I don’t care how prepared you are. Whether you own a fully stocked bunker 500 feet below the surface that used to be a missile silo, or if you consider prepping to be a generator, 5 gallons of gas and some canned vegetables, there is always a chance that you will have to light out on foot with nothing but the clothes on your back. What then? You aren’t a cow and you can’t eat grass, but there are a lot of things in the woods and in the fields that you can eat for survival. The trick is knowing what is good and what is bad, and don’t that in advance.
When I first started working in the ranching regions of Florida, I was told that a common tree here is called the “cabbage palm.” Ok. The locals call palm trees “cabbages,” as in, “over by that cabbage.” Come to find out later that what they are referring to is the stuff you see in cans called “hearts of palm.” These are the palm trees from which they come, and they are all over south Florida. You can basically saw up a palm tree, cut into cookable pieces, and either boil or steam them to eat. They taste kinda like cabbage, and you won’t find a family cookout in these parts that doesn’t include a big pot of boiled cabbages. I have been reading edible plant books for years, but I had never heard of the “cabbage palm.”
What I took from that is that the encyclopedic books of edible wild plants are for the most part useless. Likewise the modern survival magazines that you see on the supermarket magazine rack these days. Out of a dozen plants, or a hundred plants they might give you, with one picture each and no experience you’ll be hard pressed to find anything at all to eat that is local to you. Edible wild plants are all about local, and if you want to expect to survive, you really have to do your own research and go out into the woods, fields, or whatever and go find some food.
The low budget and almost guaranteed way to do this is by using the power of the internet. Search Google for “[your state] edible wild plants.” Some of you are saying “well duh of course tell me something I didn’t know.” But have you ever done that before? Now that you see, for most of you anyway, that there are whole websites devoted to the subject for your state, or even your region, aren’t you glad I mentioned it?
The trick is to now take the time and go out and find them. You can’t go by the maps that they say the stuff grows. According to the FDA map, wood sorrel (Oxalis L.), is native to all of North America, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen it. The Florida Plant Atlas shows it growing all over the state in several varieties, and one variety is in almost every county. If I ever find it, I can eat it, yay, but unless I get out and start looking for it, talking to local ranchers, etc., wood sorrel is completely useless to me.
There are also a number of compendiums per state and region. But again, if you search “edible wild plants” at Amazon, there are over 3,600 listings, most of them international compendiums of dubious value for survival. Narrow your search to “edible plants new hampshire” and you’ll get books that are just for the northeast. Narrow your search to “edible plants north dakota” and you’ll get “Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie,” which should be fairly useful if you live there. Don’t be shy. When there is a glut of information, finding the key search words is the way you find what you want. And use those Amazon reviews! With over 3,000 titles, most of them are going to be useless fluff.
There is also a series of books by one author, Steven Golieb, called “The Practical Guide to
Eating Wild Plants
Other than cabbage palm, I can’t speak for eating wild plants myself. This article wasn’t meant to be a guide as much as it is a wake up call to all of us as to how woefully unprepared we are to survive in the wild. Ideally I hope to figure out what is what my next trip out to the cow pastures, and maybe we’ll follow this up with some recipes lol. Nobody wants to think about having to survive, let alone surviving with your “stuff.” But as I have explained now to several of my family and friends who refuse to take their heads out of the sand, when it comes time to die of starvation, (as so many people will heartily explain is their preference to prepping now), you won’t want to die. Nobody wants to die when it comes, and though we all die (anyone have a vampire you can hook me up with?), if you know that a storm is coming, isn’t some preparation prudent? With wars all over the globe ramping up now, constant government lies about everything from the economy to climate change, and even brazen abuses of power that clearly spell out that something is coming, isn’t prudent at this juncture …prudent? Help wake someone else up today. Maybe something will change.