Knowing a few edible wild plants can make your next backpacking trip, or any trip into the wilderness, a lot more enjoyable.
You can pack lighter if you eat wild berries every morning for breakfast, for example, and leave your oatmeal behind. So push the bears out of the way and gorge yourself on blueberries. Less weight on your back always feels better.
You’ll also enjoy your backpacking more when you know that you won’t be completely helpless the moment you lose your pack, or a raccoon empties it for you. You don’t have to be a survivalist to see the value of knowing which of the wild plants around you can be eaten.
I eat dandelions, wild courants, pine nuts and other edible wild plants regularly. I ate hundreds of calories in wild rasberries during a break, while hiking in the Colorado Rockies. During a kayak trip on Lake Superior, a friend and I spent half a day stopping at every litle island, to fill our stomachs with wild blueberries. We were almost out of food, so our foraging helped us get through the rest of the trip.
Here are just some of the wild berries my wife and I ate while hiking to Grinnel Glacier in Glacier National Park: Blueberries, Service Berries, Rose Hips, Blackberries, High Bush Cranberries, Strawberries, Rasberries, Thimbleberries, and Currants. Berries are the most convenient, calorie rich and nutritious of the edible wild plants out there. They are also the easiest to learn to identify
Edible Wild Plants And Survival
If you travel in isolated wilderness areas, learning to identify a few edible wild plants can keep you safe also. Someday you may be lost or injured, or a bear will push you out of the way to gorge himself your freeze-dried meals. In a survival situation, food isn’t usually a priority (warmth and water are), but a pile of roasted cattail hearts sure will cheer you up and warm you up, and they even taste good.
Stay away from protected plants, of course, unless you are in a true life-or-death situation. Also, don’t eat all the beautiful flowers, or kill off the lilies by eating all the bulbs. Use common sense. If you aren’t sure if you’re doing harm, stick to eating wild berries.
Check out a few books on harvesting wild food. You don’t need to become a wilderness survival fanatic. You really only need to learn to recognise a dozen high-calorie, abundant wild edible plants to be a lot safer in the wilderness, and to enjoy it more.
Steve Gillman is a long-time backpacker, and advocate ultralight backpacking. His advice and stories can be found at http://www.TheUltralightBackpackingSite.com