How To Determine If A Wild Plant Is Edible

The Universal Edibility Test

Yes, you have your bug-out-bag packed with survival food ration, but that can run out, especially in an unforeseen circumstance where you are stuck in the wilderness for weeks or more. This is when you need to know what wild plants are edible; this survival skill would save your life.

Well, in an ideal scenario, we would learn all about the wild plants that we can eat and memories them by heart right? But this is just not going to happen in real life, unless you practice this skill frequently. And it is a lot harder to do in emergency situations.

There are lots of poisonous plants that resemble edible ones, so depending on visual identification are not going to do it. Even though it’s a good idea to memorize plants that are safe to eat, you should have the Universal Edibility Test knowledge too.

The Universal Edibility Test

There are quite a few steps to take in determining a plant’s edibility. The key idea here is to progressively introduce your body to the plant and monitor for reactions is any. This way, your body will not have a big negative reaction should the plant be poisonous, because you are taking in small portions of the plant.

Special Note:
Never attempt to eat wild mushrooms unless you can identify those with 100% certainty. There are an abundance of poisonous wild mushrooms in the wilderness. You could risk getting diarrhea and dehydrate yourself that could cause death. Not worth the risk!

Fast For 8 Hours

In order for the Universal Edibility Test to work effectively, you first need to go through an 8 hour fast. This includes not eating and drinking purely purified water.

Cut The Plant Into Parts

  1. Leaves
  2. Flowers
  3. Stalks/Stems
  4. Seeds
  5. Roots

This is because some parts of the a plant can be eaten are other parts can be poisonous. A good example would be Rhubarbs. Rhubarb leaves are toxic, but its stalk is perfectly edible.

Rub Plant Onto Skin

This is to test if there is reaction to your skin within 8 hours of the process. If there’s no reaction then, the plant has passed the step 3 test. But for this to work properly, you need to crush the roots and stalks until juice oozes off of them, before rubbing onto your skin.

Note: The Universal Edibility Test is not foolproof. Stinging nettles, for example causes a tingly reaction when come in contact with our skin, but are also well-known edible wild plants that are highly nutritious when cooked.

Cook Plant Parts

Where possible, cook the plant parts in small portions. You can test them raw, but it’s always better to first cook them to avoid digestive system problems.

Test Plant Against Lips

Test the cut out parts of the plant (raw or cooked) but putting them one at time against the lips for 3 minutes. If there are tingly reactions or swelling, then discard that part of the plant.

Plant In Mouth For 15 Minutes

But do not attempt to chew it! Let it fill your mouth and hold it there for 15 minutes and if there are no reactions, then proceed to the next step in chewing the plant. It is critical that you do not chew it in the first 15 minutes alright.

Chew The Plant

Chew on the plant for 15 minutes, without swallowing it. This will be tough to do especially when you are already starving. The plant is so small at this point that it is going to be difficult to not swallow, but you have got to give it your best – as your survival is on the line here!

You Can Now Swallow The Plant

You can now swallow the plant that you have been chewing for the last 15 minutes, but will need to wait for the next 8 hours to determine if there are negative reactions.

Eat ¼ Cup Plant

You can proceed to eat roughly a ¼ cup of the plant if you do not experience bad reactions from the previous step, be it raw or cooked.

Wait For 8 Hours

You will need to wait for 8 hours after the above. Should you feel sick or if a rash develops, then you have to wait for another eight hours before proceeding with the test on another part of the plant.

Test Plants That Are Likely To Be Non-Poisonous First

The Universal Edibility Test can take more than 24 hours to perform with the fasting duration included. So I’m sure you’ll agree to start testing on plants that you think is most likely non-poisonous first. Leave the mushrooms if any, for last.

With that note, here are a few guidelines in identifying likely poisonous plants. As mentioned earlier, avoid mushrooms. It’s just too risky. Also stay away from plants with leaves that shiny, plants with yellowish and white sap, plants with thorns, plants with seeds in a pod, plants with a soapy taste and definitely avoid plants that shape like an umbrella.

Now, these are not full proof rules and definitely do not apply to all the plants. They are a; better to be safe than never rule alright, I mean when your survival is at stake, why risk it 😉

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