Would you survive without food in the wild? It’s not a pleasant situation to think about, but it’s possible in the great outdoors. If it happens, would you know where to start?
Probably not. Most plants you can eat in the wild are a long way from supermarket pretty produce. Train your brain on what to look for in a wilderness emergency with the list below.
Plants You Can Eat in the Wild
Before we get into detail, there are a few key rules to outdoor plant eating. First, don’t eat anything that doesn’t attract animal attention. Berries are a good example.
If there isn’t evidence of birds around a berry bush, stay far away. Second, it’s safer if you cook it. If you have the ability, boil any edible plants you find.
If you can’t, a little dirt won’t kill you (hopefully).
This Japanese native plant is large with big leaves and thistle-like purple flowers. The stems of this large plant grow in an outward, almost star-like pattern with bigger leaves at the bottom.
These leaves (whatever size) are edible. Snack on them raw or boil them if you’re able. If you’re really hungry, the stalk is edible either raw or cooked, but peel it first.
If you’re from or spend time in the southeast, you’re probably familiar with cattails. These strangely shaped stalks and fruit are edible, as well as the leaves.
The root is also edible, but make sure to get all the dirt off. You can enjoy this natural corndog delicacy raw or cooked.
If you happen upon the fruit (corndog) in early summer, it’s said to taste like corn on the cob. In fact, the Native Americans would eat it like we eat modern-day corn on the cob.
And hey, if you like to freak people out you can tell them you survived on cat in the wild. Their tails that is…
Martha Stewart made plant famous by making salads out of it during her short stint in prison. Turns out, she knew what she was doing. You could even say she made that weed famous.
The entire Dandelion plant is edible, the roots, leaves, and flower. Younger leaves taste best, but mature leaves will sustain you in a pinch. Just expect them to be bitter.
Be careful with Dandelion root, however, in certain amounts, it can act as a laxative. The last thing you need is dehydrating diarrhea while you’re stranded.
If you’re stranded in the fall, cook up a small batch of acorns. The common oak tree seeds, sometimes called oak nuts, have edible meat inside.
However, this is not the tastiest of plants you can eat in the wild, so proceed with caution. If you have access to water, soaking them for a few hours will make them less bitter.
The soak also releases tannic acid, which can make you nauseous in large amounts. No one said emergency survival would be pretty.
The leaves, flowers, and roots of this natural roughage are all edible, though bitter in hot climates. It usually grows abundant in patches and makes a nice salad.
Cut up the leaves and stems, perhaps mixed with some dandelion leaves. Garnish with a few of it’s peeled roots (boiled if possible) for a chestnut-like flavor.
In regards to recognition, miners lettuce looks like small lily pads. They look like the smaller versions of plants you’d cut with weed razers. Their small, white flowers bloom dead center and grow to about calf height.
Not an ingredient in marshmallows, Mallow leaves are edible none-the-less. Their soft leafy greens taste great in salad and could replace lettuce in a pinch.
The pods are edible while they’re soft and the leaves taste great cooked like spinach. Mallow is one of the plants you can eat in the wild that people willingly eat in non-emergency situations.
So if you’re lucky enough to find it, chow down!
If you find yourself in the southwest, find yourself a prickly pear cactus. They are low(er) to the ground cacti, with flat spine-covered stems.
The red, purplish small pear-like shape that grows atop the cacti is edible. Enjoy this desert delicacy like you would a pear.
If you stumble upon a wild grapevine, color us jealous. Not only can you make awesome foot-stomped grape juice, but the leaves are edible too.
You can eat the leaves raw, but they taste better boiled. The Greek even eat stuff the boiled leaves with rice and call them dolmades.
The most ecologically harmful of our plants you can eat in the wild, is the southern predator, Kudzu.
The invasive species smothers trees and plants, but at least it’s edible. It even boasts anti-inflammatory and headache curing uses.
If you’re in a human-touched area, be careful. Since the vines are harmful, they are often sprayed with herbicides.
Probably the prettiest of all the plants you can eat in the wild, the orange flower is edible. You could chew on the opened leaves in a pinch, but the pre-flowered buds are best.
If you have them growing in your backyard, you can stuff the bud with goat cheese and fry them up. They taste delicious. Otherwise, treat it like any other vegetable.
A Final Word
Though mother nature provides many plants you can eat in the wild that will sustain you, prevention is still the best medicine. When you’re going out in the wild, make sure someone always knows where you are.
If you’re going backpacking for a long period of time, schedule check in points where you pass civilization. Finally, do your best to stay on the trail.
We hope you never have to us this article’s content, but now you know what plants you can eat in the wild just in case.
Did we miss your favorite nature nom? Leave a suggestion in the comments.