Learning The Art Of Foraging - Off-Grid

Learning The Art Of Foraging

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Learning the Art of Foragingimage – pixabay.com (CC0)

Food and water are essential elements for survival but circumstances outside your control could separate you from your supplies. If this happens in the wilderness, foraging and/or hunting for food are the best options you have. In simple terms, foraging is simply searching for wild food. However, depending on the circumstances the act of foraging could be dangerous simply due to the fact that numerous plants are toxic to humans. Learning to identify which plants are safe and which are is an important skill to develop.

As a first rule, never pick plants from polluted areas. This means next to roads (where they will have been continually exposed to fumes and tyre dust), near polluted waterways or from areas that might have been sprayed with pesticides – including croplands and municipal areas. Wasteland areas that were once used for industrial activities are best avoided. Never eat a plant that appears sickly or that you cannot identify with absolute certainty. You can begin your preparations by buying a foraging guide such as Mabey’s “Food For Free” that has clear photos and detailed descriptions of edible plants. The descriptions should also contain information about any deadly look-alike plants.

If you are in a genuine survival emergency and you can’t find the plant in the book, you can perform the “Universal Edibility Test”. This is a somewhat standard procedure. It’s drastic and cannot be rushed and so this should not be done unless absolutely necessary. Do the following:

1. Avoid any plants with thorns, with an almond scent, with white or yellow berries, plants with leaves in groups of three, anything with milky sap and any fungi that are not identified by a true expert (there are some fungi that are very poisonous that are difficult to tell apart from edible varieties, so just don’t risk it).

2. Separate the plant into its basic parts. These include the stems, leaves, roots, buds and flowers. While doing this, examine it carefully for molds, fungus, insects and other pests.

3. Crush a piece of the plant material and rub the individual parts on separate places on your skin. You will need to wait for 8 hours to see if there is any sort of negative reaction. If so, discard the plant as inedible. If not, continue to the next stage.

4. Place the plant matter against your lips for up to 3 minutes. If you feel any itching, burning or tingling, discard the plant as inedible. Otherwise proceed to the next step.

5. Put a small piece of the plant on your tongue for up to 15 minutes. Any discomfort indicates that you should immediately spit it out and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.

6. Without swallowing, chew the piece of plant, then leave it in your mouth for a further 15 minutes. Slowly chew the plant in your mouth and without swallowing, hold it in your mouth for another fifteen minutes. Keep vigilant and if there are any negative signs, spit it out and rinse out your mouth thoroughly.

7. If there are still no negative signs or unpleasant effects, the final test is to swallow. You will then need to wait 8 hours to see if the plant makes you ill. If so, induce vomiting and drink plenty of fresh, clean water.

Always remember that each part of the plant can have different results so don’t assume that because one part of the plant is safe that the rest would be as well. Each part of the plant needs to be tested separately. Foraging is only difficult if you are not sure what you are looking for. With most survival skills it is best to learn as many details as possible before you need to use them.

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