Foraging for survival is a risky endeavor. The phrase I hear the most is “I’ll just move to the woods and forage for my food”. The optimist in me hopes by “foraging” they mean hunting, farming and foraging. But let’s assume that’s not what they mean. Foraging for food as a means of survival is a bad idea.
I was once that person, the beginner zombie prepper. At one time, we all learned just how wrong we were about performing some type of skill for survival. For many, starting a fire looks so easy, and then upon trying, we learn how difficult it can be and all the factors that come into play. Foraging is one of those skills. I say this from experience and lots of reading.
I’ve taken a few foraging classes, purchased books, and have even taught a little edible plants. I also have the advantage of being friends with a local foraging expert, Dr. Vorderbruggen from Foraging Texas. I’ve learned many of the easily identified plants and those that are abundant, but some of the rarer plants still elude me. I’m not anti-foraging and the level of difficulty finding edibles in the wild is not why I think it’s a bad idea to forage for food; edible plants can be easily found in the wild. Wild edibles are a great way of obtaining vital nutrients that you need to survive. However, here is the problem: nutrients do not equal calories. Consider that for a moment. Most people have erroneously equated nutrients and calories. Finding calories by foraging is very difficult. Even experts have difficult times doing just this for survival.
Let’s look at a few examples. Consider a 2000 calorie diet. I use 2000 because that is a number that most people are familiar with in terms of caloric intake. In actuality, if you are active, say building shelter or running from zombies, you will need significantly more. So let’s just keep 2000 for the sake of easiness.
For each of the items below, the calories are listed and the amount of each to reach 2000 calories per day.
Dandelion – 25 cal/cup – 80 Cups
Blackberries – 62 cal/cup – 32 Cups
Elderberries – 106 cal/cup – 18 Cups
Pecans – 100cal/5 nuts – 100 nuts
Corn – 134 cal/cup – 14 cups
Black Beans – 227 cal/cup – 9 cups
White Rice – 205 cal/cup – 10 Cups
If you are lucky to be able to find nuts, you might be ok. However, realize that you will require this every day and trees don’t drop nuts year-around. I used dandelion because it is a great food, high in minerals, and plentiful but the sheer amount to reach your daily intake is extremely high. Berries, of course, are good for calories, but again that is a pretty high quantity to have to eat every day. Finding a full caloric intake from foraged foods is difficult, even experts that know all edibles can be negative in calories. Plus, to add to calories, is the issue that many edibles are ready to eat raw. Many require preparation such as cooking to remove toxins, or flushing with water for a time to remove tannins.
There is a reason we farm what we do today. These foods require smaller areas to grow and have high calories per unit. I’m not saying that foraging isn’t valuable, but it is a folly to believe that you can live solely on foraged food. As many preppers and survivalist will tell you, it will be a mixture of farming, foraging and hunting that will keep you fed in the long run. The trick is to start now. Learn your plants. Let some native edibles grow in your yard or dedicate a flower bed for them. Plant a garden. Grow some fruit or nut trees. Make an edible backyard. Calories are cheap to buy and easy to store, but will only last for so long. By learning your wild edibles, and which plants to plant in your area, your chances of surviving as Farmer Joe will greatly increase. Now go forth and learn. See you at the apocalypse.