We all know our market vegetables and fruits are safe to eat, but what about other wild edibles? Here are a few common (North American) goodies that are safe to eat if you find yourself stuck in the wild… first of all, please note that you need to know with certainty the identity of what you are finding and collecting as survival food. If you are not sure – leave it alone.
Many wild berries are not safe to eat, it’s best to stay away from them. But wild blackberries are 100% safe to eat and easy to recognize. They have red branches that have long thorns similar to a rose, the green leaves are wide and jagged. They are best to find in the spring when their white flowers bloom, they are clustered all around the bush and their flowers have 5 points. The berries ripen around August to September. Avoid berries grown in what could be post-industrial / polluted soil, also those close to roads have essentially been fumigated with engine fumes all year round.
The easiest to recognize is the dandelion, in the spring they show their bright yellow buds. You can eat the entire thing raw or cook them to take away the bitterness; usually in the spring they are less bitter. They are packed with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and beta carotene.
The vegetable that makes your pee smell funny grows in the wild in most of Europe and parts of North Africa, West Asia, and North America. Wild asparagus has a much thinner stalk than the grocery-store variety. It’s a great source of source of vitamin C, thiamine, potassium and vitamin B6. Eat it raw or boil it like you would your asparagus at home.
An elderberry shrub can grow easily grow about 10 feet and yield tons of food, their leaf structure is usually 7 main leaves on a long stretched out stem, the leaves are long and round and the leaves themselves have jagged edges. These are easiest to identify in the spring as they blossom white clustered flowers that resembles an umbrella. Mark the spot and harvest the berries when they’re ripe around September.
Elderberries are known for their flu and cold healing properties, you can make jelly from them and are very sweet and delicious.
These are also common in the woods in northern Missouri, the branches are grey and have long red thorns, and the leaves are bright green and have 5 points, they have rounded edges and look similar to the shape of a maple leaf. The flowers in the spring are very odd looking, they are bright red and hang down, the berries ripen around late May early June.
Mulberry leaves have two types, one spade shape and a 5 fingered leaf. Both have pointed edges.
There are over a hundred different species of pine. Not only can the food be used as a supply of nourishment but, also can be used for medicinal purposes. Simmer a bowl of water and add some pine needles to make tea. Native americans used to ground up pine to cure skurvy, its rich in vitamin C.
Pretty much the entire plant is edible and is also known for medicinal values. The leaves can be eaten raw, steam or boiled. The root can be eaten as well. (like all herbs, pregnant women and breast-feeding woman should consult a physician first before use)
You can find this plant in many parts of the country, These are not tigerlilys or easterlilys (which are toxic), a daylily is completely safe to eat. Daylilys have bright orange flowers that come straight out of the ground, their main stock/stem has no leaves so that’s your confirmation that it’s a day lily, if you see an orange six-petal flower like this one that has a bear stem (no leaves) it’s a daylily. You can eat them whole or cook them or put them in salads.
The trees mature around 20-30 ft, some can grow up to 100 ft tall. The leaves are bright green and long, smooth edges and the peacans themselves are grown in green pods and when ripe the pods open and the seeds fall to the ground.
Hazelnut trees are short and tend to be around 12-20 ft tall, the leaves are bright green and have pointed edges, the hazelnuts themselves grown in long strands of pods and generally ripen by September and October.
Walnut trees are the most recognisable and the tallest nut tree in North America, they can range from 30-130 feet tall. The leaf structure is very similar to the peacan, the leaves are spear like and grow on a long stem 6-8 leaves on both sides. The leaves edges are smooth and green. The walnuts tend to grow in clusters and ripen in the fall.
Acorns can tend to be bitter, they are highly recognisable as well, they should be eaten cooked and a limited amount.
Hickory nut trees can grow about 50-60 ft tall, their green leaves are spear like and can grow very large, they have pointed edges. The hickory nut is round and ten to ripen in September or October.
Known as cattails or punks in North America and bullrush and reedmace in England, the typha genus of plants is usually found near the edges of freshwater wetlands. Cattails were a staple in the diet of many Native American tribes. Most of a cattail is edible. You can boil or eat raw the rootstock, or rhizomes, of the plant. The rootstock is usually found underground. Make sure to wash off all the mud. The best part of the stem is near the bottom where the plant is mainly white. Either boil or eat the stem raw. Boil the leaves like you would spinach.
Edible parts: Flowers, leaves, roots and seeds. Leaves can be eaten in any season, when the weather gets hot, the leaves will have a taste bitter. Flowers can be chopped and tossed into salads. The roots can be collected in early spring and again in late fall, when no flower stalks are present. Garlic mustard roots taste very spicy somewhat like horseradish…. yummy! In the fall the seed can be collected and eaten.
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