So you’re lost and stranded in the wild. The best thing you can do is remember those outdoor survival skills and stay calm until you can be rescued, or find your way back home. But what if your stomach starts to rumble and you need to find something to eat? Understanding where to find survival food is essential, even if food may be the least pressing survival need. After all, most humans can live a few weeks without food if they just have lots of water and proper shelter.
However, food is a much-needed source of energy, as well as being important for your mental and emotional state. Knowing the best food sources in the wild is one of the keys to survival.
Some of the easiest food sources to find in the wild is plants, as they’re abundant and don’t take much effort to find and eat. You can survive by eating a significant number of plants, from grass to berries to nuts, and therefore conserve your energy. However, there are lots of other edible options to support your dietary needs in a survival situation, such as insects and fish. It’s essential to know what exactly it is you’re eating, as nature has its fair share of poisonous inhabitants that may end up doing more harm than good. Before heading out, familiarize yourself with the edible plants and fruits of the area you’ll be exploring.
When you’re in a survival situation, you need to take advantage of all available natural food sources, which can range from plants to insects. The natural food available will be determined by the habitat you’re in, and you need to make sure to vary your diet, making sure you’re getting the appropriate proportions of carbohydrates,p protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals.
Fish is an excellent source of fat and protein, and it will provide almost everything you need for long-term survival. However, at the beginning stages of a survival situation, the most appropriate nutrition should come from plants, as they are readily available and contain all necessary carbohydrates.
Wild edible plants
You will almost always find edible plants unless you’re stuck in the middle of a desert. Knowing at least one or two edible plants can be of great assistance when you are searching for survival food.
Some of the most abundant and common plant food sources in North America are the following:
Cattails: Cattails will always be an available food source, no matter the season. You can eat the root (and also use it to make flour), shoots, and pollen. The base stalk has a celery-like flavor and consistency, and the whole plant is very healthy.
Conifers: The inner bark is full of starches, sugars, and calories. You should scrape out and cook the inner bark before eating it, as it will make it more digestible. You can eat most conifers from cone-bearing evergreen trees but stay away from trees with red berries, which are poisonous.
Grass: All grass is edible, just make sure to spit out any fibers that cannot be digested. The corn (or base) of the grass is filled with carbohydrates and water, and you can roast it and eat it like you would a potato.
Oaks: You can eat all acorns, and they are a great source of fats, protein, and calories. To extract the bitter tannins, place them in a net bag on a stream for a couple of days, or boil them a few times.
Just as nature offers loads of edible plants, a lot of them are poisonous. A good rule is to avoid any plant that has white berries or a milky sap. You will be in serious trouble if you pick the wrong plant, so eating an unknown plant is not worth the risk. Eat only those plants you know are edible, and the best way to know this is to study the plants beforehand.
The basic gist of the Universal Edibility Test is that you can test a plant step by step to know if it’s edible or poisonous. This test requires you to put a small piece of the plant against your lip, then your tongue and then your whole mouth, waiting hours in between each test. While this test may come in handy, it takes a very long time, and the plan could still end up being poisonous.
If you are in the hunt for berries, there is a simple mnemonic from former Green Beret Myke Hawk to find if the berry is edible: “White and yellow, kill a fellow. Purple and blue, good for you. Red… could be good, could be dead.” This mnemonic isn’t foolproof, but it can help you out in a pinch.
In a survival situation, the most vital nutrients you need are fat and protein, and most insects are abundant in both. Eating insects may go against everything you believe, but they are a fantastic nutritional food supply. They are easily found, and easy to catch. Look for them in moist, shady spots, under the bark of dead trees and in rotten logs.
The most common edible insects are grubs, cricket, earthworks, termites (and their larvae), ants and earthworms. Most of them except crickets can be eaten raw, although we recommend staying on the safe side and cooking them. Cooking insects will reduce the risk of ingesting any parasites or bacteria that may be present. Avoid any brightly colored, fuzzy insects, or insects that emit a foul odor.
Grubs: You can find them under the turf and in rotting logs. To make them taste better, skewer them and roast them by placing them close to a heat source. You can eat ants raw, but remove the heads before eating them, to avoid being stung or pinched.
Termites: You can find termites under or in logs that are in contact with the ground. To catch termites, stick a twig into the mound and pull it out quickly, as the termites will gather on the twig when it goes into the pile.
Earthworms: Earthworms can be found in forest debris, piles of wet leaves, and under rocks and logs. In case of emergency, you can eat them raw, but if you have time to cook them, either roast them or place them in hot water to make a high protein broth.
Fishes are a fantastic source of fat and protein, so they are a valuable food source if you are near a stream or river. There are several simple methods of catching fish, which include angling, using a spear or using a net. To be successful when fishing, learn about the behavior of the fish. They will mostly gather where they are most comfortable and can find prey easily, so look for deep shaded water if the weather is hot, and look for shallow water in colder environments. The best time to catch fish is just after dusk or just before dawn.
Eggs have a high nutritional value, are safe to eat and can be easily found. You can boil, bake or fry them. The easiest place to look for bird eggs is to search for bird nests, but some birds can also lay their eggs on the ground or in a whole.
As a reminder, most countries do not allow the collection or consumption of wild bird eggs, so you should only consider this in if you are in a real wilderness survival situation.
Knowing how to cook in the wilderness is a vital skill. Most foods are more appetizing when cooked, and you lessen the risk of ingesting bacteria and parasites and getting sick from food poisoning.
When you’re in a wilderness survival situation, you may not have access to a camping stove or cooking utensils, so it’s important that you master wilderness cooking survival methods.
Food sources are abundant in the wilderness–you just need to have some imagination and educate yourself about what you eat. When you’re starving, you may be surprised at how good a roasted insect can taste (or just tell yourself that they taste like chocolate).
By learning more about how to find food sources in the wild, you’re also learning about nature itself. And the more you know, the more you love and enjoy the outdoors.