Six edible plants that will help you survive in the wild
Most of us have seen one of those “survival shows” on television, in which ordinary people become “stranded” in the wild and are forced to live off the land. Yes, it’s true, many of those shows are “staged,” but what would you do if you were ever seriously lost or stranded and all you had to live off of until you were found or made it back to civilization was what Mother Nature provided you? Could you do it? Could you survive?
Well, regardless of where you are in the world, says Serusha Govender, editor of The Daily Meal website, “knowing what plants are edible and which ones could kill you is a critical survival skill.” Because, depending on your lifestyle, you could get stranded at nearly any time — stranded by an act of God or Nature, getting lost on a fishing or camping trip, or any one of a dozen other ways. And when you do, having the knowledge of what you can pick and eat right off the ground can save your life.
“There are some important facts about plants to know which end up keeping you alive by swallowing a few bitter stalks,” Govender wrote, “like knowing the difference between plants that look good but are actually poisonous, which plants that look and smell awful but are really delicious and nutritious, and what plants smell bad, and taste worse, but may really have enough nutrients to keep you going.”
Here are some warning tips right off the bat: Plants with leaves that grow in a pattern of threes; with seeds or bulbs that are found inside pods; have a bitter or soapy taste; contain sap that is milky or strangely colored; has a grainy head that has spikes, hooks or spurs; or has “a kind of bitter ‘almond’ smell to the leaves or bark,” should be avoided.
Here are some of the most common, edible plants growing in the wild, depending on your location
— Amaranth: This is a weed that looks a lot like pigweed. It is tall, upright and broad-leafed, and it is a plant that grows year-round. It comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Amaranth seeds have a high content of proteins, essential amino acids and minerals. The leaves can be round or lance-shaped, measure from 5 to 15 centimeters long, and have a light-green, dark-green, reddish or variegated color. The seeds may be white, yellow, pink or black, and the flowers can be huge tassels or tiny globes, with a red, pink, yellow or cream color.
— Burdock: This is a is mostly a stout weed that has annoying burrs which stick to clothing and animals. But it is a biennial plant that consists primarily of carbohydrates, volatile oils, plant sterols, tannins and fatty oils.
— Cattail: This plant is easily recognizable by its cigar-shaped head. Also known as bullrush, it is one of the most important and most common wild foods that also boast a variety of uses at different times of the year.
— Chickweed: Plentiful and common, chickweed is hearty, edible and prevalent.
— Clover: A field of clover would be your friend if you were alone in the wild and hungry. Clover is tough to digest raw, but clover leaves are delicious in salads or as juices and are also a valuable survival food, as they’re high in protein, widespread and plentiful in most parts of the world.
— Dandelion: You can use dandelions for more than making some wine. And while lawn perfectionists like to have them chemically removed, Govender writes that a better solution is to eat them, because “dandelion leaves are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta carotene.”