Survival is never an easy thing, but it does not have to be at all difficult. It is said that humans can survive for weeks without food. While that may be true, you still need to replenish your energy and this requires at least eating some food.
The trick to finding food in the wild relies on your ability to identify edible plants and hunt for meat. Identifying what animals to hunt for food is not difficult; however, identifying edible plants in the wild is a whole different thing as there are a lot of poisonous and dangerous plants that can even kill you if you eat them, or if you do not cook them or if you eat wrong part of them.
It is extremely important to remember that not all plants are edible. Some plants are only party edible meaning that some parts of the plant could be eaten safely, but other parts contains harmful chemicals. Some plants are edible at certain stage of their growth, but they become poisonous at later stage. Therefore it is essential to learn identify edible wild plants from those that are not edible. As you can imagine, it’s not too easy to learn what plants can be eaten safely. To make task a bit easier you should start learning what of those plants that grow in your area are edible, instead of trying to learn immediately what you can eat in the areas you are never visiting.
For starters, if you have little or no knowledge about edible wild plants, you may need to use the Universal Edibility Test. This procedure is meant to help a person identify edible plants from the inedible ones by following a series of steps that involve testing the plants without ingesting them first.
Universal Edibility Test
The first step of the procedure is to separate the plant’s basic components i.e the leaves, buds, flowers, roots and stems and test each part separately. This is necessary because some parts of the plant may be edible while other parts may not be.
The next step is to test for contact reaction. Mash a piece of the plant and then place it inside your elbow or wrist. Leave it there for about 15 minutes. If you get a skin reaction, it is a good sign that you should not ingest it. If you do not get a reaction after the 15 minutes, wait 8 hours and if there is still no reaction, then prepare it as you wish. Avoid eating anything within the 8-hour waiting period, but drink plenty water.
Once the plant is cooked, don’t just gobble it down. Test it first by placing a tiny bit of it on your tongue or touch it on your lips. If you experience an itching or burning sensation, do not eat it. If such a reaction does not occur, chew a bit of the plant, but do not swallow it immediately. Hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes, if no burning, numbing, itching or any other kind of irritation occurs, then swallow.
Once you are done with your meal, wait for about 8 hours before eating again. If you experience any side effects, severe enough to cause great discomfort, try vomiting and drink plenty of water. If you do not experience any side effects, then this is a good indication that that part of the plant is safe for eating.
- Avoid wasting your time and effort testing a plant that is not abundant in the area.
- Avoid eating anything for eight hours prior to testing the plant.
What is Edible?
For a wild plant to be considered edible, it means that there is a part of the plant that is safe for eating. But, other parts could be toxic and some parts could be used as a medicine.
Some plants are edible when they are at a certain stage of their growth, and may become poisonous, once they pass that stage. So pay keen attention. If you are targeting a specific plant and it is abundant in the area, it should not be difficult identifying which ones are mature and which ones are not. Using the universal edibility test procedure, you should be able to determine at what stage the plant is edible.
Some plants are edible, but also toxic. For example, bitter almonds contain a poisonous compound called amygdalin, which converts to cyanide once ingested. Eat a handful of these nuts and you can quite sure say goodbye to the world. But, once they are cooked, they are safe fto eat. Sweet almonds on the other hand, contain very small amounts of cyanide. Not enough to cause any harmful effects.
There are plants that are just poisonous. Whether ingested raw or cooked, they are still lethal. Poisonous plants do not exactly stand out from other plants; however, survival experts have identified some specific characteristics that can help you identify a poisonous plant. Some of these characteristics include discolored or milky sap, fine hairs, thorns, spines, number of leaves and so on.
The bottom line is if you are not sure whether a plant is edible or not, the universal edibility test can help you make this determination.
Things To Remember When Gathering Wild Plants For Food
When gathering wild plants for food, consider the following;
- Plants growing along roadside may be coated with pesticides, exhaust emissions or other chemicals; therefore, wash them thoroughly.
- Some wild plants are edible, but very bitter. To make them palatable, boil the plant to remove the bitter compounds.
- Avoid eating any fruit that shows signs of fungus growth.
- Plants growing near contaminated water sources should be boiled before consumption.
- Avoid plants that have a scent similar to that of almonds. Most often than not, these types of plants are highly poisonous.
- If you have no knowledge of identifying those mushrooms that are safe for eating, then avoid all mushrooms completely. There are species of mushrooms that are highly poisonous and eating the wrong kind can be very dangerous.
Final Thoughts About Edible Plants
The universal edibility test and the above tips can help you identify edible plants from inedible ones. Always disinfect the plants before preparing them and eat small portions to avoid cramping, diarrhea and nausea. If you experience any side effect after ingesting a plant, drink plenty of water and induce vomiting. Most importantly, if you do not know if a plant is edible, do not eat it without testing it first.
Remember, there other food sources in the wild. You could hunt small animals for food if you have the energy for it. Alternatively, you could lay traps. It is an easy way of catching small animals and requires very little energy and skill; however, a lot of patience is needed as it may take hours before your trap catches something.
Edible insects and bugs are also a good source of food and will provide the much needed protein. Grasshoppers, snails, earthworms are all things you should consider eating to avoid starvation as well as bird eggs, which are extremely nutritious.
As there are so many plants growing around the world, it is almost impossible to learn what are edible. Good idea is to include some book that helps identify edible wild plants in your bug out bag. Furthermore, you could just learn a few local edible plants, you don’t need to know those that are not growing on the are where you most likely are in survival situation.
If you have any questions or comments about edible wild plants, please post them below.