Having a basic knowledge of edible and poisonous plants can help a hiker in a survival situation. More common is the enjoyment of recognizing and trying different plants. Plants are an easy source of food to procure when a person is on the move and don’t require specialized tools or much effort to gather. Here are some tips on eating plants in the wild;

If you don’t know a plant and can’t identify it, you can do an edibility test in a survival situation to find out if it’s edible. First select a plant with non-poisonous characteristics.

Although humans can eat some similar plants like beans, peas, and mushrooms in survival they’re discourages since most from these family are poisonous and have strong effects. As a general rule you should avoid:

a. Umbrella shaped flowers.
b. Mushrooms and fungi, although we eat mushrooms at home species can easily be miss identified and people die from poisonous mushrooms each year.
c. Milky white sap, break open the stems or crush leaves. (Exception dandelions are edible)
d. Plants from the Legume family (beans and peas)
e. Bulbs like tulips and death camas
f. White and yellow berries 10% worldwide are edible.
g. Plants with shiny leaves
h. Causes extreme itching or burning sensation on the skin.

If you see animals eating certain plants that does not mean they’re not poisonous to humans. Some animals have adapted certain characteristics that surprise the poison.

a. Aggregated or segmented berries. Blue and darker colored berries 90% generally, red 50% edible.
b. Single fruits on a stem
c. Plants in shaded areas are less bitter
d. Plants that resemble those cultivated by people.
e. Tubers (Yam, Potato Cassava)
f. Grass (rice, wheatgrass, bamboo, almost all grasses are edible barring pesticides/chemicals)
g. Young Ferns (fiddle heads) in small quantities.

After considering the above, if you’re still not sure you can do an edibility test.

1. Find a plant that grows in sufficient quantity since the test takes over 16 hours. Plant should be abundant in the environment.

2. Crush or break part of the plant to determine the color of its sap. It should be clear as opposed to white and milky.

3. Touch the plant’s sap or juice to the inner forearm, wait about 10 seconds then touch it to the tip of your tongue. If there are no ill effects such as burning, numbness, rash, bitterness, or extreme itching you can continue to next step.

4. Prepare the plant by boiling in two changes of water for 5 min each if you have access to a fire and container. Parboiling is a process of boiling plants in changes of water and poisonous properties of some plants are removed by boiling. If it’s not feasible to boil you can continue to the next step.

5. Place about 1 teaspoonful in your mouth for 5 minutes, chewing and storing but not swallowing. A burning sensation, numbness, nauseating, or bitter taste is a sign of danger and you need to spit out the plant and start over with another plant. If no ill effects swallow the plant.

6. Wait 8 hours, in addition to ill effects mentioned you should watch out for nausea, cramps, diarrhea.

7. If there are still no ill effects swallow a handful (about 2 teaspoons) and wait another 8 hours.

8. If after the second 8 hours you still have no effects the plant is probably good to eat. Test 1 plant at a time and realize that large quantities of a plant your body is not used to can still cause diarrhea and nausea.

If you test a plant cooked or prepared in a certain way you should consume it the same way, otherwise you’ll have to retest the plant with a different preparation method.

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