Can you survive in the wilderness without having food with you? Can you find a meal without having to hunt animals or fish? Foraging for edible plants is a vital survival skill especially when you’re lost in the wild without an emergency food supply.
Because food and water are the most essential elements of survival, you should consider foraging as important as learning how to build a shelter, administering first-aid, and even learning navigation tips. Here are some effective methods for foraging food and identifying edible plants!
What is Foraging?
Foraging simply means searching for wild food, whether it’s for survival or adventure. This activity can be dangerous since many plants are toxic or poisonous. And besides, the act of searching itself can already pose risks for you, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory.
How to Locate Edible Plants
One important factor to consider in foraging for food is the location. Some areas are safer than others. For instance, in humid regions, edible plants are found in sunny areas. In drier climates, these wild plants can be found in or near water sources. Most edible and non-toxic plants also grow in abundance.
Avoid wild plants that you see only once or twice in the same area, as well as those in contaminated or stagnant water. This is because the plant has a higher possibility of containing toxic contaminants, bacteria, and parasites.
How to Take the Edibility Test
Once you already found a wild plant from a safe place that appears to look edible, it’s time to take the universal edibility test. It requires you to thoroughly examine the plant by breaking it down into parts and testing them over a period of 24 hours. To prepare for the test, don’t eat or drink anything except water for eight hours or more. Then, follow these steps:
- Separate the plant into five parts: the roots, leaves, stem, buds, and flowers. Look for worms or insects. Evidence of these creatures is a sign that it’s unsafe to consume it. Discard the plant and get another of the same type or choose a different one.
- Perform a contact test by crushing one of the plant parts and rubbing it on your wrist or elbow for a few minutes. If there is a reaction within eight hours, it means it’s not good for you. A burning sensation, redness, welts, and bumps are all bad signs.
- Cook. Some plants are safe to eat once they’re boiled, so if you have the tools for cooking, then you can start doing this. Once it is cooked, hold the plant part to your lip for three minutes. If you feel any unusual sensation, remove that part from our lip and try another part.
- Taste the part that did not cause a negative reaction by putting it on your tongue for fifteen minutes. If you experience anything unpleasant, spit it out and wash your mouth with water. Keep in mind, however, that just because it does not taste good does not mean it is toxic.
- Chew it thoroughly and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. Once again, if you feel any kind of burning, tingling or numbness spit it out and rinse with water.
- Swallow the part that passed the taste test. Once you’re done, don’t eat or drink anything for eight hours except water. If you feel nauseous, you need to induce vomiting and drink a lot of water. If you feel fine during the eight-hour waiting period, proceed to the next step.
- Chow down a little. Eat the plant and wait for another eight hours. If you feel sick, get rid of the plant and drink lots of water.
Some examples of edible plants you may find along the way include:
- Grass – All types of grass are edible, but it’s best to spit out the fibers. You can also roast the white part called corm, found in the base of the leaves, and eat them like potatoes.
- Prickly pear- The pads can be cooked for a vegetable. It can also make nectars, juice, jelly, candy, or pie.
- Cattails – Only the roots, shoots, and pollen heads of this plant are edible.
- Dandelion – All parts of this plant are edible, and the flowers taste best when they’re still budding. Partially boil the roots twice or until tender before eating it.
What Deadly Plants Look Like
A lot of poisonous plants have similar characteristics to edible ones, so it’s hard to recognize the difference between the two. Remember that taking the universal edibility test is always an ideal solution, but you must be extra careful of plants that look like the following:
- Has spines, fine hairs, or thorns
- Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside
- Bitter taste
- “Almond” scent
- Three-leaved growth pattern
Additional Tips when Foraging for Food
Establishing some rules before looking for edible plants will keep you safer. Here are some extra guidelines for you when foraging:
- Never eat anything you’re not 100% sure of.
- Memorize a few different types of edible plants common in the area you’re going to. Get a guidebook to your region and bring it with you.
- Stick with a few items you’re already familiar with instead of searching for new plants that might be dangerous.
- Watch out for wild animals in the location that might prey on you or injure you.
Foraging is not just an important survival skill since many people have been doing it for the sake of adventure and enjoyment. One of the pleasures they get out of it is free food! Additionally, you can also store foraged food for emergency purposes. Another worth noting thing about it is you don’t need special equipment to forage, unlike when you’re fishing or hunting.
Just remember to stay safe when foraging by carefully following the universal edibility test, knowing the right spots where edible plants grow and recognizing a deadly plant from a safe one.