Let’s pretend you’re stranded in the wild. You went out on an adventure and were sure to pack enough food – however now that you’ve gotten lost and have eaten through all your snacks you’re starting to get hungry. You know that you can’t survive without food and nutrients. At this point your main choices are to either hunt, kill, and cook your next meal or find plants that are safe to eat and will provide enough calories.
It is definitely an option to find an animal that is edible but that involves a lot of tasks. Hunting, creating a weapon, skinning, and safely preparing the meat are all things you will need to do before you would even be able to enjoy your meal.
However, if you already have the knowledge of what plants are edible and which are not you are going to have a much easier time. We’ve told you about plants that can be deadly if ingested. We’ve also told you that if you are unsure if a plant is dangerous that you shouldn’t eat it. Only ingest plants that you are sure are safe for consumption. The consequences of eating a plant that is not deemed safe can be pretty horrific.
Amaranth is a naturally occurring weed found all over the world. Although it is native to the Americans it can be found on numerous continents. The younger the leaves the better, once they mature they will start to lose their color. These leaves are known to contain oxalic acid so if you are prone to kidney stones you may not want to eat too many of these. Younger amaranth leaves have less oxalic acid so this is why it is best to eat newly grown plants.
If you are only able to find mature amaranth and do not have any other options for food you may consider boiling the leaves. Although this will remove a lot of the nutrients and minerals as well it is known to also reduce the oxalic acid level. Be sure you are not consuming the water that was boiled with the leaves as the acid will now be in the water.
Amaranth is actually considered a superfood because it is so chock full of vitamins and minerals. In fact, it has about twice the amount of vitamin C as spinach does. In addition, the leaves actually tend to look similar to spinach. You may also see them with a purple hue in the center of the leaf.
Did you know that asparagus naturally grows in many parts of North American, North Africa, West Asia, and Europe? You probably won’t find asparagus with thick stalks as you would at the grocery store. Naturally growing asparagus will look the same but the stalks will be a lot skinnier. Just like you would do at home, you can eat the asparagus raw or boil it so it becomes a bit softer. Although it may make your urine smell a bit funny it is a great source of vitamins, nutrients such as vitamins B, C, and potassium.
Native to the Eastern Hemisphere, this large-sized plant with large leaves tends to have a purplish hue to its thistle-like flower heads. It is actually a common food in Japanese culture. You can eat the peeled stalks and the leaves raw or they can be boiled to soften.
The leaves are known to be pretty bitter so boiling them may be the best option. The roots of this plant are also edible. Peel them and boil them for the best outcome. Boiling any type of plant or leaf will help to reduce the flavor. Use this method if what you are eating has a distinct or potent flavor.
Cattails are known all around North America to be the plants that you see growing on the sides of creeks and other waterways. These plants are safe to eat and many parts of the plant can be ingested. You can eat the roots of this plant, just be sure to clean off all the dirt and mud since they will be found underground. You can also consume the stem as well. The best-tasting part of the stem is down near the bottom where it is more white than green, however, all parts of the stem can be ingested. The leaves can also be ingested raw or boiled.
You can actually, as surprising as it may seem, eat the female flower spike. This is the part of the cattail that looks like a corn dog. When the plant is still young you can eat the flower spike as if it is an ear of corn. It’s been said that it actually tastes quite a bit like corn on the cob as well.
Luckily for you, clovers can be found all over the world. They tend to show up in large grassy areas and where there’s one there’s many. Clovers can be eaten raw but, like most other plants, they are best when boiled. You’ll recognize a clover by the signature shape of its three leaves. In case you think you couldn’t get any luckier, clovers can actually be consumed from root to blossom. Every single part of this plant is edible. Find your favorite tasting part and get munching.
Europe, North America, and Australia have chicory. The entire plant is edible. You can eat the tall stems, buds, and branches of this bushy plant. You can also eat the roots, but again, they are best when boiled. The leaves are also safe for consumption. You can actually pop off the lavender and blue flowers from this plant and eat those as a snack as well. Ground chicory roots are also used as a coffee substitute. Dissolve about 2 tablespoons in a cup of boiling water. It will have an earthy or woodsy flavor, similar to coffee, but it contains no caffeine.
Although chickweed is only found in temperate and arctic zones these small plants are full of vitamins and minerals. The small green leaves, as well as the tiny white flowers, can be eaten. Chickweed is so plentiful that once you find some you’ll be able to get several meals out of it. Ironically, this plant does not do well once refrigerated – hence why it has never made it into the grocery stores. Eating it fresh is the only way to be sure it is still good.
Curled Dock can be found on numerous continents. It’s pretty easy to spot due to its bright red stalk that can reach heights up to three feet. The stalk can be eaten, just be sure to peel off the outer layers first. In addition, you can eat the leaves if you’re feeling brave. They’re extremely bitter so you may need to boil them. It’s actually recommended to change out the water several times while boiling to help get rid of the bitter taste.
I’m sure you’ve seen dandelions filling your fields or yards. Depending on their maturity they are either a golden yellow or they’ve made the switch to white. Did you know you can safely eat these weeds? Sure, they are pretty obnoxious to have in your yard but they could literally save your life. All parts of this plant are edible.
It’s recommended to boil the leaves and stem due to its bitter taste, but that’s not necessary. The roots can also be ingested. The flower, when it’s yellow, can be eaten as well. It has a sweet taste and is actually able to be made into syrup or wine. Once the dandelion has matured and has turned to white you could still technically eat it, but I’m not sure why you would want to.
This particular weed can be found all over the world. It’s most common in late spring through early winter. Both the seeds and the leaves are edible. The only thing you should be mindful of is that the field pennycress is known to be a hyperaccumulator. This means that it absorbs the minerals from the ground it’s growing from at a much higher rate. If you aren’t sure whether the soil that the pennycress is growing is contaminated or not you may want to steer clear. Do not ingest field pennycress if you find it growing near a landfill or dumping ground. You should also be wary if its on the side of the road.
Fireweed is easy to spot due to its purple flower and unique flower formation. Many Native American tribes include fireweed into their diets. This plant is thought to taste best when the leaves are tender and young. Once the leaves mature they become tough and bitter.
You can also eat the stalk of the plant. The flowers can also be consumed but they have a peppery taste to them. Firewood is a great source of vitamins A and C.
The broad-leaf plantain plant, not to be confused with the banana-like plantain, is found all over the world. They are most common in wet areas. If I had to guess I’d say you’ve seen this plant but just didn’t know that it had a name. Their leaves are oval and ribbed. Like most other plants on this list, the leaves are best when they are young. Once they mature they become bitter. Plantains are chock full of vitamins A, C, Iron, and Calcium. If you are hoping to eat more than just the leaves of these plants then you’re in luck, sort of. If you want to boil the stems of the plantain plant you can but you’ll need to remove the shoot before eating. Do this by putting the shoot in your mouth, clenching your teeth down, and pulling out the stem. What you are really eating are the plantain seeds.
Prickly Pear Cactus
If you’re stranded in the desert you should probably try to find the prickly pear cactus. These plants are not only nutritious but tasty as well. The fruit of these plants look like a pear, hence the name, but they are either red or purplish. In case you aren’t sure what you’re looking for as far as the fruit, prickly pear cacti have rounded “leaves” or pads. The leaves are green and their spikes on them are brown. Just be sure to pick off any of the little spiny parts before ingesting. Although they won’t do any real damage it will just feel like you’re crunching on a porcupine. I’ve been told you can also eat the stems of this cactus as well.
Most commonly known to be an obnoxious weed in North America, this plant can also be nutritious. In fact, Gandhi actually named it to be one of his favorite foods! Purslane is a small plant with fat leaves. They are usually growing from the start of summer to the fall. You’ve probably caught these plants crawling up through the crack in the concrete. Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, the leaves are sour and refreshing, but if you don’t want the sour flavor then of course you can boil them instead.
White mustard can be found all over the world. All parts of the plant can be ingested. The seed, the flowers, and the leaves can be consumed. Some people might tell you not to eat this plant, as it is known to cause upset stomachs in cattle. I’d say it’s safe to eat with caution. Don’t eat it for your entire time, if possible, but it can certainly help you get in those extra vitamins and minerals.
Particularly found in South America, but can be found all over the world, wood sorrel has been used for centuries. It has been used for medicinal purposes. The Kiowa Indians used to chew on the stems to help with dehydration. The Cherokees used the leaves to heal mouth sores. The leaves are a fantastic source of vitamin C. The roots of this plant can also be eaten. They have been said to be starchy and almost have a potato taste to them.
Hopefully, you are always prepared with enough food and water and don’t ever really need to use this information. However, it can be very resourceful depending on your situation. These plants can be used for survival in a very literal sense. Knowing which plants around you are safe to ingest and which are not will be the difference between life and death.