In a survival situation, food may not be your priority. However, as the crisis prolongs, food will become an important item on your survival list. You should not let yourself starve when there are all sorts of wild plants you could live on. Follow these tips for a successful foraging experience.
When the brown stuff hits the fan, many of your neighbors will rely on hunting or fishing to secure their meals. If you don’t have the right skill to fish or hunt, you can still make it out alive. Since the dawn of time, humans managed to survive with what nature had to offer. You may not have the skills for catching animals and be a good hunter, but you can still be a successful gatherer. When you have to source for your food, you will have to do some foraging if you lack the knowledge of hunting or fishing.
Scouting for food in the wild may seem easy at first, but foraging is more than walking around in the woods and spotting delicious berries. Some plants may be easily recognizable while others can easily be confused with their edible counterparts. The big disadvantage of foraging is that you can get poisoned if you don’t pay attention to what you’re picking or when trying out new foods.
Foraging requires a good knowledge of the environment and a little bit of practice in the wild. Even so, there are some helpful tips which can help anyone while foraging:
Stick with what you know
An experienced forager will be able to explore and discover new foods in his or her environment. However, you should stick with familiar food and keep your foraging to the food you’re familiar with. This statement may sound like common sense to you, but a lot of people tend to ignore it. While it may be true that a lot of plants in your area may be edible, there are also many poisonous foods you are unaware of. Sticking to what you know, may restrict your options for procuring food, but it will also reduce your chances of getting poisoned. You don’t want to deal with a case of poisoning when you are wandering in the wild.
Go easy with unfamiliar plants
Since most people are incapable of sticking to the above rule, they shouldn’t go overboard either. If you must go beyond the range of plants you’re familiar with, then you have to take some precautionary measures. Start by taking just a small portion to see how it affects your body. After 24 hours, you can make it part of your everyday meal if it didn’t cause you any adverse reactions. The last part of the article covers some suggestions on how to identify edible plants and test them.
Related reading: Foraging For Wild Foods This Fall, Just Like The Pioneers Did
Eat only what you can and don’t go the extra mile
The boy scouts have a saying that goes like this: “eat only what a bear can eat” and it’s applicable for every foraging trip you make. To put it in a few words, if a bear can’t eat a meal, then it’s probably not good for your body. This rule can help you avoid poisoning and keeps you target on familiar fruits and berries. However, foraging is also about conserving energy and working smart. It’s not worth it to go after pinecone seeds or dig for roots if the job takes a lot of time and you end up spending a lot of energy. Stick to easier foraging tasks and plants you can easily identify.
Do not harvest everything and leave some for later
When you are hungry, and you manage to find some foods that are nutritious, there is something that takes over you. Most people have a hard time controlling themselves, and they harvest all food at once. Rather than depleting your food source in one go and damaging the plants, learn to harvest the food bit by bit. By doing so, you will make sure it will last longer, and you have a backup plan if the crisis prolongs. Even more, you can take it one step further and plant the seeds or stem of the food in the vicinity of your campsite. You will be able to produce more food if you have to stay in an unfamiliar environment for a long time.
Don’t start foraging at night
Even experienced campers or survivalists get injured at night, and they avoid going out after sundown. You should do the smart thing and avoid going out to find food if you are stranded in an unfamiliar environment. You may encounter a wild animal or get lost on the way back to camp. Even a small injury can leave you incapacitated for a long time when you lack proper medical care. I stick to daytime foraging when I go to the woods, and I advise you to do the same.
Suggested article: How To Develop Night Vision For Survival
Pay attention to the competition
You’re not the only living thing that’s foraging for food out there. While this may not seem obvious at first, the delicious berries you are feasting on can also attract other animals. The last thing you want to happen is being devoured by a bear for picking a few berries. While this scenario may be an extreme one, you should know that even smaller animals can become a problem for your safety. A crazed raccoon can do a lot of damage if you corner it while a snake bite can seal your faith. Many people are clueless about wilderness navigation and they grab everything in sight before looking at the thing they are reaching for. Use caution and don’t shake the shrub like it’s the end of the world, the berries are not going anywhere.
Tips on how to identify edible plants during foraging
When it comes to identifying plants which are safe to eat, there are mainly two tests you can do. Even so, you shouldn’t do this unless you’re absolutely desperate and there’s no other way around it. These two quick tests can be done by anyone and can help you identify edible food from poisonous food. However, as I said before, you should avoid doing this if you have other ways of procuring food.
The skin contact test
This one is pretty simple, and it is done by placing some parts of the seed or leaf on your skin. You should leave it there for a few minutes and check for adverse reactions. If the spot start feeling itchy or you feel a burning sensation, then it means that the plant is very poisonous. Usually, three minutes should be enough to carry out this test. If you notice any reaction to the plant, leave it be and check out for other plants in the area.
The mouth test
This is a riskier one but is much more proficient than the first one. Many people got poisoned, after trying this either because they didn’t follow the rules or they picked the wrong plant.
To do this test, you should stop eating or drinking for at least 8 hours before the time you will perform the test. As a first step, you will need to place the leaf or edible part of the plant on your lip for 3 minutes. If you experience ant sensation which is not normal (burning, itching, etc.), then discard the plant immediately. If that’s not the case, you are in the clear to continue with the second part of the test. Place the leaf or edible part of the plant inside your mouth and hold it in place for 15 minutes. During this period, try not to swallow or ingest the plant. Once again, if you feel any abnormal sensations, spit out the food and rinse your mouth with water. If you’re in the clear, move to the final stage of the test. Chew the food and swallow it.
Wait for three hours at least after you swallow the food. If you feel any burning sensation during this time, you have to induce vomiting immediately.
Even if you tested the food and it turns out to be edible, you should avoid abusing it. Eat only small quantities and check for abnormal sensations. Most of the food will go through your system after 24 hours, and only then you will be able to see if you’re in the clear.
Although some plants can turn to be edible, some people can develop allergic reactions to it. If you notice any rash on your body or swelling of the face or limbs, avoid consuming the food that triggered the allergic reaction.
Take pictures with your phone and keep a journal. This action will help you identify the plant better and faster on your second trip, but it will also provide valuable information for others in case things turn wrong. If a rescue party comes and find you ill, they will know what you ingested and provide proper care.
Bring a field guide along. There are many pocket-size books, but also ebooks which can help you identify plants. These useful guides can help you make the right choice and settle your doubts when you’re out foraging for food.
A final word
Foraging for food is a complex skill that requires a lot of practice and experience. No matter how experienced you think you are, there’s always a situation where you can be put to the test. Learning to differentiate plants and pick the right ones is much more difficult during a survival situation. The high level of stress, the fatigue, and hunger, are all factors that can influence your actions. To be sure you’re not putting yourself in dangers, follow a simple rule: when in doubt, leave it be.