In rural Africa, wild foods provide diversity, vitamins and minerals in the diet. They are also important at times of food shortage. This paper discusses issues concerning wild food use in semiarid West Africa, and presents the results of a study of the use of wild plant foods in northeast Nigeria. Interviews with farmers and herders identified a total of 67 wild foods, coming from 53 species of plant. Knowledge of wild foods varied according to ethnic group and gender. Some wild foods caused side effects if eaten in excess. Land-use change due to agricultural expansion seems to be increasing the areas where wild foods are most commonly found. Wild foods are important as a supplement to daily diet, and at times of food scarcity. In addition, they provide an opportunity to generate income when they are collected and traded. The paper concludes that wild foods are an important coping strategy for rural communities. Further research is needed to determine whether local institutions and community-based natural resource management regimes are sufficient to conserve this resource.