Stockpiling food supplies is only part of a good prepper plan. Having some important skills under your belt is vital to ensure you are able to stay fed in an emergency. Foraging for wild food can come in handy when camping or even as a fun hobby during regular circumstances.
A handy field guide can help but it’s a better idea to get to know the local plants beforehand. Practice, along with some taste testing is real plant-based prepping. To make the most of your foraging options, keep a fire-starter and a small cooking pot with you when out in the woods. Many of the plants we’re going to talk about can be eaten raw, but a little cooking will improve taste and texture sometimes.
Go for the Greens
Let’s start with the easiest-to-find of all the forage food options: wild greens. Most are also very easy to recognize so you won’t have to worry too much about picking the wrong leaves. First of all, you have dandelions. They are everywhere except heavily shaded woods, and we all know what they look like. Young leaves are easy to eat raw, and a little simmering will make even the old tough leaves worth eating.
After dandelions, you can also eat clover leaves, young plantain leaves and lamb’s quarter too. All very common. A little less available is wild purslane, but definitely good eating if you come across it. Look in dry gravelly areas.
Nettle is very nutritious (and high in protein too), but requires care when harvesting. You shouldn’t touch the raw leaves with your hands or you will learn why they are called “stinging nettles”. Once cooked, they are completely harmless and quite tasty.
In late summer, you can also find young (still hard) milkweed pods that can be cooked. A more filling option than the usual leaves.
Look for the Fruit
Fruit has the benefit of being easy to eat raw and can be a sweet treat if you are struggling to get by in a survival situation. Open fields and fence rows almost always have some raspberry or blackberry bushes in them, and they can be eaten right off the plant. A crab apple tree can provide a lot of fruit if you are lucky enough to find one. Early spring has wild strawberries but they are very small and low to the ground. Can take a bit of work to find and collect. Other options for survival fruit are blueberries, gooseberries and wild cherry.
If you do not recognize it, leave it be. There are a LOT of toxic wild berries out there so only eat they ones you know.
Fruit also has a high water content compared to leafy greens, making it a smart choice when your drinking water supplies are limited.
A Word about Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a tricky subject because they can provide some excellent eating when foraging while at the same time being very dangerous if you choose the wrong ones. Please do not attempt to eat wild mushrooms without some serious research, and ideally some assistance from a professional while you are learning.
That said, mushrooms like chicken-of-the-woods, oyster mushrooms, morels and even puffballs are all edible and nutritious.
Please note that this is most certainly NOT a complete or exhaustive list of edible wild plants. Not even close. It’s just an introduction to the idea of foraging as a survival skill, and a place to begin. Also, the photos included here are for illustration only and really shouldn’t be used as a strict reference guide to identify.