The edibility test

There are no external indicators in plants that tell you if it is poisonous for people or not.
Either you know your plants or you don’t!


Potato plant: You eat the roots every day. Eat the flowers once and you are dead.

And there are no recipes to tell them apart. If you think these wonderful looking black berries there that don’t taste that bad and look like huckleberry could be a nice dessert, you will for sure wake up in heaven.
Or just think of potatoes: This basic food is the root of a plant that is deadly if you try to eat the leaves or fruits!

And that some animals eat them is not a sign you would not get a serious problem. Think of Koalas and the leaves of Eucalyptus trees. Deadly for every other animals but Koala bears.

How to test if something is edible

So, what do yo do if your botanical knowledge tends to zero? Starve? Of course not. You test plants. Look at what is around you and decide where you want to give it a try.

Even if you think you have good botanical knowledge, it is always a good advice to test if something really is edible if you are not a 100% sure. To test this, you can start with a part of the plant like a leaf, root or fruit that you think could be suitable to eat.

Step 1: Do a skin test

Take a small piece of the plant and rub it on your forearm. If after 15 minutes there is no reaction, you can go over to the next test. If your skin gets red, burns or is irritated in some way, wash your arm and throw the plant away.

Step 2:  Mouth test

In step 2 you touch your mouth angle with a small part of the plant. If you notice some tingle or dumbness throw it away. If after 15 minutes nothing happens, you can try to put a piece on your tongue. Wait 15 minutes and if there still is no reaction, start chewing on it to continue testing. Only if nothing happened you can go on and swallow a small piece.

Step 3: Wait and see

Then wait at least 4, better 8 hours without tasting anything else but water.

If you start to get sick try to throw up everything to evacuate the plant from your stomach. Hot water with some charcoal helps to neutralize poison in your stomach. If it hurts drink warm water and water with a bit of white wood ash.

Step 4:  Eat small portions

If everything goes OK and you noticed nothing, the plant could still be dangerous, so in step 4 you can eat a small portion of the plant. If during the rest of the day or night nothing happens, it can be a survival food. But still, to prevent sudden illness it’s better to eat small portions several times.

Alway test it back home too

There are plants that are poisonous on the long run, but in the days or weeks they damage your liver you may be out of danger and have made it to a hospital. You should always take some of the unknown plant or fruit with you to make a toxicological test after you are in a safe place.



Beargrass for example is a grasslike plant related to lillies. It is found mostly in western North America from British Columbia to California and east to Wyoming, in the Cascades, the northern Sierra Nevada and the Rockies. Native Americans used the fibrous leaves to make baskets. They turn white as they dry and are quite tough. Its rhizomes are thick and tuberous and edible if you roast or boil them.

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