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Wild Edible Plants - A guide to safe gathering and usage

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posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 06:31 PM
There has been a good deal of talk lately on the survival boards about wild edible and medicinal plants. This is good in that people should be interested but also dangerous in that plants are easily misidentified, often contaminated with pollutants and sometimes dangerous to use medicinally.

Having taught many classes in wild edible plants I thought this would be a good time to share the rules for collecting and consuming wild edibles. While I would love to be able to show how to identify plants by using botanical keys that is beyond the scope of what can be done in a thread here.

Learning plants may seem daunting but I can assure you it is not. Nearly everyone knows at least a few common plants and you can build from that base learning one species at a time. Regardless of where you live the most common and useful plants number not more than a few dozen and if you learn just one plant a week by the end of a year you will know 52 species that can help feed you and your family.

As a co-host of the All Things Survival Radio show I have a regular segment called the Plant of the Week. We discuss in detail just one plant - how to identify it, what parts are edible, how to prepare them and historical usage. Tune in Thursday nights at 8pm EST at -

So far I have covered these plants:
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) -

Oak / acorns (Quercus ssp.) -

I am posting these each week in the announcement for the All Things Survival Radio show thread. I am hoping that by showing the most common and useful plants I will be saving others the trouble of having to learn dozens of different plants that they may never use nor even see.

There is only one field guide which I trust completely and that is Peterson's Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants. The only example of where I have found contradictory information is in regards to side effects from consuming Day Lillies (Hemerocallis fulva). This plant requires further research.

Rules for Harvesting Wild Edible Plants -

Never harvest rare plants except in a life-or death situation.

1) Always positively identify any plant you plan on eating. One wrong I.D. can kill you!

2) Don't harvest plants where there may be pollution: near roads, railways, timbered areas, mine runoff or agricultural spraying of any kind. Check nearby for signs of pollution. Monoculture timber stands (tree farms) are often sprayed with insecticides - avoid them altogether.

3) Don't over harvest or take plants where there are few of them. Practice wild plant conservation by thinning plants where they grow in abundance and planting seeds of the same when opportunity permits. With most plants it is possible to take a few leaves, shoots or fruit without killing it.

4) Only use the specific plant parts listed as safe. i.e.- some plants have edible roots but poisonous leaves or edible seeds but poisonous fruit and vice versa. The story of Christopher McCandless by Jon Krakauer Into the Wild climaxes with the death of McCandless by eating the wrong plant part.

5) Don't pick anything that looks discolored or diseased. Only harvest from plants that look healthy.

6) Use the specific cooking or drying methods suggested. Some edible plants are mildly poisonous or produce severe irritation of the mouth unless dried first. Failure to follow the recommended methods can make you severely ill.

7) Make sure you have gathered only the plants and parts you have intended to. It is very easy to mistakenly grab neighboring vegetation by hurrying.

8) Wash all plants before eating.

9) If in doubt - throw it out.

10) Plant guides can be your best friend and your worst enemy. It is very common for authors to simply plagiarize the work of others, often perpetuating mistakes. No book is 100% correct - own several different guides and cross-reference when studying.
Individual physiology also differs and some people may have allergies or reactions to plants they are unfamiliar with.
Whenever trying any new plant it is wise to eat only a very small quantity to ascertain your tolerance and wait 24 hours before consuming more.

Wild plant nutrition: Wild edible plants commonly have higher nutritional values than comparable commercially grown produce. They also tend to have stronger tastes and textures that require some adjusting to.

Understanding plant life cycles is key to getting the most nutrition from them. In Spring the leaves and shoot contain the most nutrients, in Fall it resides in the Fruits or nuts and begins to move nutrients back to the root system where it remains during the winter.

Finally, I would be remiss without discussing mushrooms. After more research I learned that they have vitamin B, selenium, copper and potassium though they are otherwise short on nutritional value.
I would NOT recommend anyone trying wild mushrooms - the odds of misidentifying them are quite high. Far too many species are deadly poisonous and it is said that death by mushroom poisoning is one of the most painful ways there is to die.
Put simply, they are NOT WORTH THE RISK!

This week's plant will be Plantain (Plantago ssp.), a common yard weed that not only tastes good but helps heal wounds and repels ticks!

I hope this covers the essentials. If anyone has any questions I will be happy to do my best to answer them. I have a HUGE library of reference books gathering dust.

edit on 12-4-2011 by Asktheanimals because: added link

edit on 12-4-2011 by Asktheanimals because: corrections

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 06:41 PM
abit of Oleander salad would go down nicely arfter reading this thanks for the info OP

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 06:54 PM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

One of the best posts on this site, mate. Brilliant, thankyou. This information is what we should all learn.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 07:01 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Finally, wisdom and knowledge come together instead of willy nilly advice being thrown to the wind. ATA, you know well my feelings on edible plants and medicinal uses thereof. I was really hoping that you would do a thread like this because you have so much infomation to share that could save someone in case modern meds are not available for whatever reason!

Thank you again, and I hope folks out there will pick up the recommended book as it is an excellent reference guide.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 07:01 PM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

What small book/guide would you recommend, that includes pictures, for the northeast U.S. (for edible plants obviously)

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 07:07 PM
This guy is awesome If you want to learn how to survive buy eating whats growing around you this Green Dean is really good to watch:
His website:
edit on 12-4-2011 by FarBeyondDriven69 because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 07:09 PM
ATA, thank you so much for threads like this. S+F!

We need more of them...

Heed threads like this people. You will need them one day soon I fear...


I disagree with the fact that you are kind of discouraging the foraging of wild mushrooms. While I understand the liability reasons of it, I can't sit by & let you tell people that there is no nutritional value to them...some are chock full of vitamins/nutrients.

If one is so inclined to harvest wild mushrooms, they should defiantly research the edibles that grow in their area before harvesting and consuming, but know that fungi can be a valuable source of certain nutrients.

Again, thanks for the thread and please keep them up!
edit on 12-4-2011 by susp3kt because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 07:18 PM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

Excellent work! I look forward to the rest of your offerings; a very timely and important thread.

One thing I might add is that even known and properly identified species of plants, properly prepared can cause a problem. For example, in a survival situation, we might be accustomed to eating fresh coconut meat, however a large quantity before your system is used to it, might leave a survivalist hunkering in the bush for a few days. Coconut water, while somewhat healthy and thirst-slaking, is also a fairly good constipation remedy. I guess my point is to be mindful of the quantity of nutrients ingested if relying upon a single species.

Using the same example, sometimes watery nuts (Oh I hope to never use that term again
) and fruits can ferment inside the shells or skins. Not all fermentations are palatable, and depending upon the ambient yeasts that caused the fermentation, can also encourage the growth of human pathogens.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 08:23 PM

Originally posted by FarBeyondDriven69
This guy is awesome If you want to learn how to survive buy eating whats growing around you this Green Dean is really good to watch:
His website:
edit on 12-4-2011 by FarBeyondDriven69 because: (no reason given)

Thanks for the interest everyone!

I was very tempted to link GreenDean myself, the guy is really good, very thorough.
And then I thought of all the other links I ought to put up as well
Too lazy too gather them all up right now.

I want to know what other people have tried and what they thought of it.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 08:33 PM
reply to post by MyMindIsMyOwn

I wasn't going to talk about it in the OP but I think you might find Tom Brown Jr;s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants a great read. He talks about the spiritual side of our connection with plants and truly knows what he's talking about but he might sound way out there to some.
Glad you;re interested.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 08:37 PM
reply to post by BadBoYeed

Besides the Peterson's I might suggest Mors Kochansky. Bushcraft , or Northern Bushcraft (alternate title)
He gets into Birch, Spruce and Hemlock pretty good which as you know northern trappers sometimes lived off those trees.
There may be a more local book though that I'm not aware of, worth a look around.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 08:44 PM
reply to post by argentus

Thanks dude, I value your opinion highly

Avoid Pina Coladas by the gallon.
edit on 29-12-2021 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 08:59 PM
outside of your friuts and berrys the only plants that i can identify that are safe are dabdlions and indian paint brushes(taste pretty good i might add)

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 09:33 PM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

And for the European woods you can't go wrong with Ray Mears - that guy really knows his stuff.

posted on Apr, 12 2011 @ 11:09 PM
reply to post by susp3kt

You are quite correct. I looked into it more and mushrooms do seem to be valuable sources of trace minerals at least. Something pretty important in the long run.

I also rewrote the paragraph to include this info.
Thanks, it;s good to learn something new every day.
edit on 12-4-2011 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 13 2011 @ 08:04 AM
Are you going to cover Queen Ann's Lace? That is a great plant, not only for the root, but for the seeds! For women anyway, according to my grandmother.

posted on Apr, 13 2011 @ 08:10 AM
reply to post by Asktheanimals

The Plantain plant you speak of ..I do believe this is the same thing Mr Redfern taught use in cordage class...15 years ago wear as ankel bracelets...tick & chigger repellent....good thread 1star 1/2flag...kidding

Nowa days Im old and flea and tick collars are easier...but I still have the know how...thats the key.
I have an edible shroom book...gimme a bit Im lookin...I'll post it if I find it..dont worry its a picture book and has small captions.

edit on 13-4-2011 by Doc Holiday because: gone looking for last months Missouri conservationist book

Sorry for the grandmother has it now....

Heres a good link I found the book online.....
edit on 13-4-2011 by Doc Holiday because: I did it paw..yeee haw

posted on Apr, 13 2011 @ 08:21 AM
One thing further about plantago major is that if you crush up the leaves, it makes a lovely poultice that stops bleeding rather quickly. Nature's bandage.

Plants are more dynamic than simply for food. When you study them, study all about them. They are amazing. I would never throw out any plant. It can always be used for something. Find out about it and utilize it. Nature does not appreciate waste.

posted on Apr, 13 2011 @ 11:20 AM

Originally posted by chiefsmom
Are you going to cover Queen Ann's Lace? That is a great plant, not only for the root, but for the seeds! For women anyway, according to my grandmother.

No, I'm not for the reason that the flowers are arranged in an Umbel, very similar to some very poisonous plants that have the same flower arrangement.

Wild Carrot is a great wild edible but too close in appearance to poison Hemlock - thus not a good plant for beginners.

posted on Apr, 13 2011 @ 11:24 AM
reply to post by Doc Holiday

Shhh Doc! Don;t steal my thunder buddy,

Plantain is a great tick repellant and a wonderful plant for infections, burns and wounds.
We had a kid fall face-first into a campfire and burned his palms pretty badly.
I made a poultice of Plantain and kept it on his hand for a few hours - the burns never blistered and healed nicely,
This is the only plant I;ve found that repels seed ticks (larvae).
I also like the young leaves cooked like spinach and fried with a little bacon grease.

Hell Doc, you should hosting the show instead of me

Btw - that mushroom link is very good. I still wouldn't recommend newbies trying any fungi though - maybe later once they get the hang of it.
edit on 13-4-2011 by Asktheanimals because: (no reason given)

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