Part of the lesson from the covid-19 pandemic this year is to make us aware of the importance of mastering the basic life skill knowledge to support our life. One of them is the knowledge on how to identify edible wild plants. Its skill is one of the basic abilities that everyone must-have.
From one of the survival training that I have joined for 5 days, actually, food foraging is the last priority after positive mental attitudes, emergency first aid, shelter, fire, signaling, and water. But the knowledge is still needed because survival mode is an unpredictable situation and no one willing to be in that situation. By mastering all priorities, it will increase the chance we can get out of the survival situation safely.
These survival priorities above were made by the logical reason based on the rule of three when we are in the survival situation. We will collapse when: 3 minutes without breathable oxygen, 3 hours exposed to extreme condition/harsh environment (heat or cold), 3 days without drinkable water, and 3 weeks without food.
Food foraging from plants is easier than from animals. The reason is, we didn’t need energy when we collecting food from plants, because they are static. Meanwhile, the animal is moving and need extra energy to catch them (even just making trap). Talking about how to identify edible wild plants, actually, people usually use the general rule of thumb as the first step.
Rule of thumb on How To Identify Edible Wild Plants
When we know that leaves or fruits eat by an animal, it means most likely we can eat it also. But when we smell an unpleasant odor, usually that is a bad sign, just find others. Simple poisonous test by placing a piece of plant part on your inner elbow/wrist. If you feel your skin burns or itches, just leave it.
But when the test above is passed, just put it in your lip. Wait till 15 minutes. If OK, continue with a small bite and just keep it in your mouth for also for 15 minutes. When you feel nothing, you can eat it in a small portion and wait for the reaction in your stomach. Finally If OK, you can repeat to eat it. Do not eat in a big portion. Just bit by bit. Eat many species but all in small amounts. Our stomach is need adjustments. And it will easier when we give the stomach with diverse food.
Edible is not always tasty
When I have a discussion about edible plants, most peoples thinking about good/tasty to eat. In fact, many edible plants are not tasty. They are just edible and not poisonous to humans. For all tasty flower you can in while you are in the wild, you can see here
From another discussion forum, people also mention about some chemicals compound which has a negative effect for people health when they consume in the large amount. In my opinion, survival is an emergency situation and our goal is just don’t die.
Best way to identify edible wild plants
In my opinion, mastering plant identification knowledge requires a process. Especially for people who didn’t have a background in biology, they will find some difficulties especially in understanding the term and memorize the plant’s name (local and Latin). Below are some methods on How to identify edible wild plants:
Apps from google which use image recognition technology. Google as a company, has huge storage and develop algorithms to recognize the object. So far google lens is powerful enough to identify the plants. Just installed it from the apps store and you can directly use it. In some conditions it still confusing because of the image availability or the plants is too specific. But in the digital era, google lens is one of the apps you should have on your mobile phone.
Field guide book
You can choose your self which book is suitable for your need (physical or e-book). Some books contain general information about the plants, not specific on plants usually you find in your area. Available books usually completed with nice picture and illustration about edible information
Join with course (offline or online)
You can find practical botany courses based on your need. The course is divided by the basic or for beginner till expert level. The Digital era also facilitates us to find the course worldwide by using some platforms, such as zoom, google meet, skype, or others.
Learn directly from expert
Just plan to go hiking with an expert. When you have contact with an expert you are a lucky person. An expert can be peoples who have a formal educational background on biology or botany, or practitioner who dedicate their life on food foraging, or local people who used to collecting food from nature or peoples who has knowledge from their local tradition about food from wild.
From four methods above, local people is the most effective one. You can easily visit them periodically. Just make an appointment, bring your book note, camera, and empty space to learn from them. Based on my experience, when you have 3-4 interactions and hike or explore the same area with them, you already have good knowledge on how to identify edible wild plants in that area. Then move to other areas with other local people to continue your learning process
always love to learn from nature. Passionate on studying plants in some aspects: the DNA, Identification, propagation, and their uses