Food is a great thing. I like it, sometimes too much. However, food is often scarce in a crisis setting, and choices are limited. Knowing edible plants – where you live – may help fill the nutrition gap between a disaster and a return to normalcy.
First, before we start, don’t forget – if you don’t have water, don’t eat. You can live a long time without food but only days without water. Eating when there is no water will accelerate dehydration.
Many plants are edible, including the dandelion in the video below. However, many plants are not edible. In fact, some plants are deadly toxic. Given this, do not eat any plant unless you know (positively) that it is not poisonous. It isn’t worth the risk, especially in a short survival situation.
If, however, you want to learn about edible plants – understand that plants are indigenous to the area they grow in. In other words, plants found in Southern California most likely aren’t the same as plants found in Maine. So, plants learned in one place will unlikely translate to an edible source in another. There are a few exceptions, and these include grass (avoid seeds that are purple or black as they are contaminated with a fungus that will make you sick), cattail, plantain, dandelion, pine tree cambium, and if close to the coastline, green seaweed. Of course, there are more, but this is a good start. The grass is everywhere; cattail tends to be found in moist low-lying areas, swamps, or marshes; dandelion and plantain can be found in yards, where the ground has been disturbed, and so on.
In this blog post, Dr. Greg Davenport discovers dandelion, plantain, and grass while walking his dog in a local field.
Remember, if you can’t identify the edibility of a plant, don’t eat it. This is especially true in a short-lived disaster setting where rescue is expected within 72 hours or less. Save the plant edibility test (a discussion for another day) for a long-term survival event, perhaps beyond one to two weeks.
When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and avoid eating plant material that may not be safe. Don’t take unnecessary risks, and always prioritize your health and well-being.
Knowing how to identify edible plants is vital for anyone who spends time in nature. This knowledge will become a valuable tool should long-term survival ever be an issue.
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