Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America
A Complete Wild Food Guide
Goldenrod Greens & Flowers
A Giant Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) just right for picking. Watch out for bees & wasps when gathering Goldenrod. The time of year that Goldenrod is ready is the time of year that bees are grumpy and stingy.
Urban, Rural or Both: Both
Goldenrod (Solidago). I am aware of 74 types of Goldenrod in Eastern North America (east of the Mississippi). I have no idea if all are edible, and if they are edible, if they taste good. The ones I know that are edible are the Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and the Giant Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea). They are tall and beautiful plants with golden/yellow flower clusters that grow like Sideshow Bob's hair. Click on that link and compare with the picture above if you don't believe me!
They are OK at best, but they are a safe green to eat when picked when they first come up. Best way to find them is to take note where you see them in the fall and then look in those places the next spring. Just pick some leaves and add to what you are cooking. Taste is not strong, but I would only suggest using them as an addition, not as a main course.
I am very lucky and thankful that Goldenrod greens are not poisonous. When I was a young teenager in the summer of 1976, my friend John and I were riding my minibike in a field not to far from the new subdivision we lived in. There were some older teenagers doing something in a patch of plants off to the side. We stopped at a distance and watched. When they were gone, we went over and looked over the plants. We thought maybe they were pot plants, and having never seen or tried them, we got very excited over the idea. We picked a couple of leaves, and took them to a neighbour we knew, Mike, who was an older teenager, and asked him if they were pot plants. He said they were for sure. John and I hatched a plan to get some of the plants without anyone noticing. The idea was to ride the minibike through the plants, and purposefully crash. When we were on the ground, stuff plants up our shirts and inside our helmets and take off. So we headed out with the plan. We started the minibike, rode right into the plants, I made us tip over, and we began rapidly stuffing plants in anywhere we could. We both were greedy, and stuffed them down our pants, filled under our shirts and packed our helmets with them. We got up, and took off. We were in such a hurry to get away, we didn't care that there were leaves and stems coming out from everywhere as we rode home, and our helmets were about 10 cm (4 inches) high off our heads. We hung up the plants in the garage attic to dry. In about two days we took some to the basement and started to smoke them in my dad's tobacco pipe. We smoked and smoked, but nothing. My dad came home from work to find the house smelled of smoke and came down to the basement and found the basement full of foul smelling smoke. I said we were working on an electronics project (which I did do) and the smell was from all the soldering. My dad just shook his head and went to his office to do reports for work. We thought we got away with it, but now I'm sure my dad just didn't want to know what was going on. Years later I figured out those plants were Goldenrod before flowering.
Gather a few flower heads when in full bloom, tear off the flowers from the green stems and mix them in with pancake batter. They taste nice, and look great in the pancakes. They are only good when the flowers are newish and bright in color. Once they have been around for a while and begin to loose the brightness of the color, they are not good for food.
You need to make sure you are not collecting the Goldenrod Crab spider (Misumena vatia) when gathering the flowers. They are exactly the same color as the flowers, so no point looking for them. Just grab the stalk below the flower area and give a good shake. Don't hurt this spider, it is harmless and - get this - can change color!
Growing this plant in your home garden:
Though this plant is banned in some areas due to a mistaken belief that it causes allergies (it does not, it just happens to flower at the same time as Ragweed). It makes a nice garden flower, and is grown in Europe for that purpose. The greens in spring and the flowers in fall are edible, so it is good for looks and food. Easy to start, just gather the fluffy seed heads when they have turned from yellow to tan in the fall, and spread on soil, rake in and tamp down.
- Plant Size: Up to 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) tall with the Solidago gigantea and Solidago canadensis.
- Duration: Annual
- Leaf Shape: Depends on species, but the Solidago gigantea and the Solidago canadensis are Lanceolate
- Leaf Phyllotaxis (Leaf Arrangement) on branch: Alternate
- Leaf Size: Solidago gigantea: 7.5-12.5 cm (3 to 5 inches) long by 8-17 mm (1/3 to 2/3 inch) wide. Solidago canadensis: 10-15 cm (4 to 6 inches) long by about 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide
- Leaf Margin: Most are Serrated (saw toothed edge)
- Leaf Notes: Solidago gigantea: 3 parallel leaf veins
- Flowers: Clusters of bright golden-yellow flowers. Solidago gigantea: panicles (clusters) of approximately 6-7 mm (1/4 inch) diameter 7-15 petalled flowers.
- Fruit: Solidago canadensis: Small seeds (achene) with lengthwise ribs, hairy, with tufts of hair to carry on the wind
- Habitat: Huge range of habitats, most require full sun or only a little shade.
- Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).
- Pictures on the web here (Google images) and here (Bing images).
- USDA distribution map and plant profile here.
- The Biota of North America Program (BONAP) distribution map here. BONAP map color key here.
Giant Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.)
Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.)
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