Monday, July 7, 2014

How To Test A Plant To Determine If It Is Edible

How To Test A Plant To Determine If It Is Edible:
I'm about to start a series on wild edibles and wanted to get this post out of the way so I don't have to quote how to test something to determine if it will cause an adverse reaction to you. As always eating something you don't know exactly what it is or you have never tried before you need to be extremely careful! If you are not in a survival situation then please just consult an expert before eating any wild edible, if you are in a survival situation then this method is for you!

Step 1) Avoid having to use this method with proper training by consulting local experts prior to a survival situation. As always Prior, Proper, Planning, Prevents, Piss,  Poor, Performance........ There is no substitute for training, especially when you are betting your life on something! Some things I generally avoid: Mushrooms (just too many that can kill me), plants near roadways, plants near polluted water, anything with mold on it, and generally extremely bright colored plants. Those are just somethings I avoid personally, as you experience more wild edibles and develop your own do's and dont's.

Step 2) Find a plant that is plentiful in your immediate area, if you are going to go through this torture test then you might as well do it for a plant that you can eat more than one time!

Step 3) Don't eat (you can eat items that you know don't give you a reaction but there is always the chance it will taint your results) or drink anything but purified water for eight hours before. 

Step 4) Separate the plant into potentially editable parts (Leaves, Stem, Roots, Bark, etc.) as each part of the plant will need to be tested for edibility individually as parts of a plant can be poisonous while other parts of the same plant are editable. Each part of the plant may also have a specific season in which it is edible.

Step 5) Determine if the plant is poisonous to contact, crush up the plant to expose interior sap and rub it on your elbow, wrist or leg. Rub each part of the plant on a different portion of the body. Only continue if there is no reaction with that portion of the plant after a waiting period of up to 2 hours but no less than thirty minutes.

Step 6) Rub a small portion of the plant on your face near your mouth (ensure you get some of the interior sap on your face by crushing the plant before rubbing it), if no reaction in 30 minutes to an hour you can move to the next step

Step 7) Rub the material on your tongue ensuring that you get some of the interior sap onto your tongue by crushing the plant for 5 minutes or more. If no reaction in 30 minutes to an hour you can move onto the next step.

Step 8) Chew a small portion of the plant for a few minutes with out swallowing any of the material or juices for at least 15 minutes. If no reaction within 30 minutes to an hour you can move onto the next step. 

Step 9) Eat a very small portion of the plant and wait five to eight hours and if no reaction to the plant for the next 6-8 hours you are clear to move onto the next step.

Step 10) If all of the prior steps have passed you can slowly up your portion of the wild editable by as much as 1/2 to 1 cup per 8 hour time period without an adverse reaction. 

Now when you add up all of the time above you see that this process is extremely time consuming and will leave you quite hungry for awhile... thus why prior proper training prevents you from going hungry. As always consult a wild edible expert for your region and train in advance to have the skill set to fall back on if you need it in a survival situation where reference materials are not available.


  1. This is the closest I get to trusting any edibility test. It is the one now being trained to American SERE students of the USMC. The man presenting it in this video is one of only Three Americans to qualify and graduate as NATO SERE Instructors.

  2. I think it's interesting, but I appreciate the insight from the comments as well. Where I stand right now, a testing method may very well be practical, however, the time I spend memorizing those steps is also time spent not learning botany and plant ID as pointed out. However, I enjoyed reading it and will keep those tools in mind just in case.

    1. Thus why I said get training multiple times..... also as a hunter/trapper I must say that it is not 100% reliable. There are years you could go without getting anything during a season and that is with modern firearms and traps. You throw in primitive traps and primitive weapons and its a whole new ball game. Also what do you think the likelihood hood is of someone being able to hunt effectively if they don't know the basics on plants ...... my guess is about 0. Also I can think of two plants off the top of my head which could feed me for most of a spring/summer cattail and wild carrots and both of which are plentiful and easily attainable across North America. Once again for the 8th time now I believe.... I don't recommend doing this it is merely something to use in addition to training, experience and common sense...... if they don't have any of those three things and get into a survival situation then it is the gene pool at work.


    I'm not trying to be "not nice". I own this page, and I'm trying to keep somebody from going outside and thinking they can eat, say, oleander leaves because they look like bayleaves, or because they don't cause skin reactions.

    1. lost in the Alaskan range 3 months and rely on just hunting.... maybe not so realistic. But if you want to believe there is never going to be a chance you may need to eat outdoors in a survival situation that's fine. It's merely a tool for ones survival tool box and nothing else. Its much better than just eating what they don't know but nowhere near as good as getting training..... As I recommended multiple times in the post.

    2. To go along with Joshuas comment, the post is just saying that if you are in a survival situation and you are probably going to die anyway of starvation, which i guess you would start thinking about around week 2 or 3 then this may help you get some food, hopefully you atleast know what the worst of the worst are like poison hemlock, deathcap.... but i agree that probably for most people they would never have an option to ever have to try this. and i don't think even in the face of starvation i would ever try this on gilled mushrooms that look anything like amanitas

  4. Shortcuts are not new, they have been passing around for a long time. None of them can possibly apply to every region, at every time of year.

    If you're going to spend mental energy learning what to do in survival situations re: feeding yourself, and it's attendant to a serious interest in wild edible plants/fungi, don't spend it on tactile shortcuts even if "last resort." You're going to need a lot of calories to sustain yourself in the wild, that means knowing your subjects well enough to obtain those calories.

    The article could have been spent on several helpful botanical and/or mycological principles to help people ID families of plants, or types of fungi. At least something cursory. The concept a safe or efficient roundabout / shortcut, without any subject knowledge I would consider unhelpful, verging on misleading. I think people should know their plants/fungi, and have direct interest in telling them apart.

    1. I agree they should have further training and this is only part 1 of a wild edible series (it was getting a little long with just the 10 step process).