We all have seen survival shows on television in which a survivalist goes hunting for a boar with a spear or fashions a bow and arrow from a tree branch. Sure it is good for ratings and makes for a good story, but how realistic is it? There are definitely times when hunting or trapping makes sense. However, there are more times that it does not. Hunting and trapping can be dangerous, time consuming, and hard work.
Every time you take an action in a survival situation, you are taking a risk. You have to decide if the benefits of the action justify the calories you will expend and the physical risk you will take. If you spend all day hunting in the mountains and come up empty handed, was it worth it? If you go hog hunting with a spear and get your leg ripped off by the angry beast, was it worth it?
I learned this lesson during my very first survival challenge. There were plenty of rabbits in the area, and I planned to hunt and trap them. I spent most of my day setting traps and stalking rabbits, but had no luck. I expended thousands of extra calories and gained nothing. At the end of the day I found some autumn olive berries, wood sorrel, and chickweed. It only took me about 30 minutes to collect the goods and almost no effort. My belly was not full, but I got many more calories than I had collected from my hunting and trapping efforts.
In a survival situation, the easiest meal is always going to be wild edibles. It may not be the most filling meal or have the most calories, but with the right knowledge you can find wild edibles in just about any scenario with minimal effort. In this article I am going to cover ways to determine which plants are edible. I will also cover some specific edible plants that can be found in most of the world. Hopefully this information can help you find a meal if you are ever in need.
Any time that you are uncertain about the identification of an edible plant, it must e tested before you consume it. There is a very simple process to help you ensure that you do not end up sick or dead.
Step 1) Break up the plant and rub the juices on the inside of your wrist. Give it 20 minutes to see if you have any reaction.
Step 2) Rub a bit on the inside of your lip. Give it 20 minutes to check for a reaction.
Step 3) Chew up a small amount of the plant and spit out the pulp. Give it 20 minutes for a reaction.
Step 4) Consume a small amount of the plant. Give it 20 minutes to check for a reaction.
At this point you know that you are safe to eat the plant, but limit the amount. Even non-toxic plants can make you sick if consumed in large amounts.
There are a few basic rules that can keep you out of trouble with wild edibles:
There are a few wild edibles that can be found just about anywhere in the world. These plants are easy to identify, and you probably already know what they look like. If in need, you can rely on these plants to get you by.
Dandelions – Almost everybody knows what a dandelion looks like. Early in the spring they have bright yellow flowers. Later in the year the flowers are replaced by seed heads, but they always have saw-toothed leaves that radiate from a central point. All parts of this plant are edible and some are considered medicinal in nature.
Clover – Clover is a plant that grows in patches. It consists of three round leaves and produces a white flower during the summer. The leaves and stems of clover are edible, and it can be found around the world.
Wood Sorrel – This plant is one of my favorites as it has a lemon flavor. The leaves are heart shaped and grow in threes. Most wood sorrel has a yellow flower, but it can sometimes be found in other colors. The whole plant is edible and quite tasty.
Plantain – This does not refer to the banana-like fruit, but instead the summertime leafy green. It has broad leaves and sometimes has tall stems with a seed head at the top. It is also known as buckhorn because of the tall stems. This plant is medicinal in nature as well.
Chickweed – This plant grows in thick patches and can be found most of the year. It is a winter annual and can even be found under the snow in the winter. It has small, yellow-green leaves that are shaped like a mouse’s ear. Chickweed has saved my butt during several winter survival challenges.
Blueberries – Most people are familiar with the sweet, plump berries found in cooler climates. Blueberry bushes grow in average and high elevation in the spring and summer. They are great to get some much needed calories, but watch out for the black bears that go after the same fruit.
Blackberries – This thorny plant grows along fence rows during the summer months. The berries start red and turn black late in the summer. These berries are also high in calories and taste great.
Wild edibles can be your best friend or your worst enemy. You must have some knowledge before you can safely rely on these plants as a food source. My suggestion is to look up pictures of the edible plants in your area and start tasting. When you go camping or go on hikes, look around at the plants as snacks. Find out which ones taste good and which ones you do not like. Perhaps even incorporate some of these plants into your regular diet. With a little practice, you will give yourself a skill that could very well save your life.