Foraging for mushrooms has many benefits. They are incredibly nutritious and are good sources of protein, vitamins B and C and other minerals like calcium. Many types of mushrooms are also used for their medical benefits, like the shiitake, which claims to have high antioxidant content.
However, identifying edible mushrooms might be tricky for beginners as this type of fungi has poisonous varieties. Most poisonous mushrooms are usually brown in color and have gills on their undersides. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t identify it, don’t eat it.
Fireweed is easily identifiable with its beautiful pink to purple flowers. They can be found almost anywhere, even in sites that have suffered forest fires. They start growing in large patches in the spring or summer and fully bloom by the start of winter. Fireweed is best harvested when young because they tend to taste bitter as they age. Its shoots are a good source of vitamins A and C while young leaves can be eaten or made into tea. The flowers are also edible and can be added with other vegetables to make a salad.
Chicory is another common plant that has many benefits. They are pretty easy to identify and can be found in most parts of North America. The light blue flowers can be seen from July to October. Edible parts of chicory include the leaves and the roots, which are great sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals. They can also be used as herbal medicine for indigestion and arthritis.
You may hate the dandelion weeds that grow in your backyard now, but you’d be thankful for them in a survival situation. Unknown to many, the entire dandelion plant is edible. Like most wild edibles in this list, it can be found almost anywhere, too. Its leaves (greens) are high in beta-carotene and iron, with some significant Vit. K and calcium content as well.
Like mushrooms, one should take great care in foraging for berries as many varieties (usually the vine fruit) tend to be poisonous. Know how to identify the edible wild berries in your area. These may include blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, blueberries, and huckleberries, to name a few.
Berries have high-calorie content and contain significant amounts of B vitamins and Vitamin C as well. Some berries may be tart or tangy (like the huckleberry), so it would be helpful to mix them together with other types of berries to improve the taste. You can also turn these berries into jam and jellies for longer shelf life.
You can find cattails near bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and streams. You can eat the shoots, leaf bases, and stems raw, or you can cook them. Since cattails are pretty abundant in any body of water, you might want to stay away from plants that grow near contaminated water sources as they absorb pollutants, too.
Common types of edible wild nuts include walnuts, almonds, cashews, and hickory nuts. Nuts are a great source of protein and calories. According to Outdoor Life, hickory nuts, in particular, can pack as much as 193 calories so eating them is a great way to keep your energies up in the wild. Nuts also have a long shelf life, which means you can harvest and keep them in your survival food stash.
While unripe persimmons can taste very bitter, its ripe counterpart is juicy, sweet and is packed with calories. Persimmons grow ripe towards autumn; this makes them a great food source during the colder months when most wild edibles will have withered. Wild persimmons have high potassium content, too, which is great for combating muscle cramps while out in the wilderness.
There are certainly more plants and fruits that can keep you alive out there. Foraging is a survival skill. Aside from identifying the plants, you also have to know how to prepare and store them as well.
That being said, it takes a bit of practice to become an expert forager. Take a colored guidebook with you the next time you go camping and see how many you can identify and actually eat.
Do you have a favorite wild edible? Let us know in the comments below!