Foraging for Food

seyhun-serkan-akmak_2416363Way back before the agricultural revolution occurred, humanity existed as nomadic tribes of hunters and gatherers. The migration patterns of game and the season dictated where a tribe would live at any given time. With the innovations of agriculture and irrigation came permanent establishments for dwelling, farming, and production. Settlements stopped depending on gathering fruits and vegetables since they could now plant and grow them. Hunting became less important because we could raise and farm livestock for food. In a long chain of dominoes we arrive to today. We have the luxury of going to a grocery store and buying anything that we want to eat. We don’t have to raise it ourselves we can just buy it. Foraging for food and hunting are unnecessary skills for most people’s everyday life. What happens if an unnecessary skill becomes entirely necessary?

The hypothetical survival situations don’t apply to everyone. If you wake up everyday, go to work, and then go home, you probably never find yourself needing to know anything about survival. However, you don’t have to be going on mountaineering expeditions to benefit from a little survival know how. If you car camp or even plan on taking a road trip through a remote area, survival basics can prove to be helpful. You never plan on needing to know how to survive, but it’s better to be prepared in case the “what if” happens.

Right after water, food is the most important thing to survival. So what do you do if you are stranded in the woods and you need food? You can’t run to the grocery store or order a pizza. Hunting is an option, but it consumes energy and takes practice. Foraging for food is the best way to get calories without spending them.

It can be difficult to try and memorize all the plants that are edible. “Nearly impossible” might be a more accurate description. There are around 300,000 plant, fungi, lichen, and algae species in the world. If you want to memorize all the ones that are edible, you will be spending too much time with your nose in a book to actually get outside and put that knowledge to use. If you want to be able to forage for food, you should familiarize yourself with the plants that are actually in the region you plan on being in most. It’s not an all encompassing approach, but it’s one based on likelihood.

Before you even think about gathering food for consumption, practice identifying plants. Be able to identify them in a book or online, but then be able to identify them out in nature. Go camping or backpacking and make a point to identify as many plants as you can.

Not only should you be able to identify plants that are edible, but you must be able to identify the plants that are poisonous. Even a plant that is mildly poisonous can end up being lethal if you’re caught out in nature. If you can’t tell whether or not a plant is good or bad, don’t eat it. It’s better to be overly cautious than poisoned.

If you’re less than 99.9% sure of a plant, you should test it. Rub the plant on your skin and wait to see if there is any type of reaction. If there’s no reaction, that doesn’t mean there’s a green light. Test for a reaction on your lips and wait. Then try eating a tiny bit of the plant and wait to see if there are any reactions. If everything is OK, then you can eat it. This might seem like overkill, but it’s better than keeling over.

The best thing you can do if you need to forage for food is have a book or guide for reference. When your life is at stake you don’t really want to wing it. If you don’t know what you are doing eating wild plants can be extremely dangerous.

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