The abundant sunshine and year-round warmth on Sanibel allows for the growth of rich and diverse plant communities. Because we have great access to this native vegetation, our island is a perfect place for foraging - the practice of finding wild plants that can be gathered as food. Foraging is a fun way to get in touch with nature by learning about plants and then searching for them. Here are five edible and easily identifiable plants that can be found on Sanibel.
Note: Please be sure that you have identified edible plants correctly, as many plants may be toxic. We recommend carrying a field guide or doing some research online, so that you are sure you have properly identified the plants – if you’re not 100% sure, don’t eat it - ask an expert!
1. Seagrape. Just like regular grapes, you can eat the ripe, purple grapes right off of the tree, however, many people think they taste pretty awful. So, we recommend making jelly or juice out of the grapes, which makes them much sweeter and more palatable. You can try these easy recipes here: http://sseminolefarmandnursery.com/recipeseagrape.html
*The seagrape tree is protected in the state of Florida, so it is illegal to harvest from public trees. When harvesting grapes, make sure you have permission from a private owner.
2. Cocoplum. This shrub is often trimmed into hedges for landscaping around yards, but can also be found along beaches and swamps. Cocoplum shrubs have egg-shaped leaves and bear a small round fruit that can be purple, white, or red. These colorful berries can be eaten raw or made into yummy jams and jellies.
3. Sea Purslane. You can find this salty snack growing in masses along the dunes on any beach. Top off your salad with a few of the salty leaves or nibble on some while you are at the beach. Here’s a recipe that we are definitely going to try: http://norecipes.com/tomato-purslane-salad-with-white-peach-dressing/
4. Shepard’s Needle. You have probably seen this daisy look-alike growing in your lawn. Often considered a weed, this power-packed plant is an important source of nectar for pollinators and is edible for us! You can use the raw leaves in a salad or sauté them up with other veggies in a stir-fry.
5. Saw Palmetto Berries. Widely cultivated for their medicinal purposes, these berries were used medicinally by Native Americans and are still used as a supplement today. The dark, olive-shaped berries can be eaten right off the tree and are rich in protein and minerals
For more information on foraging and edible plants in Florida, visit www.eattheweeds.com. Happy foraging!