Prepared Living » How to Safely Forage for Wild Food

How to Safely Forage for Wild Food

fb iconpinterest iconpinterest iconlinkedin iconbuffer icon

In uncertain times, it’s important to have the knowledge and skills to become completely self-sufficient. Like understanding how to safely forage for wild food. With the countless natural disasters and threat of economic collapse plaguing the headlines of every newspaper, it’s easy to become concerned about your family’s future.

While nobody likes to play the game of “survival of the fittest,” it’s a good idea to understand how to safely forage for food in the wilderness. Should you and your family find yourselves in a situation where you must retreat to the woods to find food, you’ll be more prepared and less panicked.


How and Why It’s Necessary to Know Which Plants Around You Are Edible

If you’re going to be foraging for food, knowing which plants are edible could be the difference between life and death. Finding wild foods is no easy task for those unaccustomed to surviving in the woods.

You have to be able to identify which plants will provide you and your family nourishment, and which ones are poisonous. There are literally thousands of edible plant varieties throughout North America.

Wild Rose Hips are High in Vitamin C

Let’s take a look at 5 of the more common species and how you can identify them.

How to Safely Forage for Wild Food


You may be familiar with these tall wetland plants. Cattails are stiff with green, grass-like leaves and can grow to be as tall as ten feet! Its unique, two-part flower is what makes it so recognizable.


The female head of the flower is brown, cylindrical and fuzzy in appearance, while the male, or pollen head, resembles a yellow spike and rises above the female head. You can find them growing along any marsh, lake or river. Cattails can provide nourishment all year round!

During spring, the shoots become quite easy to break off and once you’ve peeled them, you can eat them raw, or steamed. They base shoots taste like mild cucumber.

Also, the can be dried and ground into flour as well. In addition to a food source, cattail heads can be dried and lit as torches, as they burn quite well. 


Dandelions are another familiar plant.


They happen to be the yellow flowers that often spring up on your lawn during the spring and summer months. It’s commonly referred to as a weed, but packs a punch when it comes to nutrition.

View Dandelion Recipes here

In fact, the greens of a Dandelion are rich in potassium, fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, beta-carotene and so much more. You can eat the greens as a salad, or boil them if they are bitter. They can be used to help ripen fruit faster.



The Bulrush is similar to the Cattail as it also grows in marshy areas and is available year round. These towering plants have non-branching stems and have a large cluster of flowers at the top.Both the shoots and the roots of a young Bulrush can be eaten as a vegetable. The older roots can be ground and used as flour.



Much like Dandelions, the Watercress plant is highly nutritious. Not surprisingly, it’s also classified as a weed. You can find them growing in the clear waters of creeks and smaller lakes.


Their stems are similar to alfalfa sprouts in that they are long, thin and flexible. The green leaves themselves are wide, round and vary in size. These plants are perfect for salads and are chuck full of folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K.


They also act as a digestive aid. Watercress can be collected year round, but they are best in the fall and spring.

Lamb’s Quarters

Lamb’s Quarters are one of the most nutritious plants available. They are very easy to identify and have no odor. The alternating leaves are triangular in shape and have jagged edges.

How to Safely Forage for Wild Food
Lamb’s Quarters Uses in Herbal Medicine Source

In some cases, the leaves may start to turn white, but they are still edible. Lamb’s Quarters can grow to be ten inches tall and are available until late fall.

Because there are countless edible plants, it would be wise to purchase a book on the subject. They will come equipped with illustrations to help you further determine if the plant is edible. You’ll also learn which plants are not safe to eat and how to identify them.

How to Prepare Your Family for Foraging/Eating Wild Foods

If you have a growing family, it can be hard to imagine life without a grocery store. The fact of the matter is, you may soon find yourself in that very situation.

How will your family handle this? With no place to purchase the usual comfort foods, you may find it hard to adjust to a wild food diet. If your family is prepared and already familiar with some of these foods, it may make the transition easier.

How to Safely Forage for Wild Food

Here are some tips:

Begin incorporating some wild foods into your diet. Watercress, Dandelion greens, pine nuts and berries are all items that can be purchased at your local grocery store. They’re also some of the foods you would be eating if you were surviving in the woods.

Take the kids for a walk and start trying to find some of these plants and make it a fun experience for them. See if you can identify what’s edible and what isn’t. Finding wild foods is going to be a learning experience, so begin as soon as you can.


Precautions to take when foraging

Humans have come a long way from their cavemen roots and have become out of touch with nature. Because we don’t spend our days hunting and foraging for food, it can be very easy to mistake a tasty, healthy plant with a poisonous one.

These precautions may help:
If you’re not sure what the plant is, don’t pick it and certainly don’t eat it. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Stick with the plants you can easily identify and once you are more familiar with others, begin to pick those.

Avoid plants that grow on the side of the road or near industrial plants and/or farms as they may be contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers.

Remember, it’s never to late to start preparing for a disaster. Having a plan will ensure that everyone remains calm. Whether it’s an economic or natural disaster, anyone can find themselves at the mercy of mother nature at any time.

4 thoughts on “How to Safely Forage for Wild Food”

  1. I agree with ajammes suggestion and I’d also recommend looking in your looking area for foraging groups or classes. It’s one thing to read about or see plants in a book and it’s another to have firsthand knowledge of what they look like and where they grow in your area.

  2. Wanted to add, if you are harvesting cattail, you have to cut off the part that is in the water on the outside with a knife before eating, you could get giardia. My survival plant teacher says that you cut it off in the water across, take the plant and slit down like pealing an onion to remove the first layer and then cut off the bottom again. You can only get giardia from the part of the cattail that has been sitting in the water exposed.

    Another FYI, research the edible cattail uses. You can eat the pollen like flour, the flowers (when the top section is green), and the stem, you can also eat the roots? I have eaten the flowers when the top is green.

    It is delicious. You harvest the top part of the “cattail” and then you can eat it as cattail on the cob or remove from the “toothpick” and add to other dishes. I made yucca flower burritos and added the cattail flower when frying.

    This is a very good way to get nutrients and vegetable food for free.


Leave a Comment