I got another request from a fellow blogger (Dr. Laura – Bipolar For Life) about edible plants in the woods. Now, I know she is very capable of plant ID, she’s even identified a morel mushroom for me that I will go back for this spring!! However, here’s the standard warning ~ Kids, don’t try this at home! Go out in the forest and give it a try!! 😉
About 25 years ago, I stopped at a bookstore and saw this beauty on the $5 table, United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual. I HAD to have it! I’m not much of a fiction reader, unless I was in between boyfriends and a new Fabio romance would come out… Aaanyway. I loved reading encyclopedias, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, National Geographic and my favorite, Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers. This survival manual fit right in with my reading habits.
I have read it cover to cover many times. There’s some really good information in there that can help anyone stay on this side of the grass longer during a bad situation. (BTW – There is an app for this for $1.99) There are two chapters dedicated to plants alone. Only one for food & water procurement, respectively. Plants can be your best bet for long term survival or your short ride to being plant food. Here’s another wonderful site: Plants For a Future that lists over 7,000 plants and their medicinal purposes, really really great stuff going on there.
Chapter 9 of the United States Air Force Search & Rescue Survival Manual discusses the Universal Edibility Test:
||Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
||Separate the plants into its basic components—leaves, stems, roots, buds, and flowers.
||Smell the food for strong or acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
||Do not eat for 8 hours before starting the test.
||During the 8 hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction
||During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
||Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
||Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
||If after 3 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
||If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
||If no burning, itching, numbing stinging, or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
||Wait 8 hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.
||If no ill effects occur, eat 1/4 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
|Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals
Tips to keep you alive and well while foraging:
- Be extremely careful when collecting mushrooms. Mistakes can be fatal.
- Avoid collecting plants in commercially fertilized areas or where toxic herbicides or other chemicals may have been sprayed. This means avoid collecting under power lines, right of ways, in unfamiliar weedy lawns, beside commercial crop fields, or close to roadsides. Better to error on the side of caution!
- Be grateful. Before picking, plucking or digging, pause for a moment and give thanks to the plant that is giving itself to you. Collect with consciousness. Make the area look as though you were not there. Take what you need, leaving plenty for wildlife and future years.
- Once the food is collected, clean and sort it ‘in the field’. It is much easier there. No cook wants a sink full of muddy roots mingled with grass blades and half an anthill.
- Before you eat a food, be sure to prepare correctly. Many plants can be mildly toxic and may require cooking or parboiling (and then discarding) the first and second ‘waters’ before ingesting.
- Learn to blend wild produce into a meal in subtle ways. Often the flavors are quite strong. I like to use garlic mustard in my tomato sauces. It gives a light garlic taste.
*There is special preparations needed eat it.
** Caution this plant either has parts that are toxic or a poisonous look-alikes
Amur maple – Acer ginnala
Acer spp. – Maple ~ The inner bark & seeds
Allium spp. – Wild Onion/Garlic/Leek ~ The bulb & leaves
Amaranthus spp. – Amaranth ~ the seeds, shoots & leaves
Apios americana – Groundnut ~ The tubers (roots)
- Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit
Arisaema atrorubens – Jack in the Pulpit ~ The corm (well dried)*
Armoracea lapathifolia – Horseradish ~ The young leaves & roots
Asarum canadense – Wild Ginger ~ The rootstock
- Asclepias syriaca – Common milkweed
Asclepias spp. – Milkweed ~ Young pods, before they set seed*
Asimina triloba – Pawpaw ~ fruits (I’m dying to try these)
Artium spp. – Burdock ~ The root
Barbarea spp. – Winter Cress ~ The young leaves & flower
Betula spp. – Birch ~ The sap, inner bark, twigs
- Alliaria petiolata – garlic mustard
Brassica spp. – Wild Mustards ~ The young leaves, flowerbuds, & seeds
Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepard’s Purse ~ The young leaves, seedpods
Carya spp. – Hickory and Pecan ~ Yummy nuts
Castanea pumila – Chinquapin ~ nuts
Celtis spp. – Hackberry ~ The fruits
- Cercis canadensis – Redbud seedpods
Cercis canadensis – Redbud flowers~ The young pods
Chenopodium album – Lamb’s Quarters ~ The young leaves and tops
Cichorium intybus – Chicory ~ young leaves & root
Cirsium spp. – Thistle ~ The young leaves, inner stem (pith) & 1st year root
Chrysanthemum/Leucanthemum – Ox-Eye Daisy ~ The young leav
- Leucanthemum – Ox-Eye Daisy
Claytonia spp. – Spring Beauty ~ corm**
Commelina spp. – Day Flower ~ The young leaves and stem
Corylus spp. – Hazelnuts ~ Yummy nuts
- Crataegus phaenopyrum – Washington Hawthorn
Crataegus spp. – Hawthorn ~ The fruits
Cyperus esculentus Chufa – Nut Grass ~ The tuber
Daucus carota – Wild Carrot ~ The root**
Diospyros virginiana – Persimmon ~ The fruits*
Erechtites hieracfolia – Fireweed ~ The young shoots and leaves
Fragaria spp. – Wild Strawberry ~ The fruit, leaves*
- Galium aparine – Bedstraw
Fagus grandifolia – Beech ~ nuts
Fraxinus spp. – Ash ~ The fruits
Galium aparine & verum Cleavers – Bedstraw ~ The young shoots/leaves
Gleditsia triacanthos -Honey Locust ~ The fruits
- Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke
Helianthus tuberosus – Jerusalem artichoke ~ The tuber
Hemerocallis fulva – Day Lily ~ The young shoots, flower, flower buds, tuber
Heracleum maximum – Cow-Parsnip ~ The young stems/ leafstalks, seeds, root**
Juglans nigra – Black Walnut ~ Yummy nuts
Lactuca spp. – Wild Lettuce ~ The young leaves
Lamium amplexicaule – Henbit ~ The new tips
Lepidium spp. – Peppergrass ~ The young leaves & seedpods
Lycopus spp. – Bugleweed ~ The tubers
Malva neglecta – Common Mallow ~ The young leaves & green fruit
- Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed
Matricaria matricarioides – Pineapple-Weed ~ The flowers
Medeola virginiana – Indian Cucumber ~ The root & tuber
Mentha, spp. – Wild mint ~ The leaves (Did someone say Mojito?!)
Mitchella repens – Partridgeberry ~ The fruits
- Mulberries = Yummy If you like raspberries..
Morus, spp. – Mulberry ~ The fruits
Nasturtium officinale – Watercress ~ The young leaves and stems
Nelumbo lutea – American Lotus ~ The young leaves, seeds & tubers
Nuphar, spp. – Yellow Pond Lily ~ The rootstocks, seeds
Nymphaea spp.- Water Lily – The young leaves, flowerbuds, seeds & tubers
Oenothera biennis – Evening Primrose ~ 1st year taproots, young small plants
Opuntia humifusa – Prickly-Pear ~ young leaf pads,* fruit & seeds
Oxalis, spp. – Yellow Wood-Sorrels ~ The leaves & fruit
Pastinaca sativa – Wild Parsnip ~ The taproot
- Phragmites communis – Phragmites
Phragmites communis Reed – Phragmites ~ The young stem, seeds & rootstock
Physalis spp. – Ground-cherry ~ The fruits
Phytolacca americana – Pokeweed ~ The young leaves**
Plantago spp. – Plantain ~ The leaves
- Podophyllum. peltatum – May-apple
Podophyllum. peltatum – May-apple, Mandrake ~ Only the mature fruit**
Polygonum cuspidatum – Japanese Knotweed ~ The new bamboo-like tips
Pontederia cordata – Pickerel Weed ~ The shoots & seeds
Portulaca oleracea – Purslane ~ The stems and leaves & seeds
Prunus americana – Wild Plum ~ The fruits
- Pteridium aquilinum – Fiddleheads
Prunus spp. – Wild Cherry (Choke, Black) ~ The fruits
Pteridium aquilinum – Bracken fern ~ The fiddlehead
Pteretis pensylvanica – Ostrich Fern ~ The fiddlehead
- Malus – Crabapple
Malus spp. – Crap Apple ~ The fruits
Pyrus, spp. – Chokeberry, Chokecherry ~ fruits
Quercus spp. – Oak ~ acorns*
Rhexia virginica – Meadow Beauty ~ The tender leaves, tubers
Ribes spp. – Gooseberries, Currents ~ fruits
Robinia pseudo-acacia – Black Locust ~ The flowers (only)
- Rosa spp. – Wild Rose hips
Rosa spp. – Wild Rose ~ petals, fruits (hips)
Rubus spp. – Brambles ~ Fruits Blackberry, Raspberry, Dewberry, etc.
Rubus typhina and spp. – Staghorn Sumac ~ The fruit**
Rumex acetosella – Sheep (or Common) Sorrel ~ The tender leaves and stems
Rumex crispus -Dock, Curled and Yellow ~ The young leaves
- Sagittaria latifolia – Common arrowhead
Sagittaria spp. – Arrowhead ~ The tubers
Salix spp. – Willow leaves ~ The inner bark
Sambucus canadensis – Elderberry ~ The flower clusters, ripe fruit**
Sassafras albidum – Sassafras leaves ~ The root (for tea)
Scirpus spp.- Bulrush ~ The shoot, pollen, seeds & rootstock
Smilax spp. – Catbrier, Greenbrier ~ The young shoots and leaves & rootstock
Solidago odora – Sweet Goldenrod ~ The leaves and flowers
Stellaria spp. – Chickweed ~ The tender leaves and stems
- Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion
Taraxacum officinale – Dandelion ~ The leaves and root
Tilia americana – Basswood ~ The leaf buds and flowers
Tradescantia spp. – Spiderwort ~ The shoots
Tragopogon porrifolius – Salsify, Oyster-Plant ~ The young leaves and root
Trifolium pratense – Red Clover ~ The young leaves and flowers
- Trifolium – Clover
Trifolium spp. – Clover ~ The young leaves, flowerheads
Typha spp – Cattails ~ The young shoots and stocks (inner core), immature flower spikes, pollen & root
Urtica dioica – Stinging Nettle ~ The young shoots & leaves*
Vaccinium, spp. – Blueberry, Huckleberry ~ The Yummy fruits
Viola, spp. – Violet
Viola, spp. – Violet ~ The leaves & flowers
Vitis, spp. – Grapes ~ The tender leaves and fruit***
© – Ilex Midwestern Plant Girl