Say your stuck with no food and nowhere safe to scavenge. You’ve eaten your last meal bar and all the stores around you are overrun, raided, or there simply aren’t any of them. Now what do you do? I’ll tell you what, you start getting green. Having a basic knowledge of edible plant life, as well as non edible plant life, is invaluable to your survival. There will, without question, come times when you will run out of regular food sources. The shops will get raided to ruins, the animals will be hunted or die off. You will be left to live off the greenery of the earth, and you’d be very well to know which greenery will keep you living and which will give you trouble. In this article I’m going to reviw a few common plants that most of us will be familiar with, but may not have known were edible. It’s my hope that this list will be helpful to survivors not just in the wilderness, but also those stuck in urban environments as well. As most of these plants can be found in both areas. Of course, this is just a short list and does not even begin to cover the entire spectrum of edible wild life out there. I’d strongly suggest reading books on the subject to better expand your knowledge and give you the survival edge you’ll need when things go to hell. For now, lets begin.
The first thing I’d like to go over is some common traits that can be used to identify non edible(poisonous or toxic) plants. Here is a list of features that, if present, may mean that the plant is not good for human consumption.
Stay away from plants with;
– Milky or discolored sap
– Spines, fine hairs, or thorns
– Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods
– Bitter or soapy taste
– Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley like foliage
– “Almond” sent in leaves or woody parts of the plant
– Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs
– Three leaf growth patterns
Now it should be noted that some of the plants I will talk about here may contain some of these characteristics, but are not toxic or poisonous. This is were the Universal Edibility Test will need to be used. Though you may think a plant is edible, despite one of the characteristics, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Common Edible Plants
Amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus)
Amaranth is an edible weed found on most continents around the world. All parts of this plant are edible, however you should look out for small spines on the leaves. These can develope if the plant is growing in nitrate rich soil. In this case, it’s recommended that you boil the leaves before eating them. Do not drink the water used to boil these leaves. The plants can, however, still be eaten raw but boiling is always a good step to insure safety.
Known as cattails, punks, bullrush, or reedmace depending on where your from, this plant is usually found near the edges of fresh water sources. I personally remember loads of these, which we called cattails, around the pond near my childhood home. Although all we ever did with them was pick them and play sword fight. They are very edible. The rootstock, or zhizomes, can be boiled or eaten raw. The best part of the stem is the white area near the bottom of the plant. The leaves should be boiled like spinach. The brown, corn dog looking, female flower spikes can be broken off and eaten raw. This is ideal in the early summer when the plant is first developing. The spikes actually have a corn like flavor when in season.
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
It is truly a testament to their reputation for luck that these little plants are completely edible. It will be very lucky for a hungry survivor that clovers are edible because they are certainly everywhere. In fact many fields that look like grass, at second glance, are actually clovers. Chicory can be eaten raw, however if your looking to make them taste better it is suggested you boil them first.
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale)
Dandelions maybe annoying when it comes to keeping a perfect looking yard, but they can be a life saver when it comes to finding food. Dandelions are entirely edible. The leaves of the young dandelion are good but they do become bitter as they age. The roots of the plant should be boiled. The water used to boil is safe to drink and makes a good tea.
Green Seaweed (Ulva lactuca)
If you are near water, green seaweed can be a great source of food. Collect some up, be sure to rinse it with fresh water and let it dry. Once this is done, seaweed can be eaten raw or used to make soup. You can even get creative and catch a fish to wrap the seaweed around, making some very fresh sushi.
Kelp (Alaria esculenta)
Kelp, being another form of seaweed, can also be rinsed with fresh water and dried. The same suggestions go for kelp as for green seaweed. It can be eaten raw or made into soup. Kelp is a great source of folate, vitamin K, and lignans.
Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)
Found all over the North American desert, the fruit of a prickly pear cactus looks like a red or purplish pear with spines covering the outside. Once the spines have been removed, the fruit is perfectly safe to eat. The stems of this plant can also be eaten though it’s recommended you boil them first.
This is, as I’ve said, just a short list of commonly recognized plants that are safe to eat. If worse comes to worse and you have a plant your just not sure about, you can perform the Universal Edibility Test. Though this requires quite a bit of time and must be done with caution. I highly recommend you learn about as many edible plants as possible. Look for books and more writing on the subject. A great book I came across is The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts. There are many guide books that teach you about this topic, so find one and get some knowledge.