The forest can be a sacred place where you can connect with nature and do some self-exploration. There’s the wildlife, rambling streams and calming scenery. But you need to remember that the food chain is in full effect when you spend time in the wilderness. Would you be able to survive?
Beyond catching fish and making sure you’ve got tablets and the means to boil water for drinking, here are some key plants and weeds to get you by:
If you are looking for a plant with many uses, cattail is a common wild food to forage in the wild. Cattails are high in protein and carbohydrates. They start to grow in the early spring and most of the cattail is considered edible. The stems can be eaten raw or boiled, the flowers can be roasted and the root can be dried and pounded to make flour. Cattail is easily recognizable because of the cigar-shaped heads with long, stout stalks. To find some cattail, look for swamps, ditches, moist fields, wet thickets and other open wet areas.
Have you ever seen a yellow flower with five petals? Well you can eat it! Native Americans were known to alleviate thirst by chewing on wood sorrel. The plants contain medicinal and nutritional benefits—vitamin C and the ability to help heal cold sores. The chemical makeup is very close to that of common vegetables like broccoli or spinach. Wood sorrel can impact calcium absorption, so you don’t want to consume too much. In moderation, though, it is perfectly healthy and can be eaten raw. The leaves of the wood sorrel resemble a shamrock and you can find it in shady areas with moist soil. Just so you know, wood sorrel can be used as a seasoning and can be added to sauces, soups, or salads.
If you are still a little new to the whole idea of dining on nature, you can find healthy foods that are also commonly found in the grocery store. Many varieties of sweet berries also grow in the wild, including red and black raspberries. Wild raspberries are almost identical in taste and texture to the ones you will find at the local market. And raspberries contain plenty of antioxidants, including vitamin C, copper and manganese. You may even find you have wild berries on your own property somewhere. Pick some and enjoy!
You might remember hemlock as the poisonous plant used to kill the king in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But you shouldn’t be afraid of it based on the folklore. Hemlock comes from a medium-sized tree that looks like an evergreen. The actual hemlock tree is not poisonous and you can eat the needles. They contain loads of vitamin C which makes hemlock a good option when you are feeling something coming on. Hemlock is good for your immune system and boils into a rich and flavorful tea. Make sure when you pick from a hemlock tree that there are no white clumps; these parts aren’t edible and should be avoided.
If you feel like taking a few deep breaths outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, this list should provide you with some insight. Nature has its own produce section if you know where to look, and the results can be rewarding.
“Trees and Shrubs — Edible Species,” Ontario Trees & Shrubs website; http://ontariotrees.com/main/edible.php, last accessed June 4, 2014.
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 350.
“Cattail (Bullrush),” Edible Wild Food website; http://www.ediblewildfood.com/cattail.aspx, last accessed June 4, 2014.
McKay, B., et al., “Surviving in the Wild: 19 Common Edible Plants,” The Art of Manliness website, Oct. 6, 2010; http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/10/06/surviving-in-the-wild-19-common-edible-plants/.