THE RULES FOR DISTINGUISHING A PLANT EDIBLE FROM AN UNEVIEBLE
Vegetables are much simpler to find than meat, the human body can survive easily by eating only vegetables for long periods.
There are innumerable plants in the world, and it is practically impossible to know them and distinguish them all, even for the most experienced.
There are places like deserts, both hot and cold, where the flora is reduced to a few species of plants, in this case it is easy to study and store them all or at least most of them; but in other areas, such as the rainforest, it quickly becomes confusing even if it is local. Consider that the rainforest represents two thirds of the world of plants and animals on the planet. The flora is so immense and varied that thousands of plant species are still unknown.
Plants in a survival situation are a very important part: trunks, branches, leaves … can offer shelter, wood for the fire, material for the construction of containers for water and food, tools, cordage, clothes, also from plants we can create medicines (see natural herbal remedies and cure with natural medicine), we can feed ourselves, quench our thirst and even the poison can be useful (we can poison the tip of an arrow to hit a dangerous animal).
That’s why we must learn to know trees and plants to know how to exploit them to our advantage. For example, we can begin to approach this vast world by learning to know the flora present in our region and then expand to the national territory.
Before embarking on an expedition to a different country or continent it is always better to inquire about the type of fauna and flora that you will encounter.
Unfortunately it is difficult to approach this world without having experience in the field even with an illustrated handbook you can never be sure one hundred percent, especially for the most ambiguous species, the photographs of the books are sometimes not so clear and not they illustrate a plant in all its evolutionary stages (very often only the image of the flower is found in books) and even the textual part is sometimes unable to fully describe the sensations that are felt in front of a type of plant such as for example the perfume, the taste, the perception to the touch, the sound that emit if trampled.
Think of the vastness of plants present in the tropics, many of which not even known, there would be an enormous risk of eating them. Hence the rule that prevails above all: eat only what you know.
Some basic rules:
- If you are not sure of the edibility of a plant avoid it a priori, it is better to suffer hunger pangs than to eat and then get sick.
- Cooking is very important as it eliminates germs.
- Never eat mushrooms, there are many poisonous species and it is not worth risking because their protein intake is very low. Cooking or boiling does not eliminate toxic and poisonous substances from fungi. Do not risk there are no antidotes for poisonous mushrooms.
- Do not eat food with mold.
- Do not swallow the plants that contain whitish and dense liquid – milky sap (they can be poisonous), or plants that are very bitter and disgusting or that have a showy and shiny color.
- Cereals are edible (Corn, Wheat, Rice, Millet, Barley, Sorghum, Oats, Rye, Triticale, Buckwheat, Fonio and Quinoa). Do not eat those that have blackish growths instead of seeds.
- Do not eat the plants with colored sap, which have the fruits divided into 5 segments, herbs with hairs on stems and leaves.
- If a part of a plant is edible this does not apply to all its other parts.
- Do not taste the plants you do not know, but if you want to try it, try them in small quantities. Follow this procedure: put them in your mouth but do not swallow them and if chewing you do not feel particular bad tastes like tingling, burning, bitter taste, acid or soapy try to eat a small dose. If after 6 or 8 hours there are no reactions such as vomiting, stomach pain or diarrhea, try increasing the dose and wait another 6 hours and if even in high doses no side effects may be considered harmless.
- If you notice that you have ingested toxic food, immediately induce vomiting (by inserting one or more fingers to the bottom of the throat), drink salt water and milk.
Plants that cause skin irritation should not be eaten (rub the lymph on the inside of the forearm, if it is irritated or swollen, avoid it).
How to learn about plants:
Take a ride through the woods with experts in the field, attend a survival course, compare yourself with the farmers, visit the botanical gardens, greenhouses and specialized shops, buy illustrated manuals and scientific guides to deepen your knowledge. When you find an edible plant, dwell on it; look at it, touch it, smell it, try to memorize it well and then taste it, the taste it will have and the sensations you will experience will surely make the type of plant remain etched in your mind. So whenever you meet again on your way you will recognize it immediately even if it is in the middle of another hundred. If you meet some poisonous species, do not spend too much time memorizing them because they do not interest you if they are not edible. If during your journey or during your travels you meet herbalists, botanists, people grown up in contact with herbs or in the wild, indigenous … do not miss the opportunity to socialize with them, you could learn a lot.
Some useful tips:
Many plants, even if edible, could trigger an allergic reaction, which is why it is very important to know which plants you are intolerant (the main test for the diagnosis of allergy is the “prick-test” skin test). If you are allergic, it is always useful to have antihistamines at your fingertips.
Avoid eating old leaves fallen on the ground.
Many solanaceous plants contain solanine (it is toxic) in the green parts such as shoots, flowers, stems, leaves and tubers.
Most of the fabaceae are edible and are found in any region of the globe (bean, pea, broad bean, lupine, chickpea, peanut, soy, lentil).
Although the tomato and potato plants are edible, avoid the green parts as they are toxic and may even cause death. Avoid strictly green potatoes.
The crushed parts of leaves, buds and fruits that smell of almonds must be avoided.
Avoid mature ferns, eat only its shoots. Over 200 types of ferns present in the flora of the hemisphere above the equator are edible by young people.
Most of the fruits are edible raw, but if you find an unknown fruit with too bright colors that are not hazardous.
When in doubt, always avoid the bulbs.
Avoid plants that have umbrella-shaped flowers (this does not apply to carrots and parsley).
The eatable algae can be found in shallow water where they form very dense layers on the rocks or on the surface of the water that floats.
Always boil or roast the tubers that are in the subsoil (but if you do not know them or you are not sure you avoid these too as some may be harmful).
Flowers and ripe berries (except the seeds inside them) of elderberry can be eaten, the rest of the plant contains cyanide, to avoid. With flowers it is possible to make an excellent syrup to quench your thirst.
You can eat the inner bark of a tree that is closer to the wood. You eat raw. Do not eat the outside one.
You can make a good porridge boiling the oats in water.
All types of nuts are edible. They are eaten raw. The acorns are cooked instead.
Roots and rhizomes of edible plants can be eaten. The same applies to the shoots (always boil them).