No one ever intends to get lost, but what if you do? Knowing a few edible plants could come in handy when you need to survive in the wilderness. Being lost in the woods for a 1 or 2 days, should not require the immediate need for food. But if you find yourself out there for much longer, you’ll want to have a subsistence contingency plan.
Keep in mind that while edible wild plants provide nutrients and energy, they also have much different flavors than we’re accustomed. Eating also increases our thirst and we should be prepared with additional water to help process our foods.
If you are not 100% certain that a plant is edible, don’t eat it! If your situation necessitates that you find food, there are a series of tests that can determine its edibility. They take patience and discipline. Here is a synopsis of the Universal Edibility Test:
- Take one part of a plant (root, stem, leaves or fruit) to test.
- Smell the plant part that you’ve selected for any acidic odor.
- After not eating for at least 8 hours, place the plant piece to the inside of your elbow for 15 minutes. If at any time you experience a reaction, itching, dizziness, or burning – cease the test.
- If no reaction, touch the piece to your lips for 3 minutes.
- If no reaction, let the piece touch your tongue for 15 minutes.
- If no reaction, chew a small piece WITHOUT SWALLOWING for 15 minutes.
- If there is no reaction or irritation, swallow the food.
- Wait 8 hours. If there are any ill effects or reactions, induce vomiting and drink plenty of water.
- If there are no reactions, try up to a ½ cup of the SAME part of the plant prepared the SAME way. Different plant parts can invoke different reactions.
The above is just a quick summary of a survival test you should only do if you have to. The edible plants below are a few easily recognizable examples to remember:
Broad Leaf Lawn Plantain:
These plantains have broad leaves, usually 1” across or greater. They grow close to the ground from a single root “spike”. Found in the northern temperate regions. You can eat this plant raw or boiled. You can use it to make tea or even to treat wounds or sores.
You can find cattails along river banks, streams, lakes, and brackish water. The young tender shoots of cattail plants are edible either raw or cooked. If the cattail is still green, the female portion can be boiled and eaten like a piece of corn on the cob.
All parts of the dandelion are edible. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The stems and roots should be boiled before eaten. The roots can even be cooked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. You can find dandelions in the northern hemisphere.
Oak tree leaves and acorns are edible raw or cooked. The acorns have a very bitter taste. To reduce the bitterness, shell the acorns and soak them in water for 1-2 days. Acorns can be also be ground as a flour substitute or baked and ground for a coffee substitute.
Finding food in the wild can be challenging, but there are many plant and animal food sources in almost every region. The best way would be to avoid the situation all together, ration food, and leave yourself some emergency portions…just in case. But in the event that you do need to live off the land, remember the above edible plants and the edibility test.