The Survival Edibility Test (Before You Swallow)

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:

1. 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.

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

3. 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)

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

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

6.  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.

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

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

9.  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. The Survival Edibility Test 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.

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

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

3. 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.

4. 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!!)

5. 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.

6. 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!

7. 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.

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

9. 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.

10. 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!!

Remember – this test should take you a little over 17 hours.  (1. 45 min rub test  2. 10 minute lip test  3. 10 minute tongue test  4. 15 minute chew test 5. 8 hour small amount swallow test  6. 8 hour hand full swallow test)

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Written by 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. Read more of Joel's articles.

21 thoughts on “The Survival Edibility Test (Before You Swallow)”

  1. Dandelion greens, mixed with a few other "wild edibles", such as ramps, wild onions, wild garlic, lemon grass, cat-tail tubers, fiddle-head ferns and a little sat/pepper (if you have it), and if you have it lemon/lime/bitter orange or any other citrus- makes a great "stuffing" for any kind of game, especially when roasted over the open coals of a campfire, MY favorites include duck, quail, pheasant, dove, rockfish, catfish, rabbit, squirrel, snake and gator… you could even use these plants to flavor turtle, just cut one side of the bottom shell loose, remove the guts, stuff with the assorted wild "flavor enhancers", cover back up with the bottom shell and set "top-down" into a bed of coals and cook it through right in the shell. All of these things taste great and can help boost morale when there isn't much to eat, would you rather just have a hunk 'o' roasted snake -OR- would you like snake that has been stuffed with some tasty vegetation and roasted? Simple little things you can do will make things most Americans would never consider eating more palatable, I think that some of the big problems with getting folks to eat stuff "out of their norm" when wilderness cooking is required, is that #1 it's perceived as "weird" #2 The longer folks go without calories, the more irrational they will become and might not eat something just because they aren't in a right state of mind. Putting some TLC into the cooking will help encourage folks to eat it, and more importantly enjoy it. By having them enjoy some "odd" food, by our normal standard, it will help them be more open to trying things down the line that might be even more "weird".


    Good tips for using "wild edibles" for taste modifiers-
    Dandelion greens when cooked in dishes give a light peppery taste (soups, stews, roasting- stuffed)
    Parsley can help not-so-fresh meat taste more fresh
    Garlic, even wild garlic helps the flavor of almost anything
    Ramps, look like grass, taste like onion/garlic and parsley- great for fish & fowl
    Wild onions/spring onion, yes the kind you find in your yard, good for adding flavor to almost anything
    Lemongrass is not only good for flavoring foods, especially fish, it contains vitamin C which can be tough to find in the wilds of North America (unless you like munchin' on pine-needles)
    If you know what to look for, you can find wild ginseng in many parts of the US, you might not have coffee for a caffeine kick, but ginseng can give you a boost that lasts longer- make it into tea, eat plane or work it into your recipes.
    Tea-berries OR Wax-berries can be used to make a tea that will help some of the more "funky" foods go down, and will help with stomach upset, toss in some young pine-needles and ginseng for a stomach soothing, vitamin C rich, beverage with a "get-up-and-go" kick!
    Mint, which even grows in some of the deserts here in the US, can help soothe headaches, enhance the flavor of berries, works very well with cooking fish, and can also help soothe an upset stomach when made into tea… It can even help reduce cravings a little when you don't have a dip/smoke
    Sage can be found in most parts of the US TASTES GREAT on roasted meat of any kind, and can add a lot of flavor to soups/stews… You can also chew sage leaves lightly and swallow them, the "fuzzy" texture of the leaves can help to remove parasites from your GI tract
    Blackberries and raspberries are pretty common and easily identified, you can eat the berries, wrap them in a handkerchief and save some for later, you can dry them for later, the flowers from these bushes can be stored and used to flavor tea or water
    Sassafras root can be made into a tea that tastes similar to root beer, good for an upset stomach, or if you are getting tired of plain water just cool the tea and dilute it with extra water, can help you stay hydrated, you can also just chew on the peeled roots (I do when I am bow hunting, so the deer don't smell my chewing tobacco)
    Most lichen that grows on the surface of rocks is edible, but it tastes better if you boil it in with some meat and other wild veg
    Fiddle-head ferns can be eaten raw and they taste great, you can also cook them into your dishes… nothing better than sauteed fiddle-heads with ramps!
    Some tubers, like cat-tail roots or lotus root can be boiled and made into a dish similar to mashed potatoes
    Chives grow wild to, they are edible and if you are lucky enough to find chive flowers they make a great addition to a "wild salad"
    Most nuts around the US are edible, but they take work, examples include beach nuts, pine nuts, hickory nuts, acorns, butter nuts, black walnuts (which are STUPID expensive in the store!)
    Black walnut shells can also be used in very small pools of water (around lakes, shoreline or rivers), if there are fish in there, just dump a bunch of black walnut shells (the husk around the shell) into it and wait a little while, there is a chemical in them that will remove the oxygen from the water, fish come up and start gulping air, stun the fish by smacking them with a small tree branch, or just wait long enough and they will die and float to the surface, then just collect your dinner!

  3. Another thing I forgot to mention, IF you are near a shoreline you might be able to find kelp. Kelp is high in protein and fiber, tastes great roasted and can be cut into strips and added to soups/stews. With a little ingenuity you can even use larger pieces to make a pot to boil in, just hang it over your fire, or heat up rocks and toss in the hot rocks, as they cool off simply rotate them with ones right out of the fire and you will have boiling water in no time!

    • Wow! You should have written this article. Glad to have intelligent commenters around like you. Sometimes I learn more from the comments than I do from the actual article. Thanks for your input.

  4. chefbear58, how long have you been studying wild edibles? I've just started maybe a year ago and the more i study the more i feel there is to learn. You seem to have a pretty good grasp on it, keep up the good work!

  5. One thing I've had used for natural medicines and herbology is a tecnique I find interesting and may work for you with practice.
    I've had 3 different herbologists use this method to "prescribe" vitamins and other preventative measures or "cures" with only the placement of the tested article changing and whether using a bent arm or straight arm for the test. Some just have had me hold the article in my left hand near my chest and 1 had me hold it at the "third eye". Hold your right arm straight out from your shoulder (pointing away from your body) and have a second person pull down on your arm as you resist (other way is to hold your elbow at your hip and have person push down as you try and "curl" your arm up). <continued>

    • <continued>After using a dry run for comparison, hold the item you want to test to either spot listed above and repeat trying to hold your arm in place while other person tries to push it down. If you stay the same, you won't nutritionally benefit from the item, but probably won't hurt you, if you become "stronger" your body needs something within the item and it will probably be beneficial, but if you become weaker 9actually seen someone who couldn't hold their arm up on their own when tested a poison),this means do not take and stay away. This isn't a fool proof test, but may help some. If you have a herbologist (mine are actually chiropractors who use herbs and natural remedies), you may be able to gather more info from them.

  6. Have you ever considered an outdoor seminar to help teaching others about identifying these plants? You seem very knowledgeable about plants and how to cook them. Others may know how to cook but others may not. Some might know how to identify plants and others may not. If you could do both you could help one survive. Just a suggestion. I also agree with Josh. Wow. very nice.

  7. Honestly, I have probably forgotten more than I remember these days! It's been a while since I have used these skills, but thank you. I started learning when I was real young, my father and grandfathers would take me hiking/backpacking/camping/back-country camping and they taught me the majority of what I now know. I also learned some of it during the years I spent in the Boy Scouts, specifically the "Order of the Arrow". A good field manual can give you illistrations and descriptions, if not actual photographs, some even include the kind of environment you might find particular species, in some cases down to the type of soil they grow in.

  8. I bought a copy this morning of 'Judy's North America guide' and although it probably contains a load of useful information the format of it is total garbage and if you buy it you should prepare a double dose of aspirin to take before hand. I do finally have it printed off correctly but I'd have much preferred full pages as opposed to the post cards she laid it out in. It took me about three hours of messing with to get it in a printable format and from the formatting of the ‘cards’ it looks like it will still take me a few more hours to decipher it.

  9. Great advice on the mushrooms.
    They have next to no nutritional value therefore it's useless to even consider this as a food source.

  10. Just one flaw: Dandelion juice is edible; while highly bitter, the ENTIRE dandelion in edible, the stem is just the worst tasting part. Boil the plant for a salad or soup, and grind up roots into a coffee substitute (coffee would be a good think to stock up on as well come to think of it…)

  11. Don't eat what dead people ate.

    wild edibles are sometimes confusing one poison plant younger looks like a edible one once they mature
    they take on a different set of identifiers.

    I try to keep my foraging to a minimum wild onions mint nuts berries that I know certain roots.

    There are many survival shows and each area has diffferent flora I am sure they take a refresher on useful plants
    of each place they are dropped into.
    If you concentrate on your region and where you may travel to you can keep this manageable also you can
    buy many regional books so you do not get information overload.
    Books need to contain a few pictures define sap look feel describe scent taste height anything and everything
    even cooking or eating tricks like poke salad you have to cook and drain the leaves a few times then rinse with fresh water and squeeze out water cook / heat again to make them edible.
    the seeds / nuts in a pine cone have to be caught before the cones open but not green there are acorns that need to be boiled shelled boiled and rinsed until water is clar then roasted so all this crap about living off the land is
    belittling all the work and effort.
    mesquite beans removed from the pods can be made into a flour I would use it as a flour extender
    it takes a lot of work to make a pound.
    living off the land take day light till dark and more no time for XBOX or lax time almost nothing is wasted
    even bones from your hunt can be used to make bone meal even the marrow is eaten.
    Rawhide making and other hide making requires hours and days of work not continous but other chores need to be done and the days are never long enough that is why lighting was so important it increased production

    planting watering weeding hunting fishing processing cooking scavenging for berries nuts wood for fire and to make soap smoking meat salting dehydrating repairing sewing building cutting hay stacking it is non stop
    now add in filtering and treating water washing pans clothes building fires and whatever you need for a frontier
    life style and some of you actually think you can survive and build a log cabin castle now that is funny.
    It is a race between cour competing critters ripening and weather as well as mosquitos termites and flies
    and rot, all the while injury disease and death are trailing you like a posse waiting for you to make one mistake.

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

    How ridiculous is that statement on an article that claims survival edibility? Are you an expert because I can guess myself with a 50/50 outcome.

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

    N, your comment is still ridiculous and should be said:

    The simple answer to this is that you can't tell the difference without identifying the individual mushroom you have found. Some poisonous mushrooms can kill, so you must be able to accurately name the fungus and be 100% sure of what it is before consumption.


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