Wild Plants, What’s Edible & What’s Not?

wild-edible-plants-2When I think of surviving in the wild, I tend to think about hunting and fishing for my food. Perhaps that’s because I’m a carnivore by nature. But the reality is, we need green stuff in our diets too, even if it isn’t our number one choice. Plants provide us with a great source of carbohydrates, as well as vitamins that we won’t get out of meat.

The only problem is, what plants can you eat? If you’re at home, that’s not such a big deal. Hopefully you’ve got a good vegetable garden going and can eat what you harvest from there. But what if you’re out in the wild? What plants are safe to eat?

This is why your bug out bag and survival kit should both have a copy of some good field guide for edible plants. Make sure it’s one that covers your part of the country too, as the flora changes in different regions of the country. But what about plants that aren’t mentioned in that guide? Are they safe to eat?

Generally speaking, you should approach any plant with suspicion, at least until you’ve proven that it’s safe to eat. There’s a process for testing this, something that we should all know.

Due to how involved the process is, it’s best to go through it with plants that are in abundance in the area you are in. That will make the most potential food available to you, for the same amount of effort and risk.

The test should be conducted on specific parts of the plant. That means breaking the plant down to its individual components; leaves, roots, flowers, fruits, nuts and berries (assuming there are fruits, nuts or berries). Some parts of a plant may be edible, while others are poisonous. Each part has to be tested individually. Visually inspect the parts of the plant for signs of insects eating it. If they have eaten it and abandoned it, especially fruits and nuts, that could be an indication that the plant is rotten.

Before performing the test, go eight hours without eating or drinking anything, except purified water. That will eliminate the possibility that any symptoms you feel are caused by other things you’ve eaten. Follow the procedure step by step, being sure to pay special attention to the wait times.

  • Touch the plant parts to check for contact poison, such as with poison ivy. If there is no reaction, rub the plant part on the skin of the inside of your wrist or elbow. Wait 8 hours for signs of contact poisoning, such as a rash forming. If a rash forms or it starts itching, don’t eat it.
  • If you are testing leaves or roots, cook a small portion of the plant. Some plants which are poisonous raw, are no longer poisonous when cooked.
  • Test the plant pars on the lips by touching it to the lips for three minutes. If there is any burning or tingling, stop the test and don’t eat the plant.
  • Place a small portion of the plant part on your tongue and hold it in your mouth, without swallowing it, for 15 minutes. If there is any unpleasant sensation, other than taste, spit it out and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.
  • Chew the plant part and then hold it in your mouth for an additional 15 minutes. If there is no adverse reaction, swallow the plant part.
  • Wait 8 hours to see if there is any reaction to that plant part. The most likely reaction will be gastrointestinal distress (pain). Don’t eat or drink anything but purified water.
  • If there is no adverse reaction, eat 1/4 cup of the plant part and wait another 8 hours; once again not eating or drinking anything but purified water. If there is any adverse reaction, induce vomiting and/or take activated charcoal to absorb the poison.

If you manage to make it through all these steps, without any problem, you’ve found something safe to eat. You can now share that with other members of your family or survival team. Repeat the test, as needed, to check other types of plants or other parts of the same plant.

While this process may seem overly long and tedious, it is necessary to protect you from poisonous plants. Eating too much of the wrong plant can cause serious sickness or even death. By taking the time to do it step by step, you reduce the risk of serious sickness and death, as your body will find it easier to deal with the small amount of the plant than it would if you had eaten a full serving of it.

Make sure that you take good notes on what you discover to be safe, including the most accurate sketches you can do and information about where you found it. You may go through a period of time where you can’t find that plant, either due to a change in seasons or moving from that location. When you find it again, you want those notes and sketches so that you can make sure that you have the right thing and not something that just looks similar.

So, there you have it, a safe way of eating the plants you encounter. Now just trap yourself a rabbit to go with it and you can make some nice rabbit stew. In the mean time, I think I’ll get myself a hamburger. See you soon. Until then, keep your powder dry and your survival equipment close at hand.

Dr. Rich

PS: Be sure to pick up your free copy of 29 Plants You Need to Survive right now.  It’s yours at no charge!  We sold this last year for $7!

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