By: Heaven Bassett

You went camping, and you’re hungry. The granola bars have run out, and your stomach is growling as it’s been 24 hours since you ate those hot dogs. You planned your trip well, you thought, but now you’re lost. Which way did you come from; which, direction should you head? It’s getting late.

You know better than to follow through on your guesses, and wander away. You are smart enough to stay put and wait for help, rather than travel deeper into the wildlife abyss. You also don’t know when help will arrive.

This is the time to enter that mental storage cabinet of your mind, and use your resources for sustenance. If the “What is Safe to Eat” folder is empty, this might be of service to you.

Foraging is a temporary fix, so don’t plan on a well-balanced diet that’ll give you six-pack abs. This is about maintaining enough energy until a better solution comes your way. It’s best, as it is in all aspects of consumption, to think safe not desperate. A hungry grab at the wrong plant isn’t like eating stale chips. It’s dangerous, and your body will let you know, but by then, it could be too late. So, it’s important to follow these rules:

  • Do not eat with a guess. If you don’t know it, don’t trust it. Stranger danger works for plants, too.
  • Mushrooms are a wildlife Russian Roulette, with more than one bullet loaded. Go to a grocery store to satisfy your mushroom-loving taste buds.
  • Just like your mother said when she took you to the grocery store, “Stop touching everything.” Think through your actions, and know where you put your hands.
  • Know your allergies, plants are notorious villains in this subject.
  • Almonds and Cyanide have a similar smell. If that plant brings a delicious almond to mind as it passes by your sniffer, drop it, and wash your hands immediately.

Plants can poison through contact, ingestion, or inhalation. If you’re stressed about that… good. That means you might pay attention. There are no blanket rules to cover all plants. For example: Leaves of three, let it be, is not true for all plants. The best defense and proactive solution is learning about what plants are in your area. Common plants for your area will be dependent on your weather. In humid climates, they will more often be in the open. However, in dry climates, you’ll find common plants near water sources. Memorize the plants in those areas, and you’ll likely come across them when it’s time to eat for survival.

For now, here are some common edible plants in the United States that might just save your life.

  • Dandelions.

Yep, those pesky weeds you fight all summer just to battle again the next, are safe to eat from root to tip. Get this, they are good for you too. Now, don’t go outside and start playing goat to your grass. You can’t trust household pesticides exposures; but, under safe growth, these weeds are a source of Vitamin A, a solvent to digestion issues, and have a history of medicinal properties for much more nefarious diseases. So, if you find yourself needing sustenance in the wild, dandelions are a wonderful find.

You’ll want to avoid the fiber bits, but the white bottoms and the stalks are edible. Cattails are as common as they are nutrient rich. When I say rich, I mean rolling in the healthy body dough. Cattails, are safe to eat raw, and provide potassium, vitamin C, and a stew of other goodies. These plants are not for gluten-sensitive individuals.

 Did you know the blossoms on clovers are part of the pea-family? Get this, clovers are stacked with protein; which, you’ll need to survive. Protein is essential in a survival situation for energy. Clovers aren’t just lucky from folklore, they could be your saving grace. Clover have vitamins B and C, but that doesn’t mean the taste will have you leaping over the rainbow. You’ll have to choke these suckers down. Try boiling them, and skip the brown blossoms, to make it a bit more palatable. However, eat clovers fresh, or completely dried. Do not ferment them, and steer clear of the white blossom clovers. White blossom clovers are safe in colder climates, but due to evolution, the same white blossom clovers can contain cyanide.

  • Berries, a trickster, but delicious.

Firstly, don’t put a berry in your mouth that you can’t identify, you’re better off hungry.

 White, green, and yellow berries are most often poisonous. Red berries are a problem half of the time, so that’s a no-go. Black and blue berries are safe 90 percent of the time, but what you really want are aggregated berries. Aggregate berries are small bits of fruit that join at the base. Think raspberry and strawberry style.

As a bonus to this food-survival guide, here’s the quick-steps to make an impromptu tea out of your carefully chosen plants. Happy foraging!

  1. Collect, wash, and chop.
  2. Steep about one tablespoon per cup of boiling water for ten minutes.
  3. Cool, and enjoy.