Collecting wild plants for food can be difficult. Even if you know in theory which plants are good to eat, identifying these plants in the wild can get tough, since conditions are variable—it might be dark outside, or the plant might not look exactly as it did in your camping textbook. And in the wilderness, the difference between one plant and another might mean the difference between life and death.
Ultimately, what are you going to do in a case like this? Before anything, else, you should get informed as much as possible. Read books about finding plants in the wilderness in your specific area. Which plants are edible—and conversely, which ones aren’t? How can you identify and distinguish them? Where are the good plants found? Which plants can you find in the area you’ll be camping? Your local park probably has resources online about what kind of plants can be found; find these resources, and pay careful attention to what they say.
Another tip is to realize that a plant might have both toxic and non-toxic parts. In such a case, you’ll need to ensure that you’re eating the safe pieces, rather than the dangerous ones. Furthermore, some species of wild plants, as we’ve said, are difficult to distinguish from each other—but these differences can be very important, since an edible plant and a toxic one might look almost identical.
Edible plants include acorns (from oak trees), the sap from birch and maple trees, cattails, dandelions, rosemary, wild spinach, winter cress, the needles from pine and spruce trees, field mustard, turnip greens, asparagus, goosefoot, chives, and yampas (which are related to parsley). Wild berries—more specifically, huckleberries, elderberries, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, wine berries, and dewberries, among others—are also nutritious (and tasty!). If you do happen to find berries, you should can them, if possible. If you have room in your camping pack, you should bring along jars, sugar and equipment for sterilization.
Plants like these will give you the nutrients that you need: the needles have vitamin C (and will thus ward away scurvy), while dandelions have vitamin A and potassium in addition to vitamin C. Cattails have a lot of carbohydrates. When you find the plant, how you eat it is also important; some plants may become more healthy when they’re cooked, while others are preferable raw, whether on their own or with a salad. Some plants can also be eaten as part of a healthy, delicious tea.
Be wary of the pokeweed berry bush; it looks like the blueberry bush, but it’s actually toxic. Know that greens can be dangerous—they might contain parasites or cyanide, so you’ll have to treat them accordingly—and, at all costs, stay away from wild mushrooms.
At the end of the day, foraging for plants while in the wilderness is often quite difficult, but it’s very much worth the effort As preppers, we must always be prepared for many types of disaster scenarios. After all, you never know when you might get stuck in a situation where you won’t have access to your garden or the grocery store. Thus, if you educate yourself about foraging sooner rather than later, you’ll certainly reap the benefits. Best of luck!