Wild Strawberries

Finding Edible Plants in a Survival Situation

As I have written before about survival situations, shelter, warmth, and water should be your first priorities.  A human can go a long time without food, but not without the other three.  However, in addition to the obvious physical benefits of food, even the ability to find small morsels to eat is a great boost to your morale.  While there are way too many edible plants to talk about in this article, I can give you some general guidance that should help you if the need arises.

First of all, if you frequent a general area for your outdoor pursuits, it is well worth the time to learn what edible plants, nuts, and fruits are available in that area.  This at least narrows the scope of knowledge you need to learn, because it is a very lengthy topic.  At the same time, you should learn what not to eat (one general rule of thumb is don’t eat plants that have a milky white substance or white berries).  Since you are in that area frequently, it gives you plenty of opportunities to find these edible items and try eating them at times when you don’t need to. If you are travelling on an adventure to a new place, learn what you can about edible items in that area by doing research.  In addition to being able to identify edible plants, fruits and nuts, you need to learn at what times of the year they are available and most edible.

I wrote an article a while back about acorns in which I described bringing home some acorns from Kansas and treating them with water to get the acid out of them.  It was a very involved process, and not one I would recommend in a survival situation unless you have a lot of time.  However, since then I have learned a lot more about acorns, and different acorns have different qualities for edibility, so I wouldn’t rule out acorns in general.  My point is that you need to learn about what is available in your area and understand how to prepare that food.  The acorns on scrub oak here in Colorado are quite different than those found in Kansas.


Service Berries

Studying food sources has been something I have been researching for a long time, but it always seemed to be just too much to learn from a book.  So what I did was I picked a few things that are abundant in the area I spend the most time in, and I really focused on those few items until I built a level of confidence that gave me comfort knowing I could find things to eat if I had to.  That is what you should do with the areas you frequent in your outdoor time, otherwise you will be overwhelmed just picking up a book or doing research on the general topic.

For the area I spend most of my time, the Rocky Mountains, Service Berry shrubs are abundant and generally easy to find.  There are also plenty of pine trees which have edible cones and buds for making tea.  In early summer there are dandelions in open meadows in the mountains, and a little later there are wild strawberries in shady, grassy areas.  It’s a little tougher in the fall when I am hunting, but clover is abundant, which the entire plant, including the root, is edible.  There are also acorns, and plenty of bracken (ferns).


Mountain Clover

My advice for building your survival skills is to learn what edible items are available in the area you go the most, or are most likely to need them.  Become proficient at finding a few of them, and don’t try to learn everything, or you will forget most of it when you need it the most.  The most important rule is; don’t eat something if you aren’t sure what it is.  There is a method for eating plants you aren’t sure about, but the process takes hours and is very risky, so I am not going to talk about that.  Start learning now, every time you go out in the woods look for things, and try it out.