The Edibility Test: How To Test and Eat Wild Plants

edibility test

In a survival situation, it is helpful to supplement your meals with wild plants and berries. However, when a guidebook is not always handy and available, or you are in an area that you don’t know, it is helpful to be able to conduct the edibility test on plants to determine whether or not they are poisonous.

Because of the length of the edibility test (5+ hours), it is best to test plants that there are an abundance of. You don’t want to try the test on a lone plant. This will be a waste of time and will get you little nourishment. Instead, look around you to see what is growing plentifully. This would could potentially be a long term source of food. You should also try to conduct the test on a large number of plentiful plants over time. When eating unfamiliar greens it is good to have some variety, even if the plants are safe to eat.

Building your intake up gradually is a good idea as well. You could get ill by eating too much of the same thing, especially if you eat it quickly!

The Edibility Test

  1. Identify: Try to identify the plant. For example, if you know it is a wild strawberry, then go ahead and eat it- no need for the test.
  2. Smell: Rub the plant between your fingers and smell it. If it has a strong or unpleasant smell, this is not normally a good sign.

  3. Skin Irritation: Rub a bit of the plant on a sensitive area of skin, such as the inside of your arm. Wait a half an hour. If you see any sign of irritation or rash, discard the plant.

  4. Lips, Mouth and Tongue: Place individual pieces of the plant on your tongue. Rub the plant over your lips and chew a little bit without swallowing. If any of this gives you discomfort or a tingle, discard the plant.

  5. Swallow: Eat a small portion, and wait 5 hours. In this time, eat or drink nothing else.

  6. Eat: If all of the steps have been followed, and you experience no ill effects, you could consider the plant safe to eat.

If you are not in a survival situation, but simply foraging for a little wild food for your table, the edibility test is rarely necessary. Grab a plants guidebook! My favourite book for wild foraging is this: Edible Wild Plants by Thomas S. Elias & Peter A. Dykeman. This is a book primarily for North American wild plants. Wherever you happen to be, get yourself a guidebook, and add a little more green to your plate!

What is your favourite wild plant? Have you foraged before, or are you looking to start? Comment below!

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Luis A
    December 3, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    This is one of those posts that confronts me with the uselessness of living a comfy life in the suburbs of Southern California! I live right next to the Santa Monica Mountains, five minutes away from a State Park. I trail run in there at least once a week. Sometimes, at dawn or dusk, I see deer foraging around. I pass through countless forms of vegetation. And yet I do not even have the vocabulary to name what I see. A while ago, I bought National Geographic’s Illustrated Guide to Nature. I wanted to learn, but the guide lies unopened on my coffee table.
    But at least today, reading your post, I learned something 🙂

    • Reply
      Kate
      December 3, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      Luis, so glad you learned something! 🙂 Thanks for your feedback- hope you find some good wild plants out there!

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