What You Have to Look Forward to in a Collapse Situation: Learn And Practice Bushcraft Skills. Wild Edible And Medicinal Plants

Learn and practice Bushcraft skills. If you lose your main pack, these can sustain you until you retrieve your next cache. Keep your maps and compass upon your person, as well as your GPS if you use one. Store your map in a Gallon size Ziploc bag. Have a “Survival” kit that never leaves your person except to sleep, and is then kept by or under your pillow (a rolled up M-65 field jacket) and tethered to your belt. Learn to identify at least 10 wild edible plants.

The minimum for your “Survival” kit is the means to: Start a fire – matches, firesteel or butane lighter (3 methods is great), medium folding knife (suggest Buck 110) and small knife sharpener, water purification tablets or Frontier Straw, ziplock bag or soda bottle – to carry water, Mylar space blanket (x2) – shelter and warmth, 20 feet of Duct tape, and bug repellant.

A deck of Wild Edible Plant Playing Cards would be a great addition also. Currently available on Old Time Wisdom.

 

We get a lot of questions about what wild plants are there in Wisconsin that are edible to eat or use for medical uses. I did some research and found that are many out there in the wild. I am going to list a few and there uses.

1. Purslane

Also called pigweed. Grows everywhere. Very commonly seen in cracks in the sidewalk. Also grows among woodchips. Comes out in June. Best to harvest in the fall. This is when the plants are large. Has small dark seeds that fall out. Harvest in the morning. Nutritional content varies, depending on what time of the day it was harvested. Cultivated and eaten in Greece. Good in tabbouleh, on gyros and eaten with feta. Tastes like green beans. Very important – purslane is reported to be the highest plant source of Omega 3.

2. Chamomile

Also known as pineapple weed, wild chamomile grows in rocky soil and is seen commonly in driveways. It’s very aromatic. I can smell it when the wind picks up and follow the smell to the chamomile. It’s commonly made into tea and it’s good for digestion, nervousness, anxiety, irritability; it helps to calm and soothe you and it helps you sleep. Chamomile is so safe and mild it is used on children and babies.

3. Mint (Catnip)

Emerges in spring. By June the plants are quite large. If there is an extended growing season, (warm weather into the fall and winter) there can be a second resurgence. This plant is more of a medicinal herb than food, although it can be used in place of traditional mint in any recipe. It’s very aromatic. The smell is dissimilar to mint found in grocery stores and distinctive. Use its smell to identify it. It grows in shady areas, under trees and other large plant growth. In cats, catnip is a stimulant and in humans it’s a sedative. Catnip tea can be good for allergies and the respiratory system. Some studies say catnip repels fleas and ticks better than DEET. This plant can help induce menstruation. Pregnant women should be cautious. In large quantities catnip can be an abortifacient.

4. Woodsorrel

Woodsorrel has a sour and lemonly flavor. It can make a good substitute for lemon in dishes. Looks like clover but is brighter and has small, yellow flowers. I see it growing a lot among woodchips, but I don’t think it’s particularly picky about where it grows. A naturopath once told me it was good for the liver, but only when fresh. Not when dried.

5.  Plantain (Plantago Major)

As common as it comes. Brought here by Europeans. Edible and medicinal. The most nutritious thing I have ever heard of. Fights inflammation in the intestine – from carrageenan for example. Detoxifies. Purifies blood. If you have a bee sting, take a piece of plantain, chew it and then place it on your wound. Good for blisters. Speeds healing. Natural Awakenings named them (and dandelion) in a piece about herbs that fight cancer. It can also help with psoriasis.

6. Watercress

Similar to a radish. Spicy and clean flavor. Grows near streams, creeks, pure running water and can grow in mud. Watercress is only as clean as the water it grows in. Boil or sanitize if at all questionable. High in vitamin C. Good for soups, salads, you name it. The wild variety is the same as the kind you can buy at the grocery store, except it is free.

7. Ginkgo Biloba

There are male and female trees. Only the female trees make the fruit and the ginkgo nut, which can be eaten. The fruit is not eaten. The popular ginkgo biloba supplement is made out of the leaves. When harvesting ginkgo nuts, gather the fruit. Remove the fruit using gloves (some people get a rash when touching the fruit, some do not) Wash and then cook the nut. Boil, fry, saute. Whatever you like. When cooked, the shell will remove easily. The cooked ginkgo nut looks an awful lot like a pistachio and you can put it in your mouth and between your teeth to crack then remove the shell, just as you would with a pistachio. The inside is green and reminiscent of a jelly bean. Ginkgo biloba is very nutritious, but also has toxin. They must be eaten in moderation. Taking vitamin B6 with ginkgo cancels out the toxin. (Still – eat in moderation!!!) Do not eat ginkgo nuts raw. Eating the nuts raw is unheard of. It is hoped the cooking process will eliminate toxins, but there is little evidence to suggest it does. In spite of this, cooking them is still your safest bet.

8. Chicory

Young leaves and roots are edible. Found very often on roadsides and in open fields. Comes out in the height of summer, along with echinacea. The root can be made into a coffee substitute and leaves can be enjoyed as a salad green. (There is a variety of chicory grown for its leaves.) The small blue flowers are beautiful, delicate and rare.

9. Sweet Pea

Usually toxic and inedible. The toxin makes you starve to death / waste away. One you’ll want to avoid. Some kinds are edible and can be enjoyed but it’s hard to distinguish the edible from inedible varieties. It’s just as hard to distinguish edible from inedible sweet peas as when foraging for mushrooms. So this is one that should only be undertaken if you’re an absolutely amazing forager and you really love peas and want free ones. Vetch is a look alike.

10. Creeping Charlie

Related to mint. Can be eaten in salads and used to make tea. Abundant. Creeping charlie can be bad for other plants because it can wrap around the plants and choke them. Has purple flowers. Contains a toxin. Nutritious, but eat in moderation. Very commonly seen as wild ground cover.

11. Garlic Mustard

One of the first plants to come out in the spring. Frost, snow and cold weather doesn’t seem to bother it. Invasive, originally from Eurasia. Bad for the environment (in Wisconsin). Grows everywhere. There are volunteers devoted to destroying and pulling this plant up. Take as much as you want. Edible raw but if you boil and change the water several times / eat garlic mustard this way, it will have a milder flavor. Also good when dried. It smells and tastes very strong. Reminiscent of garlic.

12. Stinging Nettle

Emerges in spring. By June the plants are quite large. If there is an extended growing season, (warm weather into the fall and winter) there can be a second resurgence. Used for food as well as herbal medicine. Very stingy. Harvest with gloves, or you may get welts. Some say these are good for your immune system but many things are. No need to get stung in my opinion. Boil stinging nettle then serve. Nettles are nutritious and a good source of calcium as well as many other vitamins and minerals. There is a contest in the UK where contestants eat as much stinging nettle as they can. Whoever survives is the winner and the toughest / manliest. It’s very entertaining to watch.

13. Cattail

Edible shoots and pollen. The pollen can be used to make pancakes. Very good in survival situations. The brown top can be used to carry an ember. The white, inner spear tastes faintly of watermelon and is the most fibrous food I have ever eaten. The fiber content makes them very good at cleaning teeth.

14. Lambsquarters

Used as food and as medicine by Native Americans. Very mild and tasty. Almost buttery. Wonderful taste for a green vegetable. Not bitter at all. Called wild spinach and by many other names. Contains oxalates, as do spinach. A nutritional powerhouse, but the nutritional content depends on where you harvest it from. It can soak up nitrates from the soil it grows in. Quinoa is closely related to the seed of lambsquarters. The seed of lambsquarters is edible, but hard to harvest. Many people say it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t let that deter you from trying the seed at least once.

15. Rose

There is the wild rose and the cultivated variety. Rose hips are an easy find for the urban forager. There is scarcely a park or garden without rose bushes. The fruit of the rose, the rose hip, ripens in October. The rose hip is edible throughout the winter. This is intentional. Some plants are edible throughout the winter so hungry animals have something to eat. Rose hips are high in vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. They boost the immune system and fight off colds. The outer hull of the rose hip is what is eaten. Some guides say the seeds are edible, some say they are not. I eat the entire rose hip, seeds and all. I grind and chew it very well, but they are prickly and hairy. They can cause irritation. I think it’s too much work to remove the seed, but the best / tastiest experience is to remove the seeds and eat only the outer hull. Miranda Kerr uses rose hip seed oil for beautiful skin. Rose petals are also edible, but strong tasting and for lack of a better word, bitter. Rose petals are often used to make rose water.

16. Violet

Comes out in spring, usually in March but can be April or May if there is an extended cold period / winter. Violets can be violet, magenta, white and yellow colored. The leaves, stems and flowers are all edible. Use in place of spinach in your favorite creamed spinach recipe. Delicious! The roots are used to induce vomiting. Violets are commonly topped with sugar. Candied violets are used in baking sweets, treats, and to top pastries. Violets are common, beautiful and grow low to the ground. They grow along with grass, dandelion and garlic mustard, which also grow close to the ground.

17. Echinacea

It is found in prairie and grassland. It flowers in July along with chicory, during the height of summer. If you look for it late, you can find the cones without flower petals. These should be left because they contain the seeds, which create the next generation of echinacea. This is more of a medicinal herb than food. It is good for the immune system. The leaves, flower petals and root are used for herbal tea and tincture. A mild tingling feeling is experienced when drinking echinacea tea. It is unique and reminds me of being electrocuted.

18. Milkweed

Milkweed is of immense importance to monarch butterflies. Many plant it to attract butterflies to their garden. The shoots, flowers, green, unopened pods can all be eaten, but they must be boiled first. Milkweed is poisonous in its natural state. Discard the cooking water. The silk inside the young pods has a texture reminiscent of cheese. Once the growing season has passed, the dead stalks and seed pods still remain. These can be used to identify where new milkweed will appear. Note: The pods must be harvested when they are less than 1.5 inches long. If you harvest them late, they are too fibrous to be eaten.

19. Chickweed

Chickweed is edible and medicinal. It is found all over the world, even in the Article Circle. Its blossoms open in the late morning. Its leaves fold up at night and before rain. Chickweed’s stems, leaves, flowers and seeds are all edible. Mouse-ear chickweed must be cooked. Other kinds can be eaten raw. It contains nitrates. Do not ingest any kind of chickweed preparation if pregnant or nursing. This could potentially harm an unborn or nursing child due to the nitrates it contains. One should consider the nitrate levels in the leaves. Upon consuming chickweed, if one feels dizzy, weak, or faint, if you have a headache, see a doctor immediately. You may have nitrate poisoning from consuming too many nitrates. Avoid chickweed if allergic to daises. Good when young as a salad green. Rumored to taste like corn silk raw. Tastes like spinach when cooked. Can be added to soups or stews. Do this in the last five minutes to prevent overcooking. Chickweed contains ascorbic-acid, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, zinc, copper, and gamma-Linoleic acid. In addition, chickens love to eat chickweed. This is where chickweed got its name. Chickweed can be used in topical form to calm rashes and eczema, too. It alleviates irritation and swelling from insect bites. Chickweed is not recommended for children in oral form. It can be used to treat an insect bite on a child so long as they do not put chickweed in their mouth.

Some of the fruit plants are Elderflower & Elderberry. Flowers and berries are the only parts edible. Boil or cook them first. Good for the immune system. Grape – fruit, leaves, seeds, young vines shoots are all edible.In fall it has bright red leaves and similar looking berries, they are not edible and very spicy. Black raspberry – leaves can be made into herbal tea, spring time makes the best tea. Mulberry- comes in black, purple,red, pink and white. Black/Purple are rip, Red are unrip, Pink/White are the sweetest.

Now before you run out and start eating the various flowers, you need to do a bit of study.  On many of these plants only parts of the plant are edible.  I suggest that as you plan your garden you research the various flowers and make sure that you know what parts of the plants are edible.  In some it may be the flowers on other the leaves or roots.

edible-flowers

Now before you run out and start eating the various flowers, you need to do a bit of study.  On many of these plants only parts of the plant are edible.  I suggest that as you plan your garden you research the various flowers and make sure that you know what parts of the plants are edible.  In some it may be the flowers on other the leaves or roots.

A list of Edible Flowers

  • Angelica                                                Anise Hyssop
  • Apple Blossom                                       Artichoke
  • Arugula                                                 Bachelor Buttons AKA Cornflower
  • Banana                                                 Basil
  • Borage                                                 Bright Lights chard
  • Calendula                                             Carnation
  • Chamomile                                           Chicory
  • Chives                                                  Chrysanthemum
  • Cilantro / Coriander                               Citrus
  • Clover                                                  Dandelion
  • Daylily                                                  Dianthus
  • Dill                                                       Elderberry
  • English Daisy                                        Fennel
  • Freesia                                                 Fuchsia
  • Geraniums                                           Gladiolas
  • Hibiscus                                               Honeysuckle
  • Hollyhock                                             Hyssop
  • Jasmine                                               Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Johnny Jump Up                                   Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena                                    Lilac
  • Linden                                                 Mallow
  • Marigold                                              Marjoram
  • Mint                                                    Mustard
  • Nasturtium                                           Oregano
  • Okra                                                    Onion
  • Orange Blossom                                    Pansy
  • Passionflower                                        Pea blossoms  NOTE: Flowering ornamental                                                                     sweet peas are poisonous
  • Pineapple Sage                                     Primrose
  • Radish                                                 Red Clover
  • Redbud                                                Roses and rose hips
  • Rosemary                                             Rose of Sharon
  • Runner Bean                                        Safflower
  • Sage                                                   Savory
  • Scarlet Emperor’ runner beans               Scented Geranium
  • Snapdragon                                         Society Garlic
  • Squash Blossom                                   Sunflower
  • Sweet Marigold                                    Sweet William
  • Thyme                                                 Sweet Potato
  • Tuberous Begonia                                 Tulip
  • Viola                                                    Violet
  • Winter Savory                                       Yucca

You should have no problem planning and planting a garden that only consists of food producing plants.  This is a great way to supplement your food storage.  The more you learn about the different flowers, the better your chances of survival are in an emergency.

If you do a search of this blog under the category edible plants, you will find information on a number of these flowers.  In the future, I intend to write more on edible flowers.  As with any plants take the time to study and learn about them so that you can make a positive identification, this may save your life, some plants are poisonous.

 

Plenty of people believe that when things fall apart, they can just go into the wild, living off the land. While such a life has a lot of appeal to it, I’m also enough of a realist to understand how hard that will be. While many people did live off the land in the early days of this country, things have changed. There isn’t as much wilderness available today as there was back then, and as a people we aren’t accustomed to such a lifestyle.

 

common-wildflowers

Plenty of people believe that when things fall apart, they can just go into the wild, living off the land. While such a life has a lot of appeal to it, I’m also enough of a realist to understand how hard that will be. While many people did live off the land in the early days of this country, things have changed. There isn’t as much wilderness available today as there was back then, and as a people we aren’t accustomed to such a lifestyle.

The two biggest problems with trying to live off of what nature provides are too many people and a lack of knowledge. Back when people did live off the land, there weren’t a 10th of the people in the country that there are today. They also had a lot more knowledge about the flora and fauna around them. There are few people today who can hunt without baiting the animals in and even fewer who can identify edible plants.

Of course, that gives a distinct advantage to those who know how to hunt and can identify edible plants. In fact, being able to identify edible plants might just be what keeps some people alive. Considering that few people can identify them, there is little risk that there will be much competition for those plants.

Watch Out for Poisonous Plants

In addition to edible plants, there are many plants you can find in the wild which are dangerous to eat, even poisonous. Unless it is a dire emergency, survival isn’t the time to go around trying new things. You don’t know what you might find that would hurt you.

Since there is no sure way of identifying which plants are safe and which are poisonous, the best way of protecting yourself is to stick to eating only plants that you know and can identify as being safe to eat. When looking at other plants, you probably want to stay away from any plants that have:

  • Milky or colored sap.
  • Any sort of spines, thorns or fine hairs.
  • Seeds inside pods, as well as beans and bulbs.
  • Any plant with a bitter or soapy taste.
  • Plants whose stems have an almond scent.
  • Any plants with three-leaved growth patterns.
  • Grain heads with spurs that are pink, purple or black.

Of course, there are edible plants which display some of those same characteristics. That just proves that not all poisonous or healthy plants have distinguishable characteristics. These characteristics only apply to plants that you cannot identify.

Here are 20 of the most common wild plants that you can find, providing you with a starting place for identifying what you can eat in the wild. Learn them, and then go on to learn what else is available for eating in the area where you live.

1. Amaranth

Amaranth

Amaranth is a prolific weed which is native to North America. All parts of the plant are edible, although you do need to be somewhat careful. The grain from the amaranth plant has become more popular in recent years. There are spines on some leaves which should be avoided. The leaves contain oxalic acid, especially if the plant has grown in nitrate rich soil. To protect yourself against that, boil the plant in water and then throw away the water. If worse comes to worse, it can be eaten raw.

common-wildflowers2

2. Asparagus

Asparagus grows wild in parts of North America, especially the northeastern part of the United States. Wild asparagus has a much thinner stalk than the commercial varieties. To harvest, bend it until it snaps off. It will snap at the right point to prevent killing the plant, while providing you with the most edible part.

3. Bamboo

If anyone around you has decided to grow bamboo in their backyard, it’s probably gotten out of hand. This prolific grass spreads rapidly, taking over everything in its path. While the mature plants are like chewing on wood, the shoots can be eaten. Shoots should be harvested before they are two weeks old and one foot tall. Peel off the outer leaves and boil them to soften. Bamboo shoots are often added to salads, put on sandwiches or used in stir-fries.

4. Cattails

Found near the edges of wetlands, cattails were a staple in the diet of many American Indian tribes. Most of the plant is edible. You can boil the roots and lower stalk for eating. The leaves can be cooked and eaten like spinach. The flower spike at the top can be broken off and eaten like corn on the cob. Surprisingly, it tastes much like corn.

5. Chicory

Chicory

Chicory is most easily identified by its flowers. It is a bushy plant with small blue, lavender and white flowers. Leaves can be eaten raw or boiled. The flowers are a quick, tasty snack. The roots can be eaten as well, but require boiling to make them edible. Toasted chicory root has been used in the past as a substitute for coffee when coffee wasn’t available.

common-wildflowers3

6. Chickweed

This low-growing plant has bright green, pointed oval leaves. It is highly nutritious, containing vitamins, minerals and omega-6 fatty acid. Young leaves can be used effectively in salads. However, if too much chickweed is eaten, it can cause diarrhea.

7. Clover

Clover is very common throughout the country. Anywhere you find a grassy area, you are likely to encounter clover as well. They are easy to identify for the three leaves. The plant can be eaten raw, but will taste better cooked.

8. Curled Dock

These are some of the hardiest, most widespread and most persistent weeds found anywhere. You can find them nearly everywhere. Like dandelions, it is almost impossible to pull one out of the ground. If you do, it will probably be replaced by two more. The leaves are tasty and can grow as large as two-feet long. There are also other types of docks in this family, but the curled dock is considered the tastiest.

9. Dandelion

This common “weed” is actually edible; in fact, the entire plant is edible: roots, leaves and flowers. It’s also rather healthy, being a “cure-all” in herbal medicine. You’ll want to eat the leaves while the plant is still young, as mature leaves have a bitter taste to them. Boil the roots before eating, and then use the water from boiling the roots as a tea. The dandelion flower makes an excellent garnish for a salad.

10. Fireweed

This is another plant that was eaten by many American Indians. It is easy to identify by the vein pattern in the leaves. Rather than terminate at the edge of the leaves, the veins create a circular pattern.

These plants are best eaten when young and tender. As they age, the leaves become tough and bitter tasting. Both the leaves and the stalk can be eaten. The flowers have a slightly peppery taste.

11. Garlic Grass

This is a wild strain of garlic which is often found in fields, pastures and forests. It resembles cultivated garlic or spring onions. The shoots are often very thin. Nevertheless, it can be used in sandwiches, salads, pesto or chopped like scallions to add to cooked dishes.

12. Green Seaweed

This particular variety of seaweed is found in all the oceans of the world. You can even find it close to shore and on beaches. Once harvested, it needs to be rinsed with clean water and allowed to dry. It can be used in soups or eaten raw. Add some fish and rice and you’ve got some sushi.

13. Kelp

Kelp is another common form of seaweed, and can be found growing in most parts of the world. The kelp plant grows very long, anchored on the bottom of the sea and reaching to the surface. Internal air bladders keep it afloat. This seaweed is used in many different oriental dishes. Like the green seaweed, it should be rinsed once harvested and can be cooked in soup or eaten raw.

14. Kudzu

This is known as the “weed that ate the South” for its prolific way of covering trees and other plants. Kudzu is a fast-growing vine, which could provide a literally unending source of nutrition if you have it in your area. The leaves make an excellent tea for treating colds, fevers and indigestion. The roots of this plant can be boiled until tender and eaten with a sauce, such as soy sauce. Jams and jellies can be made from of it.

15. Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s quarters

This plant is a relative of wild spinach. It grows from two to six feet high and is easily identified by the shape of the leaves, which are a jagged-edged and diamond shaped. This plant has a high amount of protein, making it one of the few non-beans that does. It is also rich in iron and vitamin B2. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked.

common-wildflowers4

16. Plantain

This weed will grow just about anywhere and is often found on the edges of gardens or driveways. Pick the rippled leaves, leaving behind the stems and flower stems. Like kale and other tough greens, plantain is best eaten after cooking. Blanching it with some butter and garlic makes it come out quite well.

17. Prickly Pear Cactus

Called “nopal” in Mexico, the prickly pear is not only edible, but extremely good for your health. Not all the leaves are eaten, but only the newest ones where the spines have not been fully formed. The spines are cut off and the leaf cut up for cooking. It can be boiled, but is most often fried, along with tomatoes and spices. The fruit of the prickly pear, which looks like a red or purplish pear, is also edible, although hard to encounter.

18. Sheep Sorrel

Although not native to North America, sheep sorrel has found a home here. It is a prolific weed, especially in highly acidic soil. That means it will grow in places where many other plants won’t grow. It has a tall, reddish stem that can reach 18 inches tall. You really shouldn’t eat large quantities of it, but the leaves can be eaten raw. They taste almost like lemon.

19. Watercress

Watercress, which comes in a number of varieties, such as garden cress, rock cress and pepper cress, is common in Northern Europe. It has been migrated to the United States, where it is more commonly found in northern climates with a lot of moisture. It has a spicy tank, making it great for salads, soups and sandwiches.

20. Wood Sorrel

Wood sorrel grows in all parts of the world and in all climates. There are many varieties of this plant, and the flowers vary in color. The Kiowa Indians ate it, and chewed on it to alleviate thirst. The Cherokees ate it to cure mouth sores. The leaves of the plant are a great source of vitamin C. If the roots of the wood sorrel are boiled, they can be eaten. It has a flavor similar to potatoes.

For further information on this and other plants, it would be advisable to buy a book that deals with the edible plants in your area, as it varies from region to region around the country.

When you're looking for fast, easy, and reliable recipes, the Pioneer Woman is the ultimate go-to source. You can always count on Lost Ways 2 recipes to be doable, flavorful, and incredibly comforting, no matter what you're in the mood for. Ahead, we've curated some of the Food Network host and Pioneer Woman magazine author's best and easiest recipes you'd be crazy not to try for yourself, like lemon-blueberry pancakes and butternut squash mac and cheese.

 

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