15 Tasty Edible New Zealand Plants You Can Forage


Foraging is something that people have done for thousands of years. It is the act of respectively collecting wild food that grows in abundance. There are a variety of edible New Zealand plants that can be collected or foraged, as well as things like seafood and mushrooms. At Wild Dispensary foraging, also known as wildcrafting, is a key part of our products and our company. It gives us a chance to connect with nature, the seasons and plants. 

Foraging safety and tips and tricks

  • Forage away from main roads and only on land that you are allowed to be on. 
  • Never take more than you need. A good mantra to remember is 1/3 for the plant, 1/3 for the wildlife and 1/3 (if that) for you.
  • It is essential that you correctly identify what you are collecting. There are an abundance of foraging books in local libraries as well as resources online. 
  • There are also apps that you can have on your phone for quick identification. 
  • If in doubt always leave the plant where it is. Particularly with mushrooms, it is vital you know what to look for and what is poisonous.
  • Taking a friend that is more experienced in foraging can be incredibly helpful.

1. Nettle

When: Late winter, spring and summer

Stinging nettle is mostly found in spring. Nettle is high in vitamins, essential minerals, plant-based iron and chlorophyll, which can help with supporting energy levels (this is why we use it in our Daily Boost).

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You can infuse nettle in vinegar to make a mineral-rich vinegar. You could also lightly fry it like spinach as a side with eggs. Dried nettle can be added to baking, homemade crackers and bread. Just remember that heat is required for the nettle to lose its sting.


2. Blackberries

When: Late summer

Edible New Zealand plants like blackberries are full of antioxidants and naturally high in vitamin C. They can be added fresh to smoothies, baking, salads, cereal or porridge. You can also freeze them to use later in the year when berries are no longer easily available.

When picking blackberries, wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from the thorns. You can also pick the leaves and dry them to use as tea. Traditionally, this helped with sore throats, and as the leaves are astringent, they can help with diarrhoea. 

3. Seaweed

When: All year

There are many types of seaweed that you can forage for, the most popular are sea lettuce and bladder kelp. When collecting, make sure you avoid busy places such as near urban centres and places that may have agricultural run off or pollution. Preferably go after a storm and collect what has washed up before it starts to smell and discolour. 


4. Fennel

WhenSpring, but can be found all year in warmer climates

Wild fennel is an edible New Zealand plant that can be easily found throughout the country. Its beautiful yellow flowers can be collected to use the fennel pollen, or you could use the fronds for salads, teas or cooking. You can also use the dry fennel seeds to use in baking, cooking or teas as well.


5. Nasturtium

WhenSpring, summer and early autumn

This amazing, hardy edible plant can be used in a variety of ways. The leaves and flowers can be added to salads, which add a lovely peppery taste to summer dishes. You can also infuse the leaves in vinegar to extract the minerals within the plant. You can use this vinegar as a daily tonic or as a dressing.

The leaves can be dried for tea or made into a tincture, traditionally they were used to help with coughs. The seeds can even be used as a caper. Once you have finished your capers keep the brine and add nasturtium seeds/pods and let sit for a month or so. Or make a simple pickling mix with white vinegar, salt and pepper and leave them sit for 3 months.


6. Banana passionfruit

When: Summer

This plant spreads prolifically, so be careful with the seeds!  It can smother trees, and its propagation and sale are banned, but if you find it growing wild its a great thing to forage. You will often find them growing in hedges, trees and by roadsides.

It grows throughout Aotearoa with a pink dangling flower that changes into an yellow/orange fruit when ripe. It has more seeds than the average passionfruit and can be a bit annoying to cook with. However, you can make sauces, jams, cakes or add it to drinks or eat them as is.


7. Onion weed

When: Spring and summer

This fragrant plant tastes like a mix of spring onions and garlic. It can be added to stir-fries, scrambled eggs, quiches, baking, and salads, or it can be dehydrated to be made into a powder to make into dips or relishes. It can be used as an alternative to chives, and a little goes a long way. The entire plant is edible, including the bulb, which can be harvested in late summer. 


8. Wild fruit

When: Late summer

Wild fruit like apples, pears and plums are some of the easiest edible New Zealand plants that you can forage. And once you have found your spot, you can return each year to harvest. Fruit can be expensive to purchase, but when it is in season and freely available you can puree or chop and freeze for later use. You can also bottle them for the winter months. 

9. Miners lettuce

When: Most of the year

Miners lettuce is a deep green and nutrient dense plant that is high in vitamin K and magnesium. It was given the name ‘miners lettuce’ as people who were prospecting for gold used to eat it to avoid scurvy. It can also be used as a poultice for sore joints. It can be found in many countries and can be added to pesto’s, salads or in dishes that require dark green leafy vegetables. 


10. Chickweed

When: Late summer, autumn and early winter

Chickweed is an edible New Zealand plant that grows prolifically and has oval leaves and small white flowers. Spring is the perfect time to add it to your salads, pestos or even as a fresh tea to help with mineral intake.

You can
also add it to green smoothies as a boost or infuse it in oil to add to dressings or to make it into a topical skin balm as chickweed is really helpful for irritated skin. The best way to harvest chickweed is to cut it from the base, that way, you don’t get dirt in your salads.

11. Mushrooms

When: Autumn

Autumn signals the start of mushroom season. Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D, as well as adding a more substantial texture to soups, stews and broths. From late February to late May you will be able to find a range of mushrooms around. Once you have found and safely identified them (you need to be 100% sure), you could dehydrate some for future use.

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12. Wild mustard greens

When: Spring, mid summer and some can grow through the cooler months.

There are green things available all year. Mustard greens are a great addition to your soups, stews or stir-fries, which can often be quite carbohydrate-heavy.

13. Elderflower

When: Early summer

The small white flowers of the elder tree grow in large clusters that can be picked, washed and made into cordials, ‘champagnes’ or dried for use as tea. The delicate and unique flavour can be used in a variety of ways, in baking, in jams, jellies or made into a syrup to add to ice creams, or drinks. 

Elderflower has been used traditionally to support runny noses, swollen or blocked sinuses, or symptoms of hay fever. We use elderflower in our Vira-Defence Elixir for this reason! It was also used to support fevers and to calm irritated skin. When harvesting elderflowers, remember not to take everything; otherwise, there will be no berries in late summer! Once you have carefully snipped off a few bunches of elderflowers, carefully wash them and leave them to dry before use.


14. Elderberry

When: Late summer

Elderberries are known for their natural antiviral properties and high antioxidant content, which is why we use them in our Immunity Tonic. If you forage your own elderberries, you can make elderberry syrups, cordials, or tinctures to support your immunity throughout the year.

Elderberries are ready to harvest when they’re a deep dark red, although the process is more time-consuming than elderflowers. You can’t eat elderberries when they are green or raw as they are slightly toxic (this changes when the berry is heated). 


15. Rosehips

When: Mid autumn

Rosehips are abundant in the cooler months and a great edible New Zealand plant you can find in autumn. While they are annoying to harvest due to their pesky thorns and irritating hairs (take gloves), they are are high in vitamin C and antioxidants that can be used as a tea, syrup or tincture. We use rosehips in our Daily Boost. Rosehips are great for winter as a way of increasing your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C supports immunity, skin health and healing. 


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