I’ve been reading S.M. Stirling’s trilogy, The Change – Emberverse. The story is about our world which is hit by some unknown change that causes electricity, high gas pressures, and fast combustion (like cars and guns and gunpowder) to stop working. The world as we know it, dies. People are hard put to find food, safety, shelter, security. The books follow some of the survivors and shows how these groups adapt to the new world. The cause of The Change is pretty much unknown (maybe Alien Space Bats, maybe something else). It’s a good series and I’m on book #2 right now.
Which made me think of all the edibles that grow in the outside. However, there are just as many poisons that grow out there so, you have to be careful. Therefore, just in case, (1) you are lost in the wilderness or (2) the alien space bats show up for real, I thought I’d share some information about determining what’s edible and what’s not.
Well, I'm going to start with the easy one. (2) Alien Space Bats. Good luck and may the gods protect you. Next .....
Ok – (1) you’re stranded in the wilderness. You’ve eaten your last granola bar and now you’re feeling hungry. Civilization is still many long days away, and you need to keep up your strength. The greenery all around you is looking more and more appetizing – oh, what to do!!
Some plants will keep you alive and are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals, while others can make you violently ill or even kill you. So, you can perform the Universal Edibility Test.
First of all, you should fast for eight hours to ensure that test results are accurate and any reaction comes from the plant ingested rather than an unknown source. You can skip this step and I’d assume if you’re at the “greenery around you looking good” stage, you will. Separate the plant into its various parts—roots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers. Focus on only one part of the plant at a time. And, if you have any reaction – burning, itching, numbness, a rash - during any part of this test, that plant is not safe to eat.
Alright, now, smell the plant part – an unpleasant odor is usually bad. Discard it. Place the plant part against your wrist or inner elbow. Wait fifteen minutes to see if you react. If there is no stinging or burning, place it against your lips. Wait. No reaction? Now, against your tongue, do not chew or swallow. Wait fifteen minutes to see if you react. Place a small amount in your mouth and chew, be sure you do not swallow at this time. Wait 15 minutes and no reaction, swallow. Wait 8 hours. If you experience any reaction, induce vomiting. Now, prepare ¼ cup and eat it. Wait 8 hours more. If you have no reaction, this one part of the plant has passed the edibility test. And, you can go onto the next part of the plant. Do not think that because one plant part has passed the test, that the next part of the same plant will pass.
I really am not making light of this process, it’s important to remember it’s not always good to eat something you think “maybe, possibly could be, probably won’t kill me” ok. For example hemlock (which is fatal), looks like wild carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace both of which are edible. Wild garlic resemble wild daffodil, which is fatal to eat. Horse nettle can produce a fruit like tomatoes but there are no wild tomatoes and horse nettle can cause respiratory failure. So, think about what you’re eating as you hike along whatever path. Don't just start popping leaves or berries into your mouth.