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Tabitha Shearin
Rhoda Lukens
UWRT 1101
10/27/2014
Edible Survival
I walked out of class and dropped my backpack. My phone, books, money, and resources
were all useless to me now. I kept walking; across campus, past North Tryon, and deeper and
deeper into the wooded regions of Charlotte, heading into the much more rustic, Cabarrus
County. I am setting out on this mission not to just prove myself worthy and capable of survival
but to solidify the information I have found in my research on the edibility of different plants.
With the research I had compiled, I feel confident with more exploration, I could live off the
grid, providing my own food from what the Earth provides.
I began my journey by preparing myself with the knowledge needed to identify edible
plants. Because there are countless species of plants, including many edible mushrooms, it is
almost impossible to memorize and study each to be able to properly identify in any situation. It
is the highest recommendation that when resorting to living off the land, to bring an
identification manual or guide along with you. The difference between a completely edible plant
and a plant that is poisonous enough to cause death can come down to a slight difference in leaf
shape. According to the Twin Eagles Wildness School, a program that teaches adults and
children in Idaho the ins and outs of survival; in each particular season there are parts of the plant
that are more effective for harvesting. For example, gather leaves in spring and summer [but]

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gather roots in winder and for some, late fall and winter (Corcoran). By doing this, you are
taking away some of the risk associated with guessing which plants are safe and which are not,
as well as preserving the plant for future use. It is also recommended to use guides because of the
vast nature of plants in regards to their preparation. Many plants are completely harmless if
ingested raw, but several plants, that are completely harmless to people, are very dangerous if not
cooked or cleaned properly. To ensure safety in the wildness, be aware of the plants that require
special preparation and what those preparations are before you eat them. A great place to start is
picking up one of the four recommended books by Tim Corcoran and Jeannine Tidwell; these
books are as followed: Newcombs Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb, Readers Digest
Guide to North American Wildlife, Petersons Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, and From
Earth to Herbalist by Gregory Tilford. (Corcoran)
After considering many aspects of my research, I realized the most practical way to
prepare myself for my quest was to study the plants in my particular region. I quickly found that
there are a lot of poisonous plants in North Carolina. Based on a detailed study by Dr. A.B.
Russell and collaborators from NC State University, there are a total of five hundred and ninety
seven poisonous plants with all different shapes, sizes, and characteristics. The likelihood of
being able to memorize or potentially even learn every one of them is absurd. There are,
however, a few subtle tricks to determine if a plant is the edible plant you think it is or if the
plant you found is harmful. A great example of North Carolina edible plants is the cattail. While
cattails can be eaten raw, or cooked for more flavor, depending on the season you are harvesting,
these plants they look drastically similar to the Sweet Flags and Daffodils, which are both
poisonous to humans. Careful identification is required and assurance of the cattails main
characteristic, their cigar shaped fluffy head. Another great North Carolina resource is Kudzu,

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the leafy vine that many see taking over large areas of trees and marshlands throughout the state.
The leaves of Kudzu, as well as their roots and flowers, can be eaten both raw and cooked and
are a great source of nutrient. It is even said the flowers taste remarkably like grapes and when
prepared correctly, they make a great jelly. Survival off of plants in North Carolina would seem
more simplistic because we are narrowing down our territory, and therefore narrowing down the
species of plants that live in it, but it is still important to bring a guide along as many plants can
be confused for others and could cause danger. (Wild Edible Plants)
I feel the hardest part of this journey is not the idea of leaving cultured society to walk
into the wilderness, but to make the decision, put into a dire situation, whether a plant is edible
or inedible, and how it should be prepared. Poisonous plant rule of thumb is simply if you cant
identify it, dont eat it. As if things arent complicated enough some plants are fine to eat
when they are young but become poisonous later on in their growth. Some plants are poisonous
during certain seasons. Others just have certain parts of the plants that are poisonous (Dick).
Easily identifiable traits are milky sap, spines, fine hair, beans, bulbs or seeds inside the pod.
Other things to look for are if it has a grainy head with pink, purple or black spurs. There are
over five hundred poisonous plants so not all of them will fit into these traits but those are
common traits that will help you get started identifying poisonous plants. Although it is no use
to someone already disconnected from technology and society, the USDA, in collaboration
with Dr. David Bogler, have compiled a website where you can take traits of the plant form
North Carolina, input them, and the database will to the best of its ability identify the plant you
are seeking. This is a resource that many could and would bring with them depending on the
amount of preparation done for the trek.

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With the knowledge of plant edibility and the ways to prepare foods found in nature, one
could save a life. In many tragic and unexpected situations, people are left stranded in the
wilderness with no means of survival; what if you were prepared? What if you were capable of
differentiating poisonous plants from comestible vegetation? According to a study received by
USA Today, most Americans haven't taken steps to prepare for a natural disaster, terrorist
attack or other emergency; making food preparation and identification critical in basic survival.
Although knowledge of all plants is nearly impossible, I have gathered that the best way to
prepare for life off the grid is to do an excessive amount of research, seek education from people
and companies that offer training for wilderness survival, and always bring a guide or book for
identification in those trickier situations.

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Works Cited:
Corcoran, Tim. "Discover Edible Wild Plants!" Twin Eagle. 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.twineagles.org/edible-wild-plants.html>.
Dick, Jonathan. "10 Wild Edible Plants to Save Your Life." Ready Blog. Ready Store, 26 Sept.
2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://www.thereadystore.com/survival-tips/5197/10-wildedible-plants-to-save-your-life/>.
"Fact Sheets and Plant Guides." USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 20 Oct. 2014.
Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/factSheet>.
Russell, Dr. A.B. "Poisonous Plants - List by Scientific Name - P. 1." Poisonous Plants - List by
Scientific Name - P. 1. Herbarium Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 1 Jan.
2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/category/poisonous-plants/>.
"Wild Edible Plants." Practical Survivor. Creative Commons Attribution. Web. 20 Oct. 2014.