Wild Edible Safety TestLive Fire Gear
If you’ve seen the movie “Into the Wild” than you know just how tragic improper plant identification can be. That poor guy died a horrific slow and painful death due to improper plant identification! Wild edibles are probably the most challenging aspect of survival. Many plants have poisonous look a likes or poisonous parts and edible parts. I have read and explored and still question whether I am identifying a plant correctly. Another common misconception with wild edibles is, it’s safe for human consumption if animals can consume it. NO! That is simply not true. Many animals have a digestive system that is resistant to toxins that could be harmful and/or fatal to humans. The bottom line is- if you are NOT 100% certain of a plants identity and safety-DO NOT EAT IT!!!!!
If you’re in a TRUE survival situation-meaning real life or death- there is what is called “The Universal Edibility Test.” Although this test is suppose to be able to determine a plants safety, I honestly am still somewhat reluctant if I am not 100 percent certain of a plants identity and uses. But, I guess if I was starving and had no alternative food source, then I would probably choose to use the Universal Edibility Test. This test DOES NOT APPLY TO FUNGI.
How To Perform The Universal Edibility Test
Before doing this test, have a clean water source near by in case you need to wash your skin or flush out your mouth.
1) Avoid consuming anything for approximately 8 hours to ensure accurate results
2) Divide the plant in question into parts. Leaves, stems, flower, root.
3) Smell the parts for any foul, acidic or unusual odor. Sometimes crushing parts will release or strengthen any scent or acidic odors. If it smells odd or acidic, toss it. This is somewhat confusing to me because “what is the criteria for smelling unusual?” A lot of flowers smell pretty, but they are not edible, so I am unclear on how to define “smells unusual” other than smelling acidic.
4) Place a piece of the plant on the inside of your wrist or elbow for approximately 15 minutes and check for any adverse reaction such as a rash or blisters. Be sure not to place the sample on an open cut or scrape.
5) If there was no adverse reaction, move the piece to the outer portion of your lip for 3 to 5 minutes to check for burning or itching
6) If the lip check was good, move the piece to your tongue for approximately 15 minutes, without chewing
7) If that went well, start chewing but do not swallow. Chew and hold the broken down pieces for about 15 minutes
8) If your still showing no signs of adverse reaction then swallow. If you begin to feel ill in ANY way, induce vomiting and drink plenty of water. You should know within approximately 8 hours if it’s safe or not. If it’s safe, be sure to prepare it in the same manor as the test.
Some plants are easier to know to avoid due to certain characteristics they have.
1) Avoid any white or yellow berries. Yes red berries can be bad, however; some red berries are safe, such as those on the Manzanita tree. Manzanita berries are tastiest when purplish red. We have an abundance of Manzanita trees here in Northern California!
2) Avoid any type of bulb
3) Plants with barbed hairs on the leaves and/or stems
4) Any obvious dead or diseased looking plant
5) Three leaved structured plants
6) All plants with a milky white sap EXCEPT the dandelion. All parts of the dandelion are edible and frequently used in salads to brighten them up.The dandelion is also loaded with nutrients and makes a great tea. I have yet to try the dandelion, but I plan on it just to see what it tastes like.
7) Avoid any Almond scented plant. This scent indicates a cyanide compound. Eek!
8) Any fruit with fungus or mildew..obviously you want to avoid that!
9) Avoid plants growing near obviously polluted water
Well there you have it. I would still urge you to be as informed as possible before consuming any plant or berry. Blue and black colored berries are usually safe, however: nightshade has black berries and is deadly. So you can see how complex and dangerous wild edibles can be. Looking at pictures in a book is NOT fool proof. Please do your homework before eating anything in the wild.
Photo used with permission by M a n u e l