It shouldn’t be surprising to know that nature provides most of man’s needs. In the case of food, sometimes all we have to do is forage for edible plants.
Foraging is the act of finding and gathering food, usually from wild sources. Man has survived through foraging for thousands of years, so don’t underestimate the benefits of gathering wild vegetation for sustenance. A simple knowledge of wild edibles is very useful when you’re out in the wilderness and running low on food, especially if you don’t have the resources to hunt game.
Take a look at 8 of the most common edible plants out there and see if you can find them in your area:
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 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. It 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 it tends to taste bitter as it ages. 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 one of the common plants that you can eat. It’s pretty easy to identify and can be found in most parts of North America. You can see its light blue flowers from July to October. Edible parts of chicory include the leaves and the roots, which are great sources of various 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’ll be thankful for them in a survival situation. Unknown to many, you can eat the entire dandelion plant. Like most edible plants 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, you should be careful when you forage 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 with other types to improve the taste. You can also turn these edible plants 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 the ones growing near contaminated water sources. They may be edible plants, but they may absorb pollutants.
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. Eating them is a great way to keep your energy up in the wild.
While unripe persimmons can taste very bitter, their ripe counterpart is juicy, sweet, and 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. These edible plants have high potassium content, too, which is great for combating muscle cramps while out in the wilderness.
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 edible plants you can identify.
What are your favorite edible plants? Let us know in the comments below!