The Survival Edibility Test (Before You Swallow)

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By Joel Jefferson •  5 min read

Foraging on plants or wild fruits and berries in a survival situation is something that a lot of us have thought about but very few have researched and practiced. Here is a guide for your survival salad bar.

First a Few Warnings


Avoid any mushrooms or fungi, unless you are extremely confident and have eaten them before. While there are many mushrooms that are edible, there are many that will put you in a pine box as well. If you don’t have training, they can be very difficult to tell apart even after you have completed the survival edibility test.

Don’t Mimic

Don’t eat a plant just because you see an animal eating it.  There are plants that are poisonous to
humans that may have no effect on animals.


Avoid plants with shiny leaves and milky sap (an example of this is dandelion stems, you should not eat the stems of a dandelion but all other parts of the dandelion are edible)


Avoid Holly berries which are red and juicy and might look tasty but these little guys are highly toxic except to birds.

Avoid the Rot

Do not eat plants that have been eaten or infested by worms, insects, or parasites.

Avoid Certain Odors

Never eat any plant or berry that smells of peach or almond because these plants may contain
cyanide. Ingesting large of amounts of these plants will kill you.

Plan Ahead

Try not to get into this situation with careful planning and preparation.

At Your Own Risk

Some plants and berries can be deadly or make you seriously ill even if you follow the survival edibility test perfectly, so be warned.

Do Your Research

Buy a good edible foraging guide for the area you live in.  Click here for Judy’s North America Guide (or you can get Judy’s Europe guide as well, this lady knows what she is talking about)

The Survival Edibility Test

(For a wilderness survival situation)

The first thing you need to know is that this test will take you a lot time and effort to do correctly.
With that said, you do not want to wait until your 16th day without food to start this test.

Also, and this might seem obvious, you do not want to do this test unless there is an abundance of the type of plant you intend to eat.

Step One

Test only one plant at a time and try not to eat anything else during this period.

Step Two

First separate the plant into three parts (Root, Leaves, Stem). Only test one part of the plant at a time.

Step Three

Find a sensitive part of your body such as your wrist, inside your elbow or inner thigh. Rub the plant on this sensitive part of the body. Wait 45 minutes, look for signs of an adverse effect such as a rash, hives, dizziness, vomiting, or shortness of breath.

If you have any adverse effects to that plant in the first 45 minutes, there is a good chance that if you ate this plant, you will be taking a dirt nap. Better move on to a new plant.

Step Four

If no ill effect is detected on the tested area of your skin, take a small portion of the section of the plant and prepare it the way you plan to eat it. Some plants are poisonous only when they are raw, so it is a good idea to cook the part of the plant that you are testing (if it is possible), if not – go for it raw!!)

Step Five

Before you take a big bite, touch a small part of the plant that you intend to eat to your outer lips to test for itching or burning, try to hold it on your outer lips for a few minutes.

Step Six

if you don’t have a reaction for 10 minutes, place the plant on your tongue and hold it there for another 10 minutes.  Do not swallow!

Step Seven

If there is no reaction after holding the piece of plant on your tongue for 10 minutes, begin to chew the plant for 15 minutes and try to be alert for any negative effect in your mouth or to your body. Again, make sure not to swallow.

Step Eight

If you are still alive and doing well after 15 minutes of chewing on the plant, go ahead and
swallow it.

Step Nine

Wait 8 hours. If you start to feel sick, immediately induce vomiting and drink as much water as you can. If there are no adverse effects and you feel fine after 8 hours, go ahead and eat a hand full of the plant.

Step Nine

Wait another 8 hours after eating the small hand full of the plant. If there are still no negative effects of the plant, you are more than likely ok.  Bon Appétit!!


This test should take you a little over 17 hours.

Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here.