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Backpacker Magazine – February/March 2013

Survival Lab: Eat Out

Need to find food in a crisis? Just foraging for fun? Learn to raid nature's pantry, which is full of easily harvested, highly nutritious meals.

by: Ted Alvarez

PAGE 1 2
What's safe to eat in the backcountry?
Photo by What's safe to eat in the backcountry?
What's safe to eat in the backcountry?
A mini tacklebox including hooks and weights (Photo by A. Bydlon)
Photo by A mini tacklebox including hooks and weights (Photo by A. Bydlon)
A mini tacklebox including hooks and weights (Photo by A. Bydlon)

>> GREENS 

Best Bet:
Edible top-to-bottom, dandelions are easy to identify, have sweet flowers, and grow calcium- and vitamin-packed greens (great for salad). Tip Bitterness increases as plants mature; boil to reduce bite, or harvest young plants.
Good Choice: Clover provides an iron- and protein-packed meal. Spring shoots and flowers are sweetest; late-fall leaves taste like grass (i.e. not half bad). Tip Roots have more calories than the greens. Boil leaves and roots to reduce post-snack gut bloat.
In a Pinch: Peppery and full of protein (25 percent by weight), stinging nettles are edible for careful foragers.Tip Look up local species, and don’t confuse them with other hairy, toxic plants. Eat young shoots and leaves raw; boil mature leaves and roots.

>> STARCHES

Best Bet: 
Cattails’ hot-dog-on-a-stick spiked flowers are unmistakable. Choice bits: Roots (think sweet potato) and white shoots near the root (chop like leeks). Tip Wash and peel roots to eliminate waterborne pathogens.
Good Choice: Acorns, though bitter and chalky, are fat- and protein-rich. Tip Loaded with tannic acid, acorns require processing (roasting or boiling, see below) to avoid stomach upset.
In a Pinch: Cut into pine, spruce, or cottonwood trees to get to the astringent-tasting inner bark. Vitamin C-rich pine is a rare reliable winter food source. Tip Slice through bark to reach the softest, wettest layer, then peel strips. Chew raw, boil, or fry like chips. 

>> FRUITS

Best Bet: Clustered berries grow abundantly, so pick with impunity: All raspberry-style aggregate berries are edible. Tip Look for productive brambles along the edges of meadows.
Good Choice: We found vast patches of red, bulb-shaped rose hips—and harvested a hat full of the fiber- and vitamin C-bombs in minutes. Vibrant orange bulbs often survive a few snows. Tip Split, then scrape out the seeds before chewing the pulpy fruit. 
In a Pinch: Thorny hawthorne trees sprout tiny, apple-like fruits; eat the mild fleshy portion and discard the pit (poisonous in some species). Tip All varietals are edible; look for lobed leaves, thorns, and songbirds, which flock to fruiting trees from mid-fall into winter.

>> PROTEINS

Best Best: 
Fish are nature’s jackpot of protein and healthy fats. All North American fresh and saltwater varieties (plus snails, mollusks, and shellfish) are edible. Tip Bring a fishing kit.
Good Choice: Plentiful and nutritious (about half fat, half protein), ants and termites are sour, but safe (larger bugs contain parasites and/or are often toxic). Tip Chimp wisdom: Poke a stick into an anthill or termite mound to extract the buggers with minimum sting.  
In a Pinch: Always cook a grasshopperit tastes better that way, and you’ll avoid inheriting its tapeworms. Tip Pull off the head, which creates a cavity for spearing it with a roasting stick. 



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Great article! I think that your readers could benefit from using our foraging app to help them identify the plants they are trying to eat as well. It's an awesome foraging app for the iphone, ipad and android phones called Wild Edibles. It's a portable little digital guidebook for use to identify edible wild plants in the woods, or the hoods, and comes chock full of recipes, gorgeous pictures, poisonous look-a-likes function, and it's own notes feature for you to record where you find them. Please check it out and share it with your friends and family to help get this very DIY project some exposure!
Iphone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wild-edibles-full/id431504588?mt=8
Ipad: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wild-edibles-plus/id541507798?mt=8
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.winterroot.wildedibles.full&hl=en

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