This weedy grass is readily recognized by the narrow, cylindrical
head containing long hairs. Its grains are small, less than 6
millimeters long. The dense heads of grain often droop when ripe.
Habitat and Distribution
Look for foxtail grasses in open, sunny areas, along roads,
and at the margins of fields. Some species occur in wet, marshy
areas. Species of Setaria are found throughout the United States,
Europe, western Asia, and tropical Africa.
In some parts of the world, foxtail grasses are grown as a
The grains are edible raw but are very hard and sometimes
bitter. Boiling removes some of the bitterness and makes them
easier to eat
Virtually all true grasses can be used for their edible grain.
The foxtail grass has seed heads that are packed with enough
seeds to make it more worthwhile than most. Rub the seeds between
your hands over a jacket or other piece of cloth, and let the
breeze blow away the chaff as the seeds fall onto your collection
While it may not be practical to grind the seeds for flour
in a survival situation, you can prepare them in a couple other
ways. One is to simply crack them bewteen two roks and roast
them in a pan or in a can held over a fire. The other is to add
them to a soup of stew or otherwise boil them long enough to
soften them up for eating.
You can also pull the stems apart, and eat the white part
near the base for a snack.