant native to North America, yaupon can be made into a beverage similar to green or black tea; Indigenous Texans have been drinking it for more than a thousand years. During World War II, when coffee and tea were in short supply, the federal government promoted it as a substitute, but the drink never really caught on. Now, a new generation of Texas tea makers is bringing it back. Buy yaupon tea premade from one of at least four brands—CatSpring Yaupon, Local Leaf, Lost Pines Yaupon, or YAYAYA Yaupon—or make your own. Yaupon holly grows in abundance anywhere sandy soil is found, especially in Central and East Texas. Simply cut a branch and remove enough leaves to spread on a cookie sheet, then bake at 350 degrees F for about twenty minutes. Crumble the leaves, put a few spoonfuls in a tea infuser, and add hot water.

Unlike tea, yaupon can’t be oversteeped. “The leaves have about fifty percent of the caffeine found in regular tea, but none of the tannins that make it bitter,” Vorderbruggen says, noting that the brew is also rich in antioxidants. “In the morning, I’ll put a handful of dried leaves in my mug and then just sip all day long.”

FAQs

How do you identify plants you can eat? ›

Step 1 separate the plants into its different parts leaves stems roots flowers etc smell the plant

What are the plants that can be eaten? ›

6 Nutritious Edible Plants to Grow at Home
  • Scallions.
  • Microgreens.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Peppers.
  • Sprouts.
  • Lettuce.
  • Plants to avoid.
27 Aug 2020

What vegetables are native to Texas? ›

Cultivated for centuries prior to the arrival of European explorers and settlers, our country's only native vegetable is also a Texas native sunflower. The “jerusalem artichoke” or “sunchoke” is the enlarged underground stem of helianthus tuberosus, a type of sunflower in the aster family with edible tuberous roots.

What edibles grow wild in Texas? ›

Edible Native Texas Plants
scientific namecommon name(s)
Allium canadenseMeadow Garlic Wild Garlic Wild Onion
Berlandiera lyrataChocolate Daisy Chocolate Flower Lyreleaf Greeneyes Green-eyed Lyre Leaf
Capsicum annuumChile Tepin Chile Pequin Chiltepin Chile Petin Bird Pepper Turkey Pepper Cayenne Pepper
8 more rows

Can you forage on public land in Texas? ›

Public places to forage legally are somewhat limited in Texas. You are NOT allowed to pick plants or mushrooms from city parks, state parks, national parks, city nature trails, nature preserves, state historic sites, or any other "public" property.

What is the most common edible plant? ›

1. Dandelion. Known as a ubiquitous weed worldwide, dandelion has been a staple part of many food cultures for millennia, as all parts of the plant, at every stage of its lifecycle, are edible. Dandelion is rich in vitamins A, B, and C, and it contains high levels of magnesium and iron.

What are wild edibles? ›

Wild edibles are any plant parts or mushrooms that are collected from the wild — they can be incredibly nutritious and are amazingly versatile in recipes.

How many wild plants are edible? ›

Scientists estimate that humans can eat as many as 300,000 plant species, and yet we only consume about 200.

What are 10 plants we eat? ›

PlantConsumable parts of the Plant
Spinach, cabbage, lettuce, etc.Leaves
Cauliflower, Broccoli, sunflower etc.Flower
Apple, orange, banana, etc.Fruits
Rice, maize, wheat, etcSeeds
2 more rows

What is the quickest edible plant to grow? ›

Radishes

Radishes are one of the fastest vegetables, taking just three to four weeks to reach harvest time. They're also exceptionally easy to grow. Seeds can be sown into prepared ground or pots of potting soil. Sow the plump seeds very thinly, spacing them about one inch (2.5cm) apart.

What plant can you live off of? ›

Top 20 Best Foods To Grow For Survival
  • Beans. Beans, such as these adzuki beans, are a great staple crop. ...
  • Corn. This is harder to grow in an apartment but is a yard staple. ...
  • Squash. Both winter and summer squash are great in your end-of-the-world garden. ...
  • Cabbage. ...
  • Potatoes. ...
  • Kale. ...
  • Sweet Potatoes. ...
  • Lentils.
9 Jun 2020

What are the 3 most valuable cash crops in Texas? ›

  • Cotton. Of all the crops produced in Texas, cotton contributes the largest portion, 9% of the state's agriculture receipts. ...
  • Greenhouse and Nursery Products. This category includes things like bedding plants, sod, and foliage plants. ...
  • Hay. ...
  • Grain Sorghum. ...
  • Corn. ...
  • Wheat. ...
  • Peanuts. ...
  • Conclusion.
22 Jan 2018

What fruit is native to Texas? ›

Texas is known for its giant Ruby Red Grapefruit. In fact, it's the official state fruit as well as a symbol of Texas agriculture. The Grapefruit season lasts longer than any other fruit in Texas, running from November to May.

What did early Texas settlers eat? ›

So Texans ate corn bread, tortillas, hominy -- and they fed corn to their pigs. Pork was really just corn turned into meat. Texas homesteaders looked askance at vegetables. Vegetable gardens too easily got mixed up with human waste.

What edible berries grow in Texas? ›

ANSWER:
  • Rubus trivialis (southern dewberry)
  • Prunus rivularis (creek plum)
  • Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum)
  • Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon)
  • Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)
  • Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)
  • Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry)
31 Mar 2009

Is Texas dandelion edible? ›

Although called Texas Dandelion, it is also called False Dandelion since it is not a true Dandelion. The leaves lack the sharp, spearpoints and backwards pointing pointy lobes of a true dandelion. Like the common dandelion, it is also edible, although not quite as nutritious.

Can you eat wild berries in Texas? ›

Texas Wild Berries and Other Fruits

Wild blackberries, dewberries, mulberries and huckleberries grow in East Texas. These wild berries in Texas can be eaten straight off the bush or tree or made into cobblers, jams and jellies. A lesser known berry comes from the staghorn sumac, a member of the cashew family.

Can you find morels in Texas? ›

Here in Texas Morels are easily found around Dallas and farther north but traveling south they haven't been reported between Waco and the Gulf of Mexico. In the Texas Hill Country look on the ground under juniper/cedar trees.

Can you carry a gun in Texas state parks? ›

Anyone 21 years old or older may carry a handgun in a holster (with or without a license) in most state parks. Handguns are not allowed in parks that are leased from the federal government. Check with the park before you go. Refer to Texas State Park Regulations for specific regulations - 59.134(d).

Are you allowed to forage in parks? ›

Foraging in London's Royal Parks is forbidden, and in 2018 the Royal Parks Charity said there was a 600 per cent increase in the number of foraging incidents in its park within a year and 35 police warnings were issued in 2017.

Are there edible trees? ›

Aside from producing delicious snacks, such as apples, cherries, walnuts and chestnuts, some trees provide other edible parts: bark, leaves, twigs, seeds, pollen, roots, new growth, flowers and, of course, sap used for syrup.

What kind of flower you can eat? ›

Edible flowers include citrus blossom, clover, daisies, dandelions, hibiscus, honeysuckle, lavender, lilac, mums, nasturtium, pansies, roses, sunflowers and violets, among others.

What wild leaves are edible? ›

These are a few edible wild greens and how you can add them to a healthy eating plan.
  • Lamb's quarters. Lamb's quarters is related to spinach and often described as being similar to it. ...
  • Dandelion. ...
  • Amaranth. ...
  • Nettles. ...
  • Purslane. ...
  • Sorrel.
9 Jan 2018

What plants are not edible? ›

Contents
  • Angel's Trumpet.
  • Morning Glory.
  • Poison Oak.
  • Poke Weed.
  • Doll's Eyes.
  • Moon Seed.
  • English Yew.
  • Oleander.
28 Apr 2015

Can you eat cattails? ›

There are many edible parts of the cattail plant, including the roots, pollen, shoots, stalks, flowers, and seed heads. Cattail leaves can be eaten but are more commonly dried and used to make baskets.

Are three leaf clovers edible? ›

All parts of the clover plant appear to be edible. Clover blossoms are used to make teas and jellies, while the leaves can be eaten cooked or raw. The seed pods may be reserved for animal feed production.

Can you eat wild strawberries? ›

Yes, contrary to what some may think, wild strawberries are not poisonous. In fact, the berries are edible and tasty. There is, however, a similar plant, called Indian mock strawberry, which has yellow flowers (rather than white), that produces berries with little to no flavor.

How many plants can humans eat? ›

Indeed, it is entirely possible that we are capable of eating 300,000 plant species. And yet we consume just a tiny fraction of that. Homo sapiens, the most cosmopolitan of species, one that thrives by virtue of being a generalist, eats only about 200 plant species.

Are Texas dandelions edible? ›

1.Dandelion

The Texas plant's flowers and leaves are edible but can be bitter. Harvest young plants for the most tender leaves to eat raw or cook as greens. The flowers can be added to fritters or pancakes and the leaves and roots can be used to make a tea that acts as a light diuretic.

Is Texas sage edible? ›

Although Texas sage is mainly used as a popular ornamental shrub, you can also consume it. It's a common herbal medicine and is often used in herbal tea. Since Texas sage is easy to cultivate, you can grow it in your garden to have access at all times.

What can you forage in East Texas? ›

Wild blackberries, dewberries, mulberries and huckleberries grow in East Texas. These wild berries in Texas can be eaten straight off the bush or tree or made into cobblers, jams and jellies. A lesser known berry comes from the staghorn sumac, a member of the cashew family.

Does purslane grow in Texas? ›

Purslane makes a spreading groundcover with succulent leaves that are covered with flowers all summer long. They require full sun and a hot, dry location which in Texas is not hard to find. The flowers have iridescent colors which open with the sun and close at night.

What edible berries grow in Texas? ›

ANSWER:
  • Rubus trivialis (southern dewberry)
  • Prunus rivularis (creek plum)
  • Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum)
  • Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon)
  • Diospyros virginiana (common persimmon)
  • Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)
  • Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry)
31 Mar 2009

Are there any poisonous dandelion look alikes? ›

The common dandelion has no poisonous lookalikes. You can use other similar but less widespread Taraxacum species the same way you'd use the common dandelion.

What are the tall dandelions called? ›

Salsify looks like a dandelion on steroids. The flower itself looks like a yellow daisy. The seed heads look like a big puffball, up to several inches in diameter.

Is Purple Sage poisonous? ›

Is Salvia 'Purpurascens' poisonous? Salvia 'Purpurascens' has no toxic effects reported.

Is Purple Sage edible? ›

Purple Sage is a perennial herb that is typically grown for its edible qualities, although it does have ornamental merits as well. The fragrant narrow purple leaves with curious grayish green undersides can be harvested at any time in the season. The leaves have a savory taste and a strong fragrance.

Are Texas Ranger plants poisonous? ›

It's a Pet-friendly plant.

It's not toxic for dogs, cats and horses but in case of other animals it might be.

What foods are indigenous Texas? ›

Venison, catfish, and pecans are still staples of Texas cuisine after thousands of years. Today's diners can imbibe prickly pear margaritas and slather their toast with agarita jelly made from the same plants people harvested millennia ago.

What can you plant in Texas right now? ›

Beets, lettuce, mustard greens, radish, and carrots are all frost-tolerant veggies that can survive temperatures as low as 32°F and will do nicely in a fall vegetable garden in Texas.

What grows in East Texas? ›

Plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, and corn for late spring harvests. Plant summer-blooming bulbs. Summer flowering bulbs, such as cannas, dahlias, and gloriosa lilies, can be planted now.

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