What plant leaves can you eat?

Eating plant leaves can be a great way to forage for food and provide nutrients. However, it’s important to know which leaves are edible and which are toxic before consuming them. Certain plants can cause severe illness or even death if ingested, so proper identification is crucial.

What are some common edible plant leaves?

Here are some of the most common edible leafy greens:

  • Dandelion – All parts of dandelion are edible, including the leaves, flowers, stems and roots. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Lamb’s quarters – Also called wild spinach, lamb’s quarters leaves are high in vitamins A, C, iron and calcium. They have a mild spinach-like taste.
  • Malabar spinach – Malabar spinach leaves are thick and juicy with a mild flavor. They can be eaten raw or cooked.
  • Mallow – The tender young leaves of mallow can be added to salads or lightly cooked. The plant is part of the same family as okra and hibiscus.
  • Purslane – Purslane leaves have a tart, lemony taste. They contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable.
  • Plantain – Not to be confused with the banana-like fruit, plantain leaves can be eaten when young and tender. They have an earthy flavor.
  • Wood sorrel – Also called shamrocks, wood sorrel leaves have an acidic, lemony taste. They can be used raw in salads or as a garnish.
  • Chickweed – Chickweed leaves are delicate tasting and high in vitamins A, D, B complex and iron. They are best eaten raw in salads.
  • Curly dock – Curly dock leaves are tart due to high levels of oxalic acid, but can be eaten in moderation. They are rich in vitamins A and C.
  • Chaya – Chaya leaves are a nutritional powerhouse, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. They have a mild, spinach-like taste when cooked.

Are nettle leaves edible?

Yes, stinging nettle leaves are edible once cooked. Cooking or drying nettle leaves removes the stinging chemicals from the plant. Nettle has a flavor similar to spinach when cooked and is high in iron, potassium and vitamins A and C. The leaves can be boiled, steamed or sauteed before eating.

Can you eat radish leaves?

Yes, radish leaves are edible and provide great nutritional value. The leaves have a strong, spicy flavor similar to the radish root, but more pungent. Radish leaves are high in vitamin C, calcium and iron. The young, tender leaves are best for eating raw or cooked.

Are carrot leaves edible?

Carrot leaves are edible and contain higher levels of vitamin K, potassium and antioxidents than the carrot root. However, some people find wild carrot leaves to be unpleasantly bitter. The domestic variety grown in gardens has been bred to have sweeter leaves. Carrot leaves can be eaten raw in salads, juiced or lightly cooked by steaming or sauteeing.

Can you eat beet leaves?

Yes, beet leaves are entirely edible and highly nutritious. In fact, beet leaves contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than the beetroot itself. Beet leaves have an earthy, somewhat bitter taste. The younger leaves tend to be less bitter and are best for eating raw. Mature leaves can be cooked by steaming or sauteing which helps reduce the bitterness.

Are sweet potato leaves edible?

Sweet potato leaves are not only edible, they are highly nutritious as a leafy green vegetable. They are packed with vitamins A, C, B2, B3, B6 along with iron, calcium and antioxidants. Sweet potato leaves have a taste similar to spinach when cooked and work well steamed, sauteed or used in soups and stews. Make sure to cook them thoroughly before eating.

Can you eat potato leaves?

Yes, potato leaves are edible. However, it’s best to consume them in moderation. Potato leaves contain higher levels of toxic glycoalkaloids than the tubers, so they can cause digestive upset if large amounts are eaten. The young, tender leaves are the best for consumption either lightly cooked or raw in salads. Always avoid leaves that are damaged, discolored or seem diseased.

Are eggplant leaves edible?

Eggplant leaves are edible and can be eaten when still young and tender. Mature leaves tend to become tough and bitter. Eggplant leaves have a mild, somewhat bitter taste. They can be steamed, sauteed or added to stews. The leaves contain fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folic acid, niacin and potassium.

Can you eat rhubarb leaves?

No, rhubarb leaves should never be eaten. While the stalks are edible when cooked, rhubarb leaves contain dangerously high levels of oxalic acid. Eating the leaves can lead to kidney failure, convulsions and even death in rare cases. Only the stalks of rhubarb should be consumed after cooking them to remove oxalic acid.

Are daylily leaves edible?

Daylily leaves are edible and can be prepared much like spinach. Called li in Chinese cooking, daylily leaves have been used in Asian cuisine for centuries. Both the young, tender leaves and shoots as well as the flower petals can be eaten. Daylily leaves have a delicate, mildly sweet taste and are high in vitamin A.

Can you eat amaranth leaves?

Yes, amaranth leaves are a highly nutritious edible green that is popular in African cooking. Amaranth leaves contain vitamins C, K, A and folate along with minerals like calcium, iron and magnesium. The leaves have a slightly sweet, spinach-like taste. They can be eaten raw in salads, juiced, or cooked by steaming, sauteing or boiling.

Are clover leaves edible?

Clover leaves are edible and actually contain more protein than alfalfa sprouts. The leaves have a pleasant, grassy flavor and are high in vitamins A, C and B along with minerals like calcium and potassium. Young, tender leaves are best eaten raw, while older leaves can be cooked to improve flavor and texture.

Can you eat tomato leaves?

Tomato leaves are edible and contain small amounts of vitamin K. However, they also contain toxic alkaloids called glycoalkaloids, so should only be eaten in small quantities. Cooking helps remove some of the glycoalkaloids. Tomato leaves have a bitter taste and are best when cooked rather than eaten raw.

Are magnolia leaves edible?

No, magnolia leaves should not be eaten. While not poisonous, magnolia leaves contain an unpleasant, bitter tasting compound called magnolol. Eating the leaves can cause stomach upset in some individuals. In addition, the waxy coating on magnolia leaves makes them difficult to digest. It’s best to avoid consuming magnolia leaves.

Can you eat nasturtium leaves?

Yes, nasturtium leaves are completely edible and have a delicious peppery taste similar to watercress. Both the leaves and flowers of nasturtium can be eaten and add a spicy punch to salads, sandwiches and as a garnish. Nasturtiums contain antioxidant flavonoids that provide protection against viruses, inflammation and cancer.

Are peony leaves edible?

No, peony leaves should not be eaten. While the flower petals are edible, the leaves contain protoanemonin, a toxic oil that can cause stomach upset, dizziness, headache and vomiting if ingested. Protoanemonin is present even in dried leaves and at all stages of growth. It’s best not to experiment with peony leaves and stick to the petals only.

Can you eat violet leaves?

Yes, violet leaves are edible and make a tasty addition to salads, soups and other dishes. The heart-shaped leaves have a pleasant, mild green flavor with a mucilaginous texture. Violet leaves are high in vitamins A and C as well as calcium. However, the leaves should only be eaten in moderation due to the laxative effect of their mucilage content.

Are snapdragon leaves edible?

No, snapdragon leaves should not be eaten. While the flowers are sometimes used as a garnish, the leaves contain saponins which can be toxic. Ingesting snapdragon leaves may result in stomach pain, dizziness, diarrhea and vomiting. Additionally, some people may have an allergic skin reaction after handling snapdragon foliage and flowers.

Can you eat corn leaves?

Yes, corn leaves are edible when they are still young and tender. More mature leaves tend to become too fibrous to eat. Corn leaves have a grassy, sweet-tasting flavor that pairs well with tamales, taco fillings, salsas and stir fries. They are rich in folate, vitamins C and K, thiamine and niacin.

Are lilac leaves edible?

No, lilac leaves should not be consumed. While the flowers can be used to infuse flavor into recipes or drinks, the foliage and leaves contain toxic compounds and may irritate the digestive tract. Additionally, some people may have topical allergic reactions to lilac leaves. It’s safest to avoid eating any part of the lilac bush aside from the flowers.

Can you eat holly leaves?

No, holly leaves should never be eaten or used to make tea. In fact, all parts of the holly plant aside from the berries are considered poisonous. Holly leaves contain saponins, alkaloids and other unknown toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, dizziness and other ill effects if consumed.

Are passionflower leaves edible?

Passionflower leaves are not recommended for consumption and may cause nausea, vomiting or drowsiness if eaten. While passionflower fruit and flower are edible, the leaves contain cyanogenic glycosides which release cyanide when digested. Eating the leaves or using them to make tea could potentially cause cyanide poisoning.

Can you eat camellia leaves?

No, camellia leaves should not be eaten. Parts of the camellia plant contain toxic alkaloids like theophylline. Ingesting camellia leaves can result in digestive upset, nervous system disorders, convulsions and an abnormal heart rate. Additionally, drinking tea made from camellia leaves has been associated with liver damage when consumed in excess.

Are poplar leaves edible?

Most species of poplar leaves are not recommended for consumption due to their high tannin content. Tannins can cause stomach upset, nausea, and irritate the kidneys when ingested. Additionally, the OIL (oleuropein aglycon isomer ligstroside) compound in some poplar leaves is potentially toxic to humans. It’s best to avoid eating poplar leaves.

Can you eat redbud leaves?

No, redbud leaves should not be eaten. The leaves contain toxins that can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting when ingested, particularly wilted leaves. While the young seed pods are edible, as well as the flowers in moderation, redbud foliage should be avoided. Consuming large quantities of the leaves could potentially be fatal.

Are hosta leaves edible?

Hosta leaves are not recommended for consumption and may cause digestive upset if eaten raw or improperly prepared. The leaves contain saponins that are toxic to humans and grazing animals. Cooking hosta leaves thoroughly may help remove the saponins, but eating large quantities of leaves is not advised due to the risks of toxicity.

Can you eat morning glory leaves?

No, morning glory leaves should not be eaten. All parts of the morning glory plant contain toxic compounds called alkaloids that can cause hallucinations, tremors, paralysis and death. While the seeds are used in some cultures for their psychoactive properties, ingesting morning glory leaves may result in poisoning so they should be avoided.

Are orchid leaves edible?

Orchid leaves are not recommended for consumption as they provide very little nutritional value and contain toxic compounds. Parts of the orchid plant contain alkaloids that can cause diarrhea, vomiting and convulsions if eaten. It’s safer to avoid ingesting orchid plant parts including the leaves, although the edible orchid tubers can be eaten when properly prepared.

What are some toxic plant leaves to avoid?

Here are some plant leaves that should always be avoided due to toxicity concerns:

  • Oleander – Extremely toxic, can affect the heart
  • Castor bean – Ricin toxin causes vomiting, seizures, liver failure
  • Foxglove – Causes heart arrhythmias or failure if ingested
  • Poppy – Can cause sedation and respiratory depression
  • Nightshade – Belladonna alkaloids are neurotoxins and very dangerous
  • Hemlock – Causes paralysis, convulsions and death when eaten
  • Rhubarb – Oxalic acid in leaves causes kidney failure
  • Lily of the valley – Cardiac glycosides cause irregular heartbeat
  • Mistletoe – Toxins can cause seizures, coma and death
  • Yew – Contains taxine alkaloids which are rapidly fatal if ingested

What are some basic rules for foraging edible leaves?

If you want to forage for wild edible leaves, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Only harvest leaves from plants you can positively identify and know are edible
  • Avoid areas that may have been sprayed with chemicals or contaminated
  • Pick young, tender leaves and avoid older, tough ones
  • Do not eat leaves that are wilted, damaged or appear diseased
  • Only eat small quantities the first time to check for allergic reactions
  • Wash leaves thoroughly before eating
  • Consider cooking leaves as heating can remove anti-nutrients and improve flavor
  • If in doubt, do not eat it! Consult an expert plant guide or foraging book.


Many common garden herbs, vegetables and wild plants have edible leaves that can be an excellent source of nutrients or provide a unique flavor. However, some leaves can be quite toxic so proper plant identification is crucial before ingesting foliage from the wild. When foraging, only collect leaves from plants you know well and follow basic safety precautions. With the right knowledge, foraging edible plant leaves can be an enjoyable and healthy addition to your diet.

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