10 Plants Native Americans Used Most For Food

wild plants native americans use

Native American Food History

Daniel E Moerman spent more than 25 years gathering information on the Native Americans and compiled it into a large reference book. He discovered that they used:

2,874 plants as medicines
1886 as foods
230 as dyes
492 as fibers (weaving, baskets, building materials)

The Most Wild Edible Plants Used

  1. Common chokecherry (Prunus virginiana)
  2. Banana yucca (Yucca baccata)
  3. Corn (Zea mays)
  4. Sakatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia)
  5. Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
  6. American red raspberry (Rubus strigosus)
  7. Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
  8. Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)
  9. Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
  10. Broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia)

Source for Information:

Native American Ethnobotany

by Daniel E. Moerman
Pages: 927, Hardcover
Published: 1998

This huge reference book has a lot of information for those interested in learning the uses of plants by Native Americans for food and medicine. I frequently refer to my copy when discovering new plants.

The Natives Were Natural Foragers (Hunter-Gatherers)

They knew how to survive in their own environment and taught their young however, I was not raised to know the value of plants.

I remember how hard it was to reprogram myself to look at the wild weeds growing in my backyard as edible food and that it’s OK to forage for food without pay for it. I remember when I first learned that the “don’t eat or you may die!” dandelion weed is actually edible and highly nutritious.

28 years later, I have my own top 10 wild edible plants:

Chickweed
Chicory
Cleavers
Curly dock
Dandelion
Plantain
Purslane
Red clover
Wild lettuce
Wood sorrel

The reason these are my top ten is because firstly, they are high in nutrition and widely available in the Spring. Secondly, my favorite way to use them is in  a smoothie and thirdly, I like to add them to my salads. In other words, they are my superfoods 🙂

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