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8 Edible Plants (and Their Killer Cousins!)

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Ever wonder what you’d do if you found yourself in the wild without sufficient food and water? To survive, finding water has to be a top priority, but once you’ve found drinkable water, you’ll need to determine what’s safe to eat. We asked Paul Turner, an avid outdoor traveler with experience finding food in the wild, for some tips on identifying edible plants and avoiding poisonous ones. Not only did he send us some amazing information, but some fun recipes to try as well! – Adventure® Medical Kits

Finding Food in the Wild

I had a chance to attend a short survival course in Brunei, a country filled with biodiverse rainforest. The course had me breaking a wild chicken’s neck and skinning a frog just to prepare whatever meals we can get in the forest. Of course, there are less gory ways to get food when you’re out in the wilderness.

You can impress your family and friends by finding the edible plants and preparing exotic meals. If not, it’s still a good knowledge to have just in case you’re lost in the forest and have finished your food supplies (I hope this never happens!). It’s important you know what plants are poisonous so you don’t end up harming yourself or your friends.

One bite from the Deathcap Mushroom can bring you to the underworld and it only takes one Belladonna leaf to make you so sick, you may wish you were dead. Additionally, just like some people are allergic to poison ivy while some are not, you may have an allergy or personal health concern that others may not have. For this reason, I urge you to adopt this mantra: If you’re not sure about a plant, don’t pick, cook, or eat it. 

Plants that Kill

Doll’s Eyes

Doll's Eyes
Description: White berries taste sweet and act like a sedative, stopping the heart and causing a quick death.
Characteristics: This flower looks scary enough that you wouldn’t want to try it. It looks like a bunch of eyeballs connected with red branches.
Where to find it: Found on the eastern side of US and Canada. The flower blooms from late summer to early fall.

Angel’s Trumpets


Description: This pretty looking but deadly plant can cause heart failure, paralysis, and coma.
Characteristics: Its flowers looks like a bunch of dangling white, yellow, or pink bells.
Where to find it: Originally from South America, it is common now as a home-grown plant.

Strychnine Trees


Description: Bears green to orange fruit so toxic that 30 mg. can trigger convulsions and death.
Characteristics: The funnel-shaped flowers let off a rotten smell, and the orange berries are covered in a smooth and hard shell.
Where to find it: Found in southern Asia, India, Sri Lanka, and Australia.

English Yew


Description: It is safe for birds – they know which parts are poisonous – but just 50g could stop your heart.
Characteristics: These evergreen plants have needles, not leaves. Its berries have a seed sitting inside that is lethal.
Where to find it: Commonly found in churchyards in the UK.

Water Hemlock


Description: They are North America’s most poisonous plant, triggering seizures and death.
Characteristics: The green or white flowers are grouped together, looking like an umbrella.
Where to find it: Commonly found along streams and in wet meadows.

Wolfsbane


Description: Its poison is so virulent, indigenous people tipped their arrows in it when they hunted.
Characteristics: This plant has helmet-shaped flowers that come in white, pale greenish-white, pale greenish-yellow and purplish-blue colors.
Where to find it: Commonly found in the mountains.

Rosary Pea


Description: This climbing vine with red seeds is 75-times more powerful than Ricin.
Characteristics: The plant has a red pea with a black spot at one end that looks like a ladybug.
Where to find it: Commonly found in tropical areas around the world.

Belladonna Berries


Description: 10-to-20 Belladonna berries can kill an adult. It causes hallucinations and severe delirium.
Characteristics: They look similar to other berries but have white or purple flowers that are in the shape of a star.
Where to find it: Tropical areas in the US.

Castor Plant


Description: Their seeds contain Ricin. Eat four, and you’d better have a will.
Characteristics: The plants have fluffy red flowers and star-shaped leaves.
Where to find it: Spread across tropical regions and also commonly homegrown as ornamental plants.

Edible Plants

Salmon Berries


Description: They look like over-sized raspberries that are yellow, orange, or red when ripe.
Characteristics: The easiest way to spot them is to find the bright pink flower on their plants.
How to eat it: Give them a good squeeze to create a refreshing juice. Save a portion, drop in some pectin, and make Salmon Berry Jellies.
Nutrient value: High manganese contents with plenty of Vitamin C and K.
Taste: The taste can vary from bland to sweet.
Where to find it: Found in open forest areas along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska.

Cattails


Description: They’re very distinct looking with willowy, long stems and fuzzy, elongated heads.
Characteristics: White stem bottoms are delicious eating; use the heads as campfire tinder.
How to eat it: Fry, chop for a salad or show off your campfire baking skills by making prehistoric bread using this recipe.
Nutrient value: Includes vitamin K, magnesium, fiber, iron, and vitamin B6.
Taste: Cattail eaters say it tastes like bitter cucumber.
Where to find it: Around the circumference of water-based wetlands.

Dandelions


Description: Dandelions grow wild in clusters, covering fields each spring.
Characteristics: Look for bright yellow flowers and willowy stems.
How to eat it: Eat the entire dandelion: roots, leaves, stems, and flowers. Use a cast iron pan to make dandelion greens with garlic.
Nutrient value: Vitamins A and C, plus lots of beta carotene.
Taste: They taste bitter raw, but are delicious when cooked.
Where to find it: Once spring arrives, they’re everywhere!

Lamb’s Quarters


Description: This plant looks nothing like lambs, but it pairs well with chops.
Characteristics: Broad leaves resemble and taste like spinach and are best picked before flowers appear.
How to eat it: Add leaves to your salad or chop up young shoots and add them to stew. Camping with vegans? Make a pot of Chole Saag.
Nutrient value: Packed with protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, but keep your portion size down if you’re prone to kidney stones.
Taste: In the same ballpark as spinach, chard, kale, and collards.
Where to find it: Fields, forests, gardens, and near rivers and streams.

Wild Onions


Description: Resembles chives, ramps, and garlic. Look for scallion-like shoots poking out of the ground. NOTE: Death Camas are wild onion’s dangerous doppelganger. If the plant does not smell like onion, do not eat it.
Characteristics: Wild onions add flavor to foods, and eating them can also reduce blood pressure and lower blood sugar.
How to eat it: Wash and chop for salads, stews, soups, and chili or make this breakfast treat: Cook a cup of washed, peeled, and chopped wild onions in a cup of stock until liquid is absorbed. Stir in 6 eggs, salt, and pepper then scramble.
Nutrient value: Get a big boost of vitamin C, plus other vitamins and minerals.
Taste: Delicious. If you never met an onion you couldn’t eat, wild onions may be the best forest find of all.
Where to find it: Fields and forest floors, especially in cool weather. Always sniff before you pick. If you don’t detect an onion or garlic odor, it’s not an authentic wild onion, so don’t harvest it.

Pine Trees


Description: There are 100+ types of pine trees on Earth – most have edible bark and needles.
Characteristics: Needles grow in clusters, often exclusively at treetops.
How to eat it: You can eat pine nuts, simmer needles in water to make tea, and boil or pan fry white inner bark. NOTE: Don’t consume any part of these pine species: Ponderosa, Lodgepole, Juniper, Monterey Cypress, or Western Yellow.
Nutrient value: Pine is rich in vitamins A and C.
Taste: Bark tastes “pine-like,” but when cooked, it assumes the flavors of recipe ingredients. Try making Crispy Pine Bark by slicing bark into thin chips and frying them.
Where to find it: Pines grow on every continent.

Clover


Description: Found throughout the world, clover is a tiny, vivid green plant that grows in thick clusters.
Characteristics: Clover leaves have distinctive trefoil leaflets, but lucky ones have 4 rather than 3. If you find a 4-leaf clover you may want to save it for luck rather than cook it! Flowers are red or white.
How to eat it: Clover tastes better boiled or sautéed than raw. Eat the young flowers of either color, but not the aging brown ones.
Nutrient value: According to Denmark’s Department of Forage Crops, white clover has more minerals and proteins than grass.
Taste: Clover can taste bitter if eaten raw but if you cook it, it’s delicious. Use the youngest leaves – particularly if you brew clover tea with honey to soothe a sore throat.
Where to find it: Just about every open area that’s covered with grass.

Plantain


Description: This broad-leaf weed grows wild just about everywhere. You can eat the stalks and the leaves. Harvest in the spring for best taste.
Characteristics: Considered by  to be one of the 5 healthiest backyard plants on the planet, look for rippled, green leaves, tall stems and flowers. Don’t confuse this weed with the tree that bears banana-like fruit.
How to eat it: Plantain is delicious pan fried in olive oil – especially if leaves are young and tender. If stalks are less than 4 inches high, they’ll be tastier. When preparing, the tough, fibrous stems are at the bottom and tender parts on top.
Nutrient value: Like dandelions, this weed is packed with vitamins and minerals. Place a leaf on a burn, insect bite, or wound if you find yourself in need of first aid.
Taste: Called “the poor-man’s fiddlehead,” plantain tastes like asparagus, though leaves can assume flavorings of other ingredients when cooked.
Where to find it: One plant expert calls this weed “as ubiquitous in the city as broken glass,” but it’s equally prevalent in rural fields and forest floors.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

These 8 specimens of edible plants are just the tip of the iceberg, as there are so many more plants you can pick and eat while camping. I haven’t even touched on the subject of mushrooms! Be careful to correctly identify plants, and you’ll stay safe, enjoy new taste sensations, and become even more comfortable every time you camp.

About the Author

Paul Turner is a certified instructor trained in tying various knots and has conducted high rope courses for kids. He is also the man behind TakeOutdoors.com, which provides insights of camping and gear guides for the outdoor enthusiasts. Follow him on Facebook and Pinterest.

 

 

Sources
Angel Trumpets by Asit K. Ghosh under Creative Commons License
Rosary Pea by Homer Edward Price under Creative Commons License

How to Train for the 2016 TransRockies Race at Sea Level

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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By Adventure Medical Kits’ Adventurer Heather Gannoe

As I write this post, I am anxiously counting down the days until I fly from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to Buena Vista, Colorado. (12 days, to be exact). Thanks to an amazingly generous company, a ton of fantastic friends and family members, and a stroke of good luck that I totally attribute to all of the good running karma I try to put out into the world, my partner Geoff and I will be running the 2016 TransRockies Run. A 6 day stage race that had been on my racing “bucket list” for quite sometime, but had been financially and logistically out of our reach, was suddenly gifted to us, two sea-level dwelling newbie ultra runners who have never been to Colorado.

Needless to say, we are beyond excited for this amazing adventure.

I’ll be the first to admit that training at sea level for such a race, one that spans 118 miles over the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and includes over 20,000 feet of elevation gain between about 7,000 and 12,500 feet above sea level, has been…interesting. Sure, we can dutifully put in the mileage and strength training sessions. But there is no denying that there are certain health and safety factors that we will face in Colorado, many of which we simply don’t have to concern ourselves with here in sunny South Carolina. When we can’t physically train for these conditions, the next best thing we can do is mentally prepare ourselves for what we might face. Here are a few of our concerns:

Altitude. This is the big one, the subject everyone wants to talk about when they hear we are headed to the mountains. The truth is, there is no sure fire way to train for running at altitude here at sea level, without investing in a high tech altitude tent, or something similar, to create a hypoxic environment. So instead, we are bracing ourselves for the possible side effects of running at high altitude.

The least of our worries include light-headedness, fatigue, numbness or tingling of extremities, nausea, and of course, feeling short of breath and completely out of shape. More serious concerns, and things we hopefully will not encounter, include everything from confusion and disorientation, severe headaches, and even life threatening conditions and high altitude sickness including  pulmonary edema (HAPE) or high altitude cerebral edema (HACE). In the cases of HAPE and HACE, fluid accumulates around the lungs and the brain respectively, and can be fatal if left untreated.

Fortunately for us, we will be under the watchful care of professionals who have successfully put on this race for a number of years. However, it is still important to be aware of the potential side effects, and have the ability to react to their onset quickly and accordingly.

Dehydration. The decreased atmospheric pressure at high altitude forces you to breathe faster and more frequently. Water vapor is a normal waste product of breathing, thus, it is easier to become dehydrated at higher altitudes. Further, the humidity is typically lower at higher altitudes, thus evaporation of moisture across the skin may happen more readily, and without as much notice as it does down here in the swampy South (you should smell our sweaty hydration packs!). Both of these factors will increase the potential for dehydration, and as any athlete can tell you, dehydration is never a good condition to find yourself in.

Sunburn. Ultraviolet exposure increases approximately 4% for every 1,000 feet above sea level. That means, even though we live AT the beach, our UV exposure will be upwards of 50% higher during the TransRockies Run. Sunscreen, and constant reapplication of it, will be vital to avoid painful and even dangerous sunburns.

Extreme weather changes. This summer in South Carolina has been brutal, as far as the heat is concerned. In fact, July 2016 has gone on record as the hottest July on record in Columbia SC (just inland of where we live). Needless to say, we feel pretty comfortable (well, as comfortable as one can get) training in temperatures upwards of 105 degrees. What we are NOT currently accustomed to is freezing temps. And in the mountains, the weather can change from one extreme to the next in the blink of an eye. It will be important for us to be prepared for anything, from dry, hot, heat to freezing cold rain, or potentially even snow.

Terrain. If you haven’t been to coastal South Carolina, let me describe it for you: Flat, sandy, and swamp like. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful mountain bike and running park that gives us 7 miles of fun trails to run on here in Myrtle Beach. And while the single track has just enough rocks and roots to keep you on your toes (and hopefully off of your face), it is certainly nothing like climbing the Rocky Mountains. In addition to steep climbs and equally as steep descents, we will likely face very rugged and technical terrain. From a safety point of view, this could mean anything from pulled muscles to cuts, scrapes, bruises, or worse, if we fall. HOPEFULLY, none of these ailments will occur, but it will certainly be in the back of our minds, causing us to add a little caution to our step as we tackle the trails.

Wildlife. Our biggest concern with wildlife encounters here in South Carolina is venomous snakes. And I suppose, the potential of a scuffle with an alligator, though they typically keep to themselves, as long as you stay out of the water. But venomous snakes such as copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths are incredibly common in our area. Fortunately, they typically scurry off long before we actually see them.

In Colorado, it appears we have a few much larger, much more dangerous predators to watch out for, such as bears and mountain lions. I’m certainly hoping that the large crowd of the TransRockies Run, and all of the fast elites that run ahead of us, are enough to scare off these animals. In any case, it is important to know what to do to possibly avoid attracting these animals, and what to do in the event of an encounter.

Not having the perfect terrain or conditions to train in shouldn’t be a deal breaker when it comes to pursuing new experiences or adventures. But being mentally prepared for what you may have to face, and the potential dangers in those situations, is in my opinion a very important part of training. Always be prepared isn’t just a motto for the Boyscouts, it is something that all athletes and outdoor adventurers should abide by as well.

Heather Gannoe, is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist who splits her time between working as a personal trainer and running coach, and writing as a blogger and author in the fitness and running industry.   She’s also a mom to two young boys, and is constantly encouraging them to love the great outdoors a little more, and their video games a little less.  Trail running really long distances is her true love, but she’ll never turn down an adventure.  Keep up with her adventures on www.RelentlessForwardCommotion.com.