There’s nothing more irritating to me than reading an article about survival foods that focuses only on foods in the desert southwest, for instance, or woodland plants of the East Coast. I’m not in those places, and I’m not likely to be there in an emergency. Of course, it’s up to us to know the edible and useful plants of our bioregion–if you’re in the desert southwest you definitely should know what’s available around you. But it’s also helpful to know the plants that you can look for anywhere. Here are some.
Even kids know how to identify this widely available plant. The leaves are bitter but edible. Try using the youngest, tenderest leaves in a raw salad and cook the other leaves as you would spinach. The roots can be cooked and eaten or dried and made into a nutritious tea. Photo by Greg Hume
There are about a hundred varieties of oak trees in the Us and all have edible nuts. See our previous article about using acorns as a survival food.
Sow thistle flowers kind of looks like dandelion flowers. The leaves are edible and can be prepared in the same way as dandelions. Dandelions have only one flower per stalk while sow thistle has many flowers per stalk. ALso, dandelion leaves are only at the base while sow thistle leaves grow all the way up the stalk. Unlike dandelion leaves, which are deeply lobed, sow thistle leaves have spines on them. Photo by Alvesgaspar
Look for this in damp, shady woodlands. It does sting unless you protect your hands when you touch the stalks. To me, it feels tingly like my hands fell asleep. For me it lasts about 12 hours, but it can vary depending on how much you touch and how sensitive you are. The feeling doesn’t really bother me but it does greatly bother some people. If you can’t protect your hands while you harvest it just know that it is not harmful and it will go away. The leaves are highly nutritious, can be eaten cooked like spinach and actually taste good. These are my favorite spring green and I go out intentionally looking for them. The eaves dry well and can make for a nutritious tea anytime. The sting is neutralized upon cooking or exposure to boiling water, as in tea. It’s best to avoid these plants once they start to flower, because the concentration of uric acid can make them taste gritty and it can irritate the urinary tract. Photo by Franz Xaver
Wild mustard grows all over. Here where I live, we get a mustard that tastes terrible. These plants also have very few leaves. But they usually grow in large patches where you can get something out of them. I’m told in other parts of the country is a black mustard that is enjoyable and versatile to eat. Whatever kind you get, the leaves are edible (you’ll probably want to cook them), as are the flowers and seeds. Photo by Jubair1985