In a survival situation, packing certain needed supplies in your bug out bag puts you ahead of the game and is highly recommended. What happens when your survival situation lasts longer than expected and your food supplies run out? Knowledge of wild edible plants can supplement your supplies and keep you alive longer than your supplies alone would. There are a multitude of books on the market regarding plant identification. The SAS Revised Edition Survival Handbook For Any Climate in Any Situation has 136 pages dedicated to finding food in the wild including pictures of plants and diagrams for snares/traps. I highly recommend investing in a similar “all-inclusive” survival book, and/or more detailed books on trees, fungi, insects, birds, etc.
Here are a few tips regarding wild edibles:
1. The 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 rule simply means that you should focus your efforts on 20% of the wild edibles you will see 80% of the time. People spend their entire lifetimes becoming experts on plants, and more species are still being discovered. Instead of trying to learn every single wild edible plant, research areas that you are most likely going to be in if a disaster strikes – home, travel routes, vacation spots, bug out location, etc. – and learn to identify wild edibles in those locations.
2. Edibility Test. If you are unlucky enough to be in a region you are unfamiliar with or find an abundance of an unidentified plant, you can do a simple test to see if certain plants are edible. Keep in mind that certain parts of the plant may be safe where as other parts may be toxic. Also, if a certain part of a plant is deemed safe cooked, it may be toxic raw. When doing this test, you will need to perform it on each part – stem, leaf, root, flower, etc. – separately and in the manner you plan on eating it – cooked or raw. Basically, you could end up doing 8 or more edibility tests on the same plant; however, I suggest finding one part and method to eating a plant and sticking with that.
3. Things to avoid. Milky sap. Bitter/soapy taste. Strong acidic or almond-like odor. Leaves of three, let them be. Thorns, spines, or fine hairs. White or yellow berries. Beans/seeds in a pod. Leaves that look like parsley or carrots – possibly hemlock. Shiny leaves. Umbrella-shaped flowers. These are only generalities and could possibly rule out plants that are edible, but in general these are a quick way to play it safe.
4. There’s a fungus among us. Some mushrooms/fungi are edible as well as delicious. Unless you are 100% sure you have correctly identified any mushrooms/fungi DO NOT EAT IT! Many toxic fungi look very similar to edible ones. Often when a fungus is poisonous, it is very poisonous. You’re better off putting your efforts into finding another food source.
Remember, unless you have positively identified a wild plant as edible, leave it alone – when in doubt, throw it out!