If you do not know with 100% confidence what you are eating during a survival situation, follow this Edible Plants Test to the letter. The first thing you need to know is that this test will take you a lot of time (17 hours approximately) and effort to do correctly. However, that is better than poisoning yourself to death. With that said, you do not want to wait until your 16th day without food to start this test.
Before we jump on to the test procedure, let us remind you that some plants can be poisonous if you eat them. Whereas some might hurt you if you get them on your skin. For some plants, all parts of the plant are poisonous. For others, only certain parts of the plant are harmful. The danger can range from mild irritation to severe illness or even death (rare). But in a survival situation, if you fall ill, that illness might kill you because of the non-availability of necessary medical care. Therefore, it is very important that you perform an edible plants test on any plant you eat.
The Edible Plants Test
- Test only one part of one plant at a time and try not to eat anything else during this period.
- Separate the plant into its basic components (stems, roots, buds, and flowers).
- Smell the plant for strong acid odors. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
- DO NOT eat 8 hours before the test and drink only purified water.
- During the 8 hours, you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning. Find a sensitive part of your body such as your wrist, inside your elbow, or inner thigh. Rub the plant on this sensitive part of the body. Wait for 30 minutes, look for signs of any bad effect such as a rash, hives, dizziness, vomiting, or shortness of breath. If you have any adverse effects on that plant at this time, there is a good chance that if you ate this plant, it might be your last meal.
- During testing, take NOTHING by mouth EXCEPT purified water and the plant you are testing. Keeping this portable water filter with you is a good idea.
- Select a small part of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
- If no ill effect is detected on the tested area of your skin, take a small part of the section of the plant and prepare it the way you plan to eat it. Some plants are poisonous only when they are raw, so it is a good idea to cook the part of the plant that you are testing (if it is possible), if not – go for it raw!!
- Before placing the prepared plant in your mouth, touch a small part (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching. If after 5 minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant on your tongue and hold it for 15 minutes. Make sure not to swallow. In case of any ill effects, rinse out your mouth with water because edible plants don’t do that.
- If nothing abnormal occurs, swallow the food and wait 8 hours. However, if any ill effects occur during this period, immediately induce vomiting and drink purified water.
- If no ill effects occur, eat ¼ cup of the same plant prepared the same way. Wait another 8 hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
Please keep following points in mind while performing the edible plants test.
- Ripe tropical fruits should be peeled and eaten raw. Softness, rather than color, is the best indicator of ripeness. Cook unripe fruits and discard seeds and skin.
- Cook underground portions when possible to reduce bacterial contamination and ease the digestion of their generally high starch content.
- If you can not cook because of any reason, concentrate your efforts on leafy green plants, ripe fruits, and above ground ripe vegetables not requiring significant preparation.
Signs of Potentially Poisonous Plants
A Reddit user AGingham pointed out that the following information is also given in Field Manual 3-05.70 which is also helpful in detecting poisonous plants when you are doing the edible plants test.
- Milky or discolored sap.
- Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
- A bitter or soapy taste.
- Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
- Foliage that resembles dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley.
- An almond scent in woody parts and leaves.
- Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.
- A three-leafed growth pattern.