Wilderness Survival Tips: Safe Plants To Eat

If you ever got lost or lost your supplies, there could come a time when your life would depend upon eating plants. Here is a guide to what is safe to eat and drink in the wilderness.

Certain risks are involved when camping or hiking. Most campers plan for their trip by packing plenty of food, water and other necessities, but if they were to get lost, or something were to happen to the supplies, their lives might depend upon survival skills and knowledge. Being stranded in the woods with no food is a frightening feeling. Learn what foods from nature are edible and you'll never experience that discomfort. Although a person can live longer without food than without water, both are found in nature if you know where to look. But since poisonous plants often look much like edible plants, knowledge of the difference is imperative.

Some cactus are edible, particularly the prickly pear plant which has large, flat, paddle-shaped branches that often have colorful red fruit on top. All parts of this cactus are edible after using fire to burn the spikes off, but never eat any cactus that has a milky liquid inside. As a matter of fact, most cacti are not edible, but another that is edible is the cholla cactus, which is rich in vitamin C.

Cattail shoots are edible, raw or cooked. Break off the tender shoots for a food source. Most plant roots, if they're not too bitter, are edible as well. Plants that are extremely bitter or ill-tasting are often inedible in the first place. Juniper can be used for its berries, or roast the seeds for coffee. Or boil juniper branches to make tea. Eat dandelion leaves raw or cooked, boil the roots for vegetables, roast the roots for coffee, or boil them for tea. Pine or spruce needles make great teas, too.

Wild leeks, garlic mustard, catnip, chicory, wild mint, sheep sorrel, and plantains are all edible, but never pick plants from roadsides, since they could be poisoned by lead from passing cars or pesticides sprayed on by roadside maintenance.

There are a lot of berries that are found naturally in the woods, but there are many more which are poisonous. Blackberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, mulberries and dewberries are edible, but some berries look much like these. Check local library books or go online to learn how to spot the difference between edible and inedible berries. There are also classes where you can sign up to learn more about identifying plants. When camping or hiking, it's a good idea to make a small booklet that shows pictures of certain edible plants to use for identification purposes.

Other edible plants are wild carrot, mushrooms, violet leaves and flowers, shamrock, or lemon grass, pig weeds, amaranth, milkweed, wild lettuce, chickweed, mullein, burdock, pepper grass, curled dock and mulberry. Other tea plants include elder flower, acorn shells, white pine needles and sumac berries.

Making tea normally involves boiling the edible portions of the plant, usually the stalk, bark or leaves, for 10 to 20 minutes, then adding sugar or other flavorings if desired.

Never eat any plant until you are absolutely positive that the plant is edible and not poisonous. Even one bite, swallowed or not, can make a person extremely ill if it's toxic.

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