Polk County Conservation

Wild Edible Plants

The definition of a wild edible plant is: something which is not harmful to the average healthy person when eaten in reasonable amounts and is fairly tasty to most people.

10 Rules to Follow when Collecting and Eating Wild Plants

  1. Always be 110% sure to clearly identify the plant you are picking.
  2. Select only healthy plants.
  3. Choose the young green leaves of edible plants. Many leaves develop a chemical called “tannin” and become bitter with age.
  4. Apply the rule of 10: harvest only one plant for every 10 you leave behind. Removing a few leaves, petals, fruits or seeds from several plants is better than taking all you need from one plant.
  5. Harvest only what you will need for your recipe.
  6. Harvest only the edible parts of a plant that are ripe. Out of season edibles can be very bitter.
  7. Dismiss all rules of harvesting which begin with a sentence like “All blue berries are edible…” There are no across-the board rules.
  8. If one plant in a botanical family is edible, it does not mean that all plants in the family are edible.
  9. Sometimes, only a special part of a plant is edible. The rest may be indigestible or even poisonous.
  10. Be knowledgeable about the area you’ve selected for harvesting. Is it part of a park? You’ll want to know if herbicides or pesticides have been used there.


  • Follow the rules above.
  • Only fruits, nuts and fungus can be collected from any of Polk Co. Conservation Board’s areas as well as most other public areas.
  • Always ask permission from private land owners.
  • Collecting wild plants and eating them can be great fun and give you sense of being more connected to the earth. Enjoy! 


Contact Us

Administration Office
12130 NW 128th St
Granger, IA 50109

P: (515) 323-5300
F: (515) 323-5354

Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

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