The wild is full of delicious food if you know where to look. With the bounty of nutritious plants, there is no reason to be hungry on a hike or an overnight trip in the woods. There is also very little reason to bring a heavy amount of food on a long camping trip either. Even though there are plenty of options for food, beginners in the wilderness should bring some food with them as they carefully learn to forage.
If you are ever stranded, it is helpful to remain in control of yourself and take care of your necessities. This includes finding water and food. Fortunately, finding both does not require the use of much energy.
So, if you do get hungry, you can find food in the wild and keep your energy up to make it home safely. Being able to identify safe plants is the key to surviving and enjoying your time in the wild.
There are several types of foods that are available in the wilderness. From berries and greens to small animals and fish, the wild has enough food to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.
The availability of certain foods will depend on the season; but no matter what season it is, there will be available foods. And of course, always look for available water. Before you try to eat foods in the wilderness, you should be sure that you know exactly what foods are safe based on the way they look, smell, and feel. Not every plant will be safe to eat and if you eat the wrong ones, you could get quite sick.
Know What NOT to Eat
It is rather easy to determine which plants are not safe to eat. Poisonous plants tend to have left in groups of threes as well as milky or oddly colored sap.
They also have pods with seeds or bulbs inside of them. If the stem of the plant has a bitter smell that reminds you slightly of almonds, it is most likely a dangerous plant. Avoid plants that have spurs in colors like black, pink, or purple. Lastly, if the plant has pointed parts like thorns, burrs, spikes, spurs, or hooks, it is not edible.
How to Identify Edible Plants
Once you know what plants to avoid, it becomes much easier to find plants that are safe to eat. Interestingly, many of the edible plants are those that people consider being weeds.
For example, dandelions and clovers (even though they have three leaves) are all safe to eat and rather nutritious, too. Chicory is another plant that is readily available and easy to identify due to the lovely blue flowers. All three of these plants taste much better after they have been cooked. Dandelions can be made into a tasty tea and chicory makes a fine coffee substitute.
If you are near a water source, water plants can be nutritious and easy to find. One of the healthiest plants is green seaweed, which can be found near the shore in most inland lakes. Kelp is another good source of nutrition. Both green seaweed and kelp should be rinsed. Seaweed tastes best after it has been dried.
Another good plant that can be found in the wilderness is sorrel. There are a few varieties that are good to eat raw including sheep sorrel and wood sorrel. It is not recommended to eat too much sheep sorrel, but if you do eat it, you will notice it tastes like lemon. Wood sorrel includes vitamin C and tastes like potatoes. Native Americans ate wood sorrel regularly.
If you cannot find a flowering plant to eat, you can always turn to grass. Every kind of grass is safe to eat. You might not want to eat grass in your neighborhood, because of all of the chemicals placed on lawns to fight weeds, but the woods is completely different.
Grasses in the woods are incredibly safe because they are organic and not covered in weed-fighting chemicals. If the grasses you choose to eat are six inches tall or less, the pieces you eat will be easy to digest. Longer grass can be chewed for the juice, but you probably do not want to eat it.
Deadnettle is also very safe to eat raw. This plant grows all over so it is easy to find. You do not want to eat the stems, not because you cannot, but because they do not taste very good. The plant is sweet and mild. The plant is similar to mint.
Before you take your trip into the woods, it is a good idea to understand what plants you will find. This way you can learn about what is safe to eat and what you should avoid. Many guidebooks are small enough to throw in a pocket and you can even rip out pages if you know you are going to spend some time in the woods. In many cases, the plants that are safe to eat are what people call weeds.
How to Get Your Protein
If plants and berries are not your things, there is another option that can give you your fill of protein: bugs and insects. It is no secret that insects are plentiful in the wilderness and some of the favorites include grasshoppers, crickets, and locusts as well as snails and worms. They can be easily found under decaying logs and leaves.
Eating them raw might not sound like the most appetizing meal; fortunately, bugs can be boiled or cooked over a flame to make them more edible and safer to eat. It does take more physical work to find insects and to cook them, so it is best to do your bug hunting when you have the energy to expend.
Fishing is an Option
If you have plenty of energy to spare, fishing is a great way to feed your hunger. It doesn’t matter if you are near a river, stream, or lake, there are fish available for the taking.
You do not need to have a fishing rod to catch fish, you simply need a trap. Many survivalists will make small dams to catch fish, or they will create a net out of fabric. Physically, it is easier to catch a fish with a dam than with a net, because you simply make the dam, sit back, and wait for the fish to get caught in it.
However, it is possible to catch a fish with a line made of reeds or bark, but you will need some bait, which can be difficult to find. Instead of using insects, you could always try to use shiny bait. If you do end up catching fish, it is helpful to cook them and to be very careful while eating them so you do not eat the bones.
Go for the Game
Plants, bugs, and small fish are good options for dining in the wilderness, but the best possible food you could find is a small game. If you sit, listen, and look around while in the woods, you will see a wide variety of small games that can be rather tasty if you are stuck in the woods.
Fortunately, you do not need to have a firearm with you to catch and kill the small creatures of the woodlands.
If you are looking for a game, one of the best places to look is near the water. Eventually, every animal needs to drink. And don’t just pick any spot near the water, find a spot where the water runs downhill because that is where it will pool. This is a good spot to place a snare or set up a small pit trap if you have the energy to build one.
It can also be helpful to listen to animals. You will not hear them if you are walking around loudly through the woods. But, if you sit and relax for a while, you will be surprised how much you hear. Animals will become silent if you make a lot of noise, but if they cannot hear you, they will unintentionally come toward you.
Before sitting and listening, it is a good idea to find some sharp rocks and some thick sticks. If you do sit and listen for animals, you might be able to throw a rock at an animal that comes near or you might be able to hit one with a stick. You never know what will wander by, so be ready, breathe quietly, and relax.
Video Credit: Donny Dust’s Paleo Tracks
How to Make a Snare
When it comes to food, the choices that expend more calories result in more calories. It is much more difficult to catch small game than it is to find leaves and bugs to eat. You will need to actively pursue small animals to get one to eat.
You will also need to find a tool to help you take the animals down – things like pointed sticks or noosing wands. Pit traps can also be effective, but they do require you to dig a pit. If you have a good arm, you could take out an animal with a powerfully thrown rock.
Some people prefer to use snares, but you will most likely get a squirrel or rabbit rather than something larger. One of the best ways to catch animals to eat is to set up a handful of traps near the major water source. But, if you have a major water source that is accessible, you will probably have a more successful time trying to catch fish instead.
Always Be Prepared
The key to surviving in the wilderness is understanding when to expend energy for a source of food. The food that gives the most calories expends the most calories and there is no guarantee that the calories will be obtained.
The best way to survive is to understand what plants are the safest and to know how to create fire. If you plan to spend time in the wild, it is important to be prepared with small tools like matches, a small knife, and a length of paracord.
With these tools, it becomes much easier to gain access to protein-filled food like insects, fish, and games. These simple tools fit nicely in your pockets and can become lifesavers if you become trapped in the woods for an extended period.