How to safely select edible wild plants

Stef Zisovska

Wild plants are the best food you can eat while camping, hiking or in a survival situation. They are a free source of vitamins, minerals, some proteins, and liquid. Wild plants can literally save your life if you get stuck in the wilderness with no food or water. The thing about these lifesavers is that not all of them are edible. In fact, some of them contain a high level of toxins that can not only make you sick but also kill you. Native people were masters in selecting wild plants and using them as food, medicine, and for religious rituals.

If you are an outdoorsy person, then you would do well to learn how to survive in the wilderness and how to select the plants that are good enough to be your dinner.

Never eat anything unless you’re 100% sure what it is


Eating wild plants is cool, but it’s not risk free. There are plants that are completely edible, and others that have only some edible parts. Therefore, you need to learn which ones are safe to eat, how and where to find them and how to eat them. There are also plants that are edible only at a certain stage of their growth, so selecting them is quite a difficult task. Similar to mushrooms, some edible plants have poisonous doubles so if you’re not 100% sure, don’t touch them. If in doubt, leave it out!

If you haven’t eaten it before – don’t eat it now

You must be able to recognize the plant you’re about to eat without any doubt. Smell it, touch it, and make sure you know what you’re dealing with and that you have already tasted it before. Being in a survival situation is not a time when you should take risks and try to play smart. When your life is on the edge, the last thing you should do is to improvise and try new food. Eating wild plants should help you survive until you reach safety, not make things worse or even kill you.

Focus on learning as much as you can about wild edibles



Before heading into the wild, you must focus on learning everything about the most common plants in the region and how to eat them. Never eat a plant that’s rare or grows only on one specific spot. Surviving in the forest is not the right time to experiment with food. For example, if you see wild strawberries you can eat them right away because they are easy to recognize and can’t be mistaken for other fruit.

So, stick to the easy-to-recognize plants, and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Carry an edible plants guide when you go hiking

One of the best and safest approaches you can take while hiking is to always carry a field guide where you can read about all the plants from the area and see how to collect them and which parts are edible. Also, it will be very useful for you to join a group of more experienced nature enthusiasts that already have some knowledge about how to collect edible plants. If someone can give you an edible plant lesson in the actual wild is even better than learning it from a book. Nevertheless, the guidebook can save your life when you learn how to use it.

Eating wild plants is something we could all benefit from. So, take it as a serious challenge and learn how to make safe wild food choices. Take care and good luck!

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stef-zisovska is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival