Wild Edibles

On this page I would like to talk a little about wild edibles, because learning about some of the common plants and trees in your area can help you if you needed to forage in an emergency, whether in an urban or wilderness setting.

If you work, hunt, hike or canoe etc. in the great outdoors, having a knowledge of the wild plants and other in the area where you'll be can be a great asset to you in a survival situation. This should be a part of your pre-trip planning.

If you are not certain about wild edibles do not consume them nor use them for medicinal purposes. There are definite risks involved.

You can however still learn about them. I am in study mode myself, and will share what I do know. It takes a lot of work to gain knowledge but it is worth it.

Since the recession I have heard of people in the States that have begun to forage for wild edibles to help sustain them. This section will help you to know that there are risks involved in doing so.

In the photo above you see Young Burdock (Arctium spp.) - 1st Year.

Consult a competent medical practitioner before considering plants as a supplemental food source or for medicinal purposes.

<< WARNING! >>

I must place a warning here when it comes to eating wild edibles of any kind and will list them here below.

For simplicity in writing I will not say 'plants and trees' every time, but you may see 'plants' or 'trees'. However, this warning goes for plants and trees including shrubs, and herbs, whether identified below as such or not.

Fungi is mentioned in point No 8. No mention is made in the list below about mosses and lichens. There are some that are edible, but beware once again.

Do a research if you want to learn more about mosses and lichens including what to avoid. If your ordeal happens to be on the ocean or on on the coast, there are other things you could consider. Do a research if this sort of survival food interests you.

The Warning List:

1. You need to positively identify the plant before considering consuming it or any part of it.

2. For some plants there may be edible and non-edible parts.

3. The edibility of a plant or any part of it may be dependent on the season.

4. For any edible part of a plant, you need to know whether it is safe to eat raw, or if it needs to be cooked or boiled first, and possibly in several changes of water before it can be safe to consume. Also, see if there are any other kinds of preparations necessary before consuming any part of the plant.

5. Beware if you have any allergies or are pregnant for there may be undesirable effects on you upon consuming a plant or any part of it. Consult a competent medical practitioner before considering plants as a supplemental food source or for medicinal purposes.

6. Beware if you are on any kind of medications. An example is that some plants may have diuretic properties, and if you take medications to increase urine output and eat such a plant, you'll dehydrate. Consult a competent medical practitioner before considering plants as a supplemental food source or for medicinal purposes.

7. There are many look-alike plants that resemble edible plants out there that are actually poisonous, and if you do not positively identify the plant, it may make you ill or even kill you if you consume it.

8. For fungi (mushrooms), THERE MUST BE POSITIVE IDENTIFICATION! There is no margin for error. If you pick the wrong one, you may die.

9. There are trees that are non edible or only a part of it is edible. Again it is positive identification and knowing what part is edible, when it is edible (season) and if certain preparations are required to make it safe for consumption, to know how to prepare it.

10. People's responses to the consumption of a given plant or a part thereof may vary from one individual to another.

11. Contact with a plant or the handling thereof, may cause adverse allergic reactions including contact dermatitus.

12. Some plants contain abortifacient properties, and therefore should never be consumed by pregnant women.

It is worth researching wild edibles, for there are some really good ones out there. Many have medicinal properties as well.

I am not into holistic medicine per se, but I do know that in the hands of an expert who has the proper knowledge and training, that there is a place for natural remedies.

However do your research if you intend to see someone, anyone, who claims to know the secret recipe to heal you of any ailments you may have.

From what I understand, holistic or alternative medicines may be unregulated in some areas, so beware.

There are good wild edibles out there, but please do not rely on information on the internet alone, or a book to determine what is edible, unless you are absolutely certain of the credentials of the author of the information given to you. Even then it may be wise to consult at least two to three references.

It is preferable to always cross-reference with at least three different sources when researching to see if there are any inconsistencies in the information you receive on wild edibles as a food source or for medicinal uses as well.

Plants often do not have all that much nutrition in them, but may help you nevertheless. It can supplement food supplies you already have, or give you some nutrients that are lacking in your diet. Have a look at the Acquiring Food and Water page to see an important example of this. 

There is what is called the Universal Edibility Test, which is a somewhat long and involved process to determine whether a plant is edible. I have read different versions of this so-called Universal Edibility Test. So much for consistency, well, what it comes down to however is similar in all cases.

<< WARNING! >>

The Universal Edibility Test can backfire if you should come across something like water hemlock, a very poisonous plant to avoid. The test should NOT be your primary method for wild edibles, but to learn before heading out and making it part of your Pre-Trip Planning. You can bring a field guide for the area you will be going in as well as personal notes to remember things you would otherwise most likely forget especially in a stressful survival situation. Consider the test as a last resort only.

Do not bother to go through the test for a plant that isn't abundant in the area, but do it if the plant is abundant so that if it is edible, at least you have a lot of it to forage. You may become ill in the process of going through this test, and may need to induce vomiting.

Know your plants by doing some research, and you won't have to go through the test.

Here are some examples of the Universal Edibility Test:

1. eHow | How To Do Just About Everything! | How To Videos & Article

2. Backpacker.com

Here below I'll include links for some common plants, trees and shrubs found here in North America. Linking to these sites does not constitute an endorsement on my part for the information found on these sites. You are solely responsible for how you utilize the information found on any websites listed on this page. These links are for your convenience, and always verify the information with other sources as I have mentioned above.

Also, not all parts are edible, and there are other important things to take into account, so have a look at the << WARNING! >> mentioned above if you haven't yet.


EatTheWeeds: Episode 64: Cattails, Typha

Here is an interesting site to find information on wild edibles called Eat The Weeds. Wild flowers, trees and other things are spoken of.

He has many videos on YouTube. Worth a look!
Bushcraft Foraging: Wild Edibles of Spring
It's important to know that despite hearing that you can make a pine tea from pine, that not all pine are non poisonous!

For pine trees that are poisonous you can find some information at Garden Guides.

Also, not all grasses are edible from what  I read, and NEVER swallow it. We do not have four digestive compartments in our stomachs like cows do in order to digest it. Chew on it, swallow the juices, and spit out the grass material.
Cattail (Typha spp.) - Nature's 'Supermarket'