To identify edible wild plants, consult a guide with clear information about different wild plants and their characteristics. Memorize as many identifying characteristics of plants as possible, such as leaf shape and patterns, stem shapes, roots and berries.
Before attempting to harvest wild plants, it is extremely important to be able to make a positive identification. Many species of wild plants are highly poisonous, and some can even be fatal. Outdoor enthusiasts should be 100 percent sure that a species is edible before harvesting and eating it, and should leave it be if they cannot properly identify the plant.
Some characteristics of poisonous plants include discolored or milky sap, soapy or bitter flavors, thorns or fine hairs, almond-scented leaves and stalks, leaves that grow in a three-leaf pattern, pink or purple grain heads and seed or bean pods. Although many edible plants have one or more of these characteristics, they are common characteristics of poisonous plants. As beginners can easily mix up poisonous and edible plants, it is best to stick to plants that are easier to identify.
Common edible plants include blackberries, amaranth, dandelions, wild asparagus, gooseberries, acorns, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, clovers, cattails and chickweed. Helpful field guides include the "SAS Survival Handbook" and "The U.S. Army Survival Manual," as recommended by The Art of Manliness.