Living in the foothills surrounding Los Angeles, I encounter wild edible, medicinal and teacher plants everyday while walking on trails. They grow in fields, near streams, on rocky hillsides, along sidewalks, in empty lots, and your own front yard. I often forage plants while strolling. Some plants are starchy, while others are vitamin and mineral bombs. Different parts of different plants are edible. On some plants, only the blossoms are safe to eat, while you can eat other plants’ roots, leaves, and stems. I’ve personally harvested all of the wild edible plants discussed on this website. If you’re familiar with a plant you think should be included here, please contact me with details.
Wild Edible Plants in Southern California
To learn about wild edible plants near Los Angeles, browse photos on this guide’s homepage, or explore by plant name using the drop down menu above.
Safe, Ethical Foraging
Working with plants, looking for them, touching them, smelling them, sojourning with them, feeling how they follow sunlight, deepens love and respect for the Web of Life from which we all arise. When working with plants, consider these guidelines for safe and ethical foraging:
- Only wild harvest plants common and plentiful in the immediate area that you are harvesting it. A plant’s abundance is not constant and changes over time, year to year. Abundance needs to be re-assessed.
- Protect and do not gather unusual, threatened or endangered species. Helpful resources to learn more about threatened and endangered plants: United Plant Savers, California Native Plant Society.
- Promote abundance. Whenever possible, harvest at a time and in a way that allows plants to reproduce. If you are harvesting the root of a plant, wait until the plant has produced mature seed (often in the Fall season). Plant the seed where you dug up the root, and disperse them around as well.
- Never harvest more than you need. Gather less than 10% of the plants of a particular species in any specific area. If possible, harvest only the necessary part of the plant. Digging up the root kills the whole plant.
- Avoid harvesting an entire plant. Instead, take two or three leaves from numerous individual plants. Some leafy perennials grow more vigorously when the top third of the plant is harvested, mint, mountain pennyroyal, nettle, and mugwort for example.
- Harvest in healthy areas free of obvious pollution. Avoid harvesting near the following: major roads, areas of intense agricultural or industrial activity, chemically sprayed areas (agricultural fields, lawns, lots). If harvesting plants in or along water, be sure you know where the water is coming from, avoiding upstream sources of urban, industrial or agricultural pollution.
- Harvest mindfully and carefully. Some plants have poisonous look-alikes. Perfectly safe edible plants can grow intertwined with toxic or deadly plants, and poisonous leaves, roots, flowers or berries might easily be gathered accidentally.
- Be sure you know what you’re gathering. Know your plant ID. Be absolutely certain you have positively identified the plant you plan to gather. It is dangerous to mistake a plant’s identity and consume it. If you have not successfully harvested a particular plant before, study and cross-reference with multiple credible sources. Consult with a local herbalist. Develop a relationship with the plants you are gathering. Know the plants that grow around them, the kind of soil they’re healthiest in. Observe their life cycle through an entire season.
- Make sure you are harvesting the proper part of the plant in the proper season. Some parts of certain plants are edible in one season, but poisonous in another.
- Gather with awareness, reverence and ask permission. Acknowledge the Life you are about to transform, expressing your gratitude in words, thought, song, prayer, or tangible offering as our ancestors have done through millennia. Discover, share and ignite your gratitude, sense the inter-connection.
A prayer from the land…
As I walk, as I walk
The universe is walking with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
Beauty is on every side
As I walk, I walk with Beauty.
A prayer from me…
As galaxies glide, unwaveringly trace
Your good time,
Your good grace,
so may celestial arcs imbrue into me
of field and stream, hearth in home, lush tectonic flow.
May I swell downward
into my burgeoning depths,
reprise and radiate whispers traced
most ancient cellular chorus:
You will be what You will be
And all is right with the world.
Essence of Life, Creator of All,
— whose unending kindness calls dew to descend, wind to burn, rain to fall —
today I decide for sanity,
today I decide for Your peace.
From pinnacle to trench, skin to skin, bone to bone,
may fire-fueled resonance
unleash bond and fetter from
This, , , ,