Sometimes you just don’t know where you next meal is coming from and all you can do is wander through the world hoping to stumble across something to put in your belly. Whether you’re out in the woods, wandering through the wastelands of an apocalyptic world or slinking through a fallen city, knowledge and familiarity with wild edibles could be key to staying alive.
This short guide will teach you the basic details for 5 of the most common wild edibles found across the globe. This is by no means a replacement for a more detailed guide to identifying wild edibles and should be considered as a jumping-off-point for learning to outlive the undead… among other types of disasters where foraging wild edibles becomes the most reliable method for getting your munch on.
Developing in late spring and early summer (later in more mountainous regions), this relatively easy to identify wetland grass grows up to 7-feet tall and has a two-headed flower with a velvety cigar-shared “cat-tail” blossom.
Found in a variety of species and locales across the globe, often making their home along streams and in marshes, bogs, and other wetlands with slow-moving or still water, cattails are an abundant source for survivors – offering food, fire and even medicinal applications.
With the roots, flowers, and soft inner-core from the stalks of the cattail being edible (though not always appetizing), a resilient survivor should have no problem munching down a few to stay alive. But, even if you aren’t suffering from an empty belly, cattails can be put to good use.
When applied to minor wounds, abrasions and burns, the chopped or mashed roots of the cattail can help ease pain and speed recovery time. And even the ash of burned cattails can also be used to help disinfect wounds and stop bleeding.
Apart from medicinal and munching applications, cattails are great for starting fires. The flower of a cattail, once dried and pulled apart, makes an incredibly effective accelerator and tinder for fires. And, once you’ve got your fire going, an intact cattail flower acts as a slow burning match for easy transport of the thing all survivors hold precious… fire.
Most often thought of as an invasive weed, dandelions are an incredibly reliable and abundant source of food for survivors… and like many other wild plants, they’ve got some medicinal uses as well.
Easy to identify – bright yellow blossoms and distinctive leaves – and found in abundance just about everywhere, dandelions develop best in temperate regions around the world (Canada, United States, Europe, Asia, South Africa, the Middle East, Australia and the southern half of South America). Growing year-round in areas with warm winters, the dandelion will lie dormant when/if needed and blossom again and again year after year.
While somewhat bitter in taste, every part of the dandelion can be eaten – flower, roots, leaves and crown. Steamed, boiled, sautéed or eaten raw, a handful of dandelions can go a long way to filling an empty belly and powering the body. As you snack upon a dandelion keep in mind the added bonus of giving your liver and blood a natural detox, but don’t eat too much as they can also be a natural laxative… unless you need to loosen up a little.
In addition to simple munching, dandelion leaves make an excellent tea full of nutrients and the ability to help ease urinary tract infections. And, as luck would have it, there are NO poisonous look-a-likes to this important and edible plant, so have no fear, dig in and dig deep!
Growing throughout most of Europe, Asia, North America, South America and even the northern part of Mexico, nettles are found in the rich soil along rivers, partly shaded trails and in among moist woodlands.
With a variety of species growing across the globe, each with their own variations in appearance, we recommend familiarizing yourself with those local to you.
Best harvested before entering the flowering/seeding stage, the leaves of nettles develop grit-like particles as they age… and that often means irritation to the urinary tract when consumed. So get ‘em and get ‘em early.
Collecting the leaves of nettles can be tricky due to the painful stinging associated with this important plant. But wearing gloves while harvesting can help, while adding the leaves to a bit of hot water should disarm the painful defense this plant is so well known for.
Similar in flavor to spinach and cucumber, nettles are great on their own, in salads or with soups. Like many hearty greens, nettles are rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium – with a bit of protein on the side -, making them an excellent source of nutrition whether in a survival situation or not. And, long proven as an effective treatment for arthritis, nettle tea can help ease joint pain for survivors on the move or mend after a long and hard trek.
Growing low to the ground and spreading out with a network of leaved stems, purslane can be found in gardens, cracks in pavement/sidewalks, meadows and many wild-wood areas around the world.
This mild-flavored sweet/sour succulent, can be harvested throughout the summer months. Look for the tell-tale thick and fleshy oval-shaped leaves and reddish stems. Beware that a poisonous plant called Spurge often grows near purslane, and if you’re not careful it can end up in your harvest… which is a very bad thing.
Harvest the leaves, stems and even seeds of purslane to snack upon, but leave the root system behind so it’ll grow back time and again. Edible both raw or boiled, purslane can offer survivors an instant meal or an addition to something a little more complicated like soups or stews.
This easy-to-find plant offers a few medicinal benefits as well as a bit of good eating. Mashed and placed as a poultice over minor burns and bruises, purslane can help treat simple everyday injuries; while simply eating it assists in digestion and preventing inflammatory conditions like – heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
Both red and white clover are easy-to-find and widely available wild edibles. Almost identical to one another, the primary differences between red and white clovers is in the color of the flower and a slightly better taste when it comes to the red-flowered variety. Found from east to west across the globe, clovers are most prolific in meadows and lawns that get full sun throughout the day.
Clovers are best harvested in early spring when they are in greatest abundance before they begin to turn brown and take on a bitter taste (and sometimes poisonous effect. See variety: White Sweet Clover). The flowering heads can be eaten raw, boiled or pan-fried, as well as being steeped to create a healthy tea – all of which taste slightly of string beans.
And then there is the whole mythical aspect of clovers being lucky… so it couldn’t hurt to have a few around, just in case.
This is NOT a definitive guide and detailed research should be done on the appearance and properties of these plants BEFORE you choose to harvest or eat them. Make no mistake, the world of wild edibles is a dangerous place. One wrong identification and it could easily be your last meal.
If all else fails and you are experiencing a true emergency there’s always this to fall back on, though it too is NOT a guarantee: Universal Edibility Test.
WARNING: Zombease and the staff of Zombease are not responsible for any illness, discomfort, or otherwise effects that may occur from the improper identification and/or consumption of any wild edibles.