Wilderness Survival, Tracking, and Awareness

Make Your Own Task List - Plant Foods

This page is an older page which was originall marked as still under construction. I'll try and fix it up very soon (Spring 2017).

Pick one or two, maybe three—but probably no more than that to start with—things from the following list and then actually do them. Each task begins with this symbol . Pick the things that appeal to you the most, that you like the look of, and/or thost things that you think you actually can and will do.

One you have done those things, then you have made some real progress with learning this area of sustainable living and wilderness survival skills.

Then, you could go on to pick more of the tasks on this list, or perhaps other things that you have thought to do that developed from what you have already done. Or, pick one of the other skill areas and have a go at that.

Before You Begin

Knowledge of plant foods is in some ways perhaps the hardest of the survival skills to learn. In fact, John and Geri McPherson, in their "Naked Into the Wilderness" books, say that plant foods are so hard to learn that most people should not even bother with them.

But really, I don't think it is nearly as hard as that. Certainly the most difficult part is getting started, what Jon Young calls "penetrating the wall of green" where everything looks just the same. Really, if you knew 100 species, good species, the right ones, that grow in the area you are thinking of living/surviving in, you would be able to live very comfotably indeed. That would include knowing where to find the plants, which parts are edible, what season(s) they are edible in, and how to prepare them. That would be a lot to learn in one go, but really not that much to learn over a period of time, with regular practise. If you knew even 10 species, really good, staple, species, that grew in your area, you could probably survive quite well (10 such species in combination with animal foods would probably be more than adequate).

Think of some of the other things that people know in Western society. Think of rock/pop (or whatever music you like) songs, for example. How many songs would you know the lyrics to, what artist wrote or recorded them, when they were released, etc.? Imagine how hard it would have been if you had sat down one day in your early childhood and said to yourself "Okay, I'm going to memorise the lyrics of hundreds of songs", and tried to do that in as short a time as possible. Think of how many models of car you can identify in one second just from sighting one angle of one view of that car. And how much you would know about that car—its make, relative age, engine type/size, approximate worth, and so on. Or the same again with clothes, or sports, or movies—how many movies could you recognise from seeing just a few seconds of that movie, and how much would you know about that movie? Yet if you had to sit down with a great big fat book containing all that knowledge, and try and learn it from scratch, it would seem almost impossible.

The real secret here is to just learn a bit, regularly, and do it in a context and at a pace where you can come to feel close, friendly, with what you are learning. This applies to learning any of the survival skills, but I think especially to plants. There are so many plants, and they all look the same to the uninitiated—and the temptation is always there to focus on what you don't know rather than what you know. When you do that, you feel alienated from the subject, and that feeling will either put you off learning it or make you focus even more on what you don't know in an attempt to make it feel familiar. In other words, it is very very easy to come to feel completely out of your depth. The answer to this problem lies in approaching the subject in the right way. It is good to keep coming back to the basics, and to keep focusing on what you have learned so far. And most of all, to do anything you can think of that helps to make it your friend.

Beginning Tasks

  • Purchase a good book or two on Australian edible plant foods. The ones that I recommend are listed here, along with (yet to be added to this site) some approaches to how to begin reading/using these books.
  • Get together a list of plant foods to learn. You could start with a small number, such as three, or five, or perhaps ten different plants. I tried to start with a larger list, of about 70 plants, which was probably much too much to take on all at once. But for some people that may be a good approach. This list of plants, for the Blue Mountains (and Sydney), NSW, Australia, is now on the website. Later on , there will also be a much smaller list for people to begin with.
  • Once you have a list, you could spend time looking on the internet for photos of the plants, and information about them. Arrange information about the plants you have chosen.
  • Book for and go on a "bush tucker walk". There is a good and almost free introductory one run by the Cumberland State Forest (details will be added soon). There are more in-depth ones run by commercial outdoor recreation instructors, which I have not been on, but I would recommend trying.
  • Learn some "weeds".
  • Construct a simple box garden.
  • Learn some of the common native plants that naturally grow in your area, edible or otherwise. For the Blue Mountains, I have found that the small book "Native Plants of the Blue Mountains", by Margaret Baker and Robin Corringham, is good to begin with. (photo to be added). Go for some walks and take the book with you. Pick a plant and try and find it in the book. At first it is quite difficult, but the more you do it the easier it gets. After a while, it gets much, much easier, as you become familiar with the various broad types/groups of plants, and also with the book itself.
  • Get together with a friend, or a few friends, and organise a time to meet regularly (such as once per week) to discuss and practice these skills.

The Danger of Poisoning

Still under construction.

You can die from eating a wrongly identified wild food plant. It's a good idea to own (or at least borrow) and read an Australian book about poisonous plants before eating any plant found in the wild. These can be hard to find but I managed to find a couple before I started taking this on as a serious endeavour. Jon Young from Wilderness Awareness School and the Kamana program says to always learn the hazards (i.e. dangrous plants and animals, etc.) first. This is a good idea for obvious reasons of safety, and also because there are far fewer truly dangerous animals and plants than relatively harmless ones. So it's both more important, and easier, to learn the hazards than to learn all the useful plants.

Fungus (e.g. mushrooms) are especially dangerous and even experts in fungii have died from eating mistakenly-identified wild mushrooms. Or even correctly identified, but not well known ones, slightly out of the right season. For this reason I do not recommend eating any wild fungi / mushrooms.

ingwe's rule, etc.

paste in bit from 10 bushcraft books about taste tests

never eat fungus

Warning - Edible Weeds WARNING: Never eat plants that are growing in an area where they may have been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides (weed killers), or where the water supply to the area could be polluted, such as from urban or industrial run-off. Never eat any part of any wild growing plant unless you are certain you can identify it. Being certain means you have developed a maturity of skill in identifying plants. It does not mean you are pretty sure it looks just like "that plant you saw once on some website".

Tasks Where You Are Actually Eating Stuff

Still under construction

Before attempting any of the skills or practises shown in this website, please read the legal section and disclaimer.

  • Once you know some plants with an edible part/parts, and can find them in the field, make it a regular practise to eat some of them. Depending on your schedule, try to eat something from the wild at least once a week, or more often if you like the idea of it. Even if you only know one such plant to begin with, this regular practise will get you used to the idea that you can find food in the wild.
  • Once you know how to identify them, have a go at eating some "weeds".

Overview of plant foods
Bush Tucker Plant Foods Index
List of Plants for the Blue Mountains (and Sydney)
Edible Weeds
Family and Comunity Farming
Return to Site Map

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