Beech Fagus species Description: Beech trees are large (9 to 24 meters), symmetrical forest trees that have smooth, light-gray bark and dark green foliage. The character of its bark, plus its clusters of prickly seedpods, clearly distinguish the beech tree in the field. Habitat and Distribution: This tree is found in the Temperate Zone. It grows wild in the eastern United States, Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is found in moist areas, mainly in the forests. This tree is common throughout southeastern Europe and across temperate Asia. Beech relatives are also found in Chile, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Edible Parts: The mature beechnuts readily fall out of the husklike seedpods. You can eat these dark brown triangular nuts by breaking the thin shell with your fingernail and removing the white, sweet kernel inside. Beechnuts are one of the most delicious of all wild nuts. They are a most useful survival food because of the kernel's high oil content. You can also use the beechnuts as a coffee substitute. Roast them so that the kernel becomes golden brown and quite hard. Then pulverize the kernel and, after boiling or steeping in hot water, you have a passable coffee substitute Blackberry, raspberry, and dewberry Rubus species Description: These plants have prickly stems (canes) that grow upward, arching back toward the ground. They have alternate, usually compound leaves. Their fruits may be red, black, yellow, or orange. Habitat and Distribution: These plants grow in open, sunny areas at the margin of woods, lakes, streams, and roads throughout temperate regions. There is also an arctic raspberry. Edible Parts: The fruits and peeled young shoots are edible. Flavor varies greatly. Other Uses: Use the leaves to make tea. To treat diarrhea, drink a tea made by brewing the dried root bark of the blackberry bush Blueberry and huckleberry Vaccinium and Gaylussacia species Description: These shrubs vary in size from 30 centimeters to 3.7 meters tall. All have alternate, simple leaves. Their fruits may be dark blue, black, or red and have many small seeds. Habitat and Distribution: These plants prefer open, sunny areas. They are found throughout much of the north temperate regions and at higher elevations in Central America. Edible Parts: Their fruits are edible raw. Burdock Arctium lappa Description: This plant has wavy-edged, arrow-shaped leaves and flower heads in burrlike clusters. It grows up to 2 meters tall, with purple or pink flowers and a large, fleshy root. Habitat and Distribution: Burdock is found worldwide in the North Temperate Zone. Look for it in open waste areas during the spring and summer. Edible Parts: Peel the tender leaf stalks and eat them raw or cook them like greens. The roots are also edible boiled or baked. CAUTION Do not confuse burdock with rhubarb that has poisonous leaves. Other Uses: A liquid made from the roots will help to produce sweating and increase urination. Dry the root, simmer it in water, strain the liquid, and then drink the strained liquid. Use the fiber from the dried stalk to weave cordage. Cattail Typha latifolia Description: Cattails are grasslike plants with strap-shaped leaves 1 to 5 centimeters wide and growing up to 1.8 meters tall. The male flowers are borne in a dense mass above the female flowers. These last only a short time, leaving the female flowers that develop into the brown cattail. Pollen from the male flowers is often abundant and bright yellow. Habitat and Distribution: Cattails are found throughout most of the world. Look for them in full sun areas at the margins of lakes, streams, canals, rivers, and brackish water. Edible Parts: The young tender shoots are edible raw or cooked. The rhizome is often very tough but is a rich source of starch. Pound the rhizome to remove the starch and use as a flour. The pollen is also an exceptional source of starch. When the cattail is immature and still green, you can boil the female portion and eat it like corn on the cob. Other Uses: The dried leaves are an excellent source of weaving material you can use to make floats and rafts. The cottony seeds make good pillow stuffing and insulation. The fluff makes excellent tinder. Dried cattails are effective insect repellents when burned. Chicory Cichorium intybus Description: This plant grows up to 1.8 meters tall. It has leaves clustered at the base of the stem and some leaves on the stem. The base leaves resemble those of the dandelion. The flowers are sky blue and stay open only on sunny days. Chicory has a milky juice. Habitat and Distribution: Look for chicory in old fields, waste areas, weedy lots, and along roads. It is a native of Europe and Asia, but is also found in Africa and most of North America where it grows as a weed. Edible Parts: All parts are edible. Eat the young leaves as a salad or boil to eat as a vegetable. Cook the roots as a vegetable. For use as a coffee substitute, roast the roots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them. Chufa Cyperus esculentus Description: This very common plant has a triangular stem and grasslike leaves. It grows to a height of 20 to 60 centimeters. The mature plant has a soft furlike bloom that extends from a whorl of leaves. Tubers 1 to 2.5 centimeters in diameter grow at the ends of the roots. Habitat and Distribution: Chufa grows in moist sandy areas throughout the world. It is often an abundant weed in cultivated fields. Edible Parts: The tubers are edible raw, boiled, or baked. You can also grind them and use them as a coffee substitute. Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Description: Dandelion leaves have a jagged edge, grow close to the ground, and are seldom more than 20 centimeters long. Its flowers are bright yellow. There are several dandelion species. Habitat and Distribution: Dandelions grow in open, sunny locations throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Edible Parts: All parts are edible. Eat the leaves raw or cooked. Boil the roots as a vegetable. Roots roasted and ground are a good coffee substitute. Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C and in calcium. Other Uses: Use the white juice in the flower stems as glue. Elderberry Sambucus canadensis Description: Elderberry is a many-stemmed shrub with opposite, compound leaves. It grows to a height of 6 meters. Its flowers are fragrant, white, and borne in large flat-topped clusters up to 30 centimeters across. Its berrylike fruits are dark blue or black when ripe. Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in open, usually wet areas at the margins of marshes, rivers, ditches, and lakes. It grows throughout much of eastern North America and Canada. Edible Parts: The flowers and fruits are edible. You can make a drink by soaking the flower heads for 8 hours, discarding the flowers, and drinking the liquid. CAUTION All other parts of the plant are poisonous and dangerous if eaten. Foxtail grass Setaria species Description: This weedy grass is readily recognized by the narrow, cylindrical head containing long hairs. Its grains are small, less than 6 millimeters long. The dense heads of grain often droop when ripe. Habitat and Distribution: Look for foxtail grasses in open, sunny areas, along roads, and at the margins of fields. Some species occur in wet, marshy areas. Species of Setaria are found throughout the United States, Europe, western Asia, and tropical Africa. In some parts of the world, foxtail grasses are grown as a food crop. Edible Parts: The grains are edible raw but are very hard and sometimes bitter. Boiling removes some of the bitterness and makes them easier to eat. Hackberry Celtis species Description: Hackberry trees have smooth, gray bark that often has corky warts or ridges. The tree may reach 39 meters in height. Hackberry trees have long-pointed leaves that grow in two rows. This tree bears small, round berries that can be eaten when they are ripe and fall from the tree. The wood of the hackberry is yellowish. Habitat and Distribution: This plant is widespread in the United States, especially in and near ponds. Edible Parts: Its berries are edible when they are ripe and fall from the tree. Hazelnut or wild filbert Corylus species Description: Hazelnuts grow on bushes 1.8 to 3.6 meters high. One species in Turkey and another in China are large trees. The nut itself grows in a very bristly husk that conspicuously contracts above the nut into a long neck. The different species vary in this respect as to size and shape. Habitat and Distribution: Hazelnuts are found over wide areas in the United States, especially the eastern half of the country and along the Pacific coast. These nuts are also found in Europe where they are known as filberts. The hazelnut is common in Asia, especially in eastern Asia from the Himalayas to China and Japan. The hazelnut usually grows in the dense thickets along stream banks and open places. They are not plants of the dense forest. Edible Parts: Hazelnuts ripen in the autumn when you can crack them open and eat the kernel. The dried nut is extremely delicious. The nut's high oil content makes it a good survival food. In the unripe stage, you can crack them open and eat the fresh kernel. Juniper Juniperus species Description: Junipers, sometimes called cedars, are trees or shrubs with very small, scalelike leaves densely crowded around the branches. Each leaf is less than 1.2 centimeters long. All species have a distinct aroma resembling the well-known cedar. The berrylike cones are usually blue and covered with a whitish wax. Habitat and Distribution: Look for junipers in open, dry, sunny areas throughout North America and northern Europe. Some species are found in southeastern Europe, across Asia to Japan, and in the mountains of North Africa. Edible Parts: The berries and twigs are edible. Eat the berries raw or roast the seeds to use as a coffee substitute. Use dried and crushed berries as a seasoning for meat. Gather young twigs to make a tea. CAUTION Many plants may be called cedars but are not related to junipers and may be harmful. Always look for the berrylike structures, needle leaves, and resinous, fragrant sap to be sure the plant you have is a juniper. Marsh marigold Caltha palustris Description: This plant has rounded, dark green leaves arising from a short stem. It has bright yellow flowers. Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in bogs, lakes, and slow-moving streams. It is abundant in arctic and subarctic regions and in much of the eastern region of the northern United States. Edible Parts: All parts are edible if boiled. CAUTION As with all water plants, do not eat this plant raw. Raw water plants may carry dangerous organisms that are removed only by cooking. Mulberry Morus species Description: This tree has alternate, simple, often lobed leaves with rough surfaces. Its fruits are blue or black and many seeded. Habitat and Distribution: Mulberry trees are found in forests, along roadsides, and in abandoned fields in Temperate and Tropical Zones of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Edible Parts: The fruit is edible raw or cooked. It can be dried for eating later. CAUTION When eaten in quantity, mulberry fruit acts as a laxative. Green, unripe fruit can be hallucinogenic and cause extreme nausea and cramps. Other Uses: You can shred the inner bark of the tree and use it to make twine or cord. Nettle Urtica and Laportea species Description: These plants grow several feet high. They have small, inconspicuous flowers. Fine, hairlike bristles cover the stems, leafstalks, and undersides of leaves. The bristles cause a stinging sensation when they touch the skin. Habitat and Distribution: Nettles prefer moist areas along streams or at the margins of forests. They are found throughout North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern Europe. Edible Parts: Young shoots and leaves are edible. Boiling the plant for 10 to 15 minutes destroys the stinging element of the bristles. This plant is very nutritious. Other Uses: Mature stems have a fibrous layer that you can divide into individual fibers and use to weave string or twine. Oak Quercus species Description: Oak trees have alternate leaves and acorn fruits. There are two main groups of oaks: red and white. The red oak group has leaves with bristles and smooth bark in the upper part of the tree. Red oak acorns take 2 years to mature. The white oak group has leaves without bristles and a rough bark in the upper portion of the tree. White oak acorns mature in 1 year. Habitat and Distribution: Oak trees are found in many habitats throughout North America, Central America, and parts of Europe and Asia. Edible Parts: All parts are edible, but often contain large quantities of bitter substances. White oak acorns usually have a better flavor than red oak acorns. Gather and shell the acorns. Soak red oak acorns in water for 1 to 2 days to remove the bitter substance. You can speed up this process by putting wood ashes in the water in which you soak the acorns. Boil the acorns or grind them into flour and use the flour for baking. You can use acorns that you baked until very dark as a coffee substitute. CAUTION Tannic acid gives the acorns their bitter taste. Eating an excessive amount of acorns high in tannic acid can lead to kidney failure. Before eating acorns, leach out this chemical. Other Uses: Oak wood is excellent for building or burning. Small oaks can be split and cut into long thin strips (3 to 6 millimeters thick and 1.2 centimeters wide) used to weave mats, baskets, or frameworks for packs, sleds, furniture, etc. Oak bark soaked in water produces a tanning solution used to preserve leather. Papaya or pawpaw Carica papaya Description: The papaya is a small tree 1.8 to 6 meters tall, with a soft, hollow trunk. When cut, the entire plant exudes a milky juice. The trunk is rough and the leaves are crowded at the trunk's apex. The fruit grows directly from the trunk, among and below the leaves. The fruit is green before ripening. When ripe, it turns yellow or remains greenish with a squashlike appearance. Habitat and Distribution: Papaya is found in rain forests and semievergreen seasonal forests in tropical regions and in some temperate regions as well. Look for it in moist areas near clearings and former habitations. It is also found in open, sunny places in uninhabited jungle areas. Edible Parts: The ripe fruit is high in vitamin C. Eat it raw or cock it like squash. Place green fruit in the sun to make it ripen quickly. Cook the young papaya leaves, flowers, and stems carefully, changing the water as for taro. CAUTION Be careful not to get the milky sap from the unripe fruit into your eyes. It will cause intense pain and temporary--sometimes even permanent--blindness. Other Uses: Use the milky juice of the unripe fruit to tenderize tough meat. Rub the juice on the meat. Persimmon Diospyros virginiana and other species Description: These trees have alternate, dark green, elliptic leaves with entire margins. The flowers are inconspicuous. The fruits are orange, have a sticky consistency, and have several seeds. Habitat and Distribution: The persimmon is a common forest margin tree. It is wide spread in Africa, eastern North America, and the Far East. Edible Parts: The leaves are a good source of vitamin C. The fruits are edible raw or baked. To make tea, dry the leaves and soak them in hot water. You can eat the roasted seeds. CAUTION Some persons are unable to digest persimmon pulp. Unripe persimmons are highly astringent and inedible. Pine Pinus species Description: Pine trees are easily recognized by their needlelike leaves grouped in bundles. Each bundle may contain one to five needles, the number varying among species. The tree's odor and sticky sap provide a simple way to distinguish pines from similar looking trees with needlelike leaves. Habitat and Distribution: Pines prefer open, sunny areas. They are found throughout North America, Central America, much of the Caribbean region, North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and some places in Asia. Edible Parts: The seeds of all species are edible. You can collect the young male cones, which grow only in the spring, as a survival food. Boil or bake the young cones. The bark of young twigs is edible. Peel off the bark of thin twigs. You can chew the juicy inner bark; it is rich in sugar and vitamins. Eat the seeds raw or cooked. Green pine needle tea is high in vitamin C. Other Uses : Use the resin to waterproof articles. Also use it as glue. Collect the resin from the tree. If there is not enough resin on the tree, cut a notch in the bark so more sap will seep out. Put the resin in a container and heat it. The hot resin is your glue. Use it as is or add a small amount of ash dust to strengthen it. Use it immediately. You can use hardened pine resin as an emergency dental filling. Plantain, broad and narrow leaf Plantago species Description: The broad leaf plantain has leaves over 2.5 centimeters across that grow close to the ground. The flowers are on a spike that rises from the middle of the cluster of leaves. The narrow leaf plantain has leaves up to 12 centimeters long and 2.5 centimeters wide, covered with hairs. The leaves form a rosette. The flowers are small and inconspicuous. Habitat and Distribution: Look for these plants in lawns and along roads in the North Temperate Zone. This plant is a common weed throughout much of the world. Edible Parts: The young tender leaves are edible raw. Older leaves should be cooked. Seeds are edible raw or roasted. Other Uses: To relieve pain from wounds and sores, wash and soak the entire plant for a short time and apply it to the injured area. To treat diarrhea, drink tea made from 28 grams (1 ounce) of the plant leaves boiled in 0.5 liter of water. The seeds and seed husks act as laxatives. Pokeweed Phytolacca americana Description: This plant may grow as high as 3 meters. Its leaves are elliptic and up to 1 meter in length. It produces many large clusters of purple fruits in late spring. Habitat and Distribution: Look for this plant in open, sunny areas in forest clearings, in fields, and along roadsides in eastern North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Edible Parts: The young leaves and stems are edible cooked. Boil them twice, discarding the water from the first boiling. The fruits are edible if cooked. CAUTION All parts of this plant are poisonous if eaten raw. Never eat the underground portions of the plant as these contain the highest concentrations of the poisons. Do not eat any plant over 25 centimeters tall or when red is showing in the plant. Other Uses: Use the juice of fresh berries as a dye. Reed Phragmites australis Description: This tall, coarse grass grows to 3.5 meters tall and has gray-green leaves about 4 centimeters wide. It has large masses of brown flower branches in early summer. These rarely produce grain and become fluffy, gray masses late in the season. Habitat and Distribution: Look for reed in any open, wet area, especially one that has been disturbed through dredging. Reed is found throughout the temperate regions of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Edible Parts: All parts of the plant are edible raw or cooked in any season. Harvest the stems as they emerge from the soil and boil them. You can also harvest them just before they produce flowers, then dry and beat them into flour. You can also dig up and boil the underground stems, but they are often tough. Seeds are edible raw or boiled, but they are rarely found. Sassafras Sassafras albidum Description: This shrub or small tree bears different leaves on the same plant. Some leaves will have one lobe, some two lobes, and some no lobes. The flowers, which appear in early spring, are small and yellow. The fruits are dark blue. The plant parts have a characteristics root beer smell. Habitat and Distribution: Sassafras grows at the margins of roads and forests, usually in open, sunny areas. It is a common tree throughout eastern North America. Edible Parts: The young twigs and leaves are edible fresh or dried. You can add dried young twigs and leaves to soups. Dig the underground portion, peel off the bark, and let it dry. Then boil it in water to prepare sassafras tea. Other Uses: Shred the tender twigs for use as a toothbrush. Sheep sorrel Rumex acerosella Description: These plants are seldom more than 30 centimeters tall. They have alternate leaves, often with arrowlike bases, very small flowers, and frequently reddish stems. Habitat and Distribution: Look for these plants in old fields and other disturbed areas in North America and Europe. Edible Parts: The plants are edible raw or cooked. CAUTION These plants contain oxalic acid that can be damaging if too many plants are eaten raw. Cooking seems to destroy the chemical. Sorghum Sorghum species Description: There are many different kinds of sorghum, all of which bear grains in heads at the top of the plants. The grains are brown, white, red, or black. Sorghum is the main food crop in many parts of the world. Habitat and Distribution: Sorghum is found worldwide, usually in warmer climates. All species are found in open, sunny areas. Edible Parts: The grains are edible at any stage of development. When young, the grains are milky and edible raw. Boil the older grains. Sorghum is a nutritious food. Other Uses: Use the stems of tall sorghum as building materials Spatterdock or yellow water lily Nuphar species Description: This plant has leaves up to 60 centimeters long with a triangular notch at the base. The shape of the leaves is somewhat variable. The plant's yellow flowers are 2.5 centimeter across and develop into bottle-shaped fruits. The fruits are green when ripe. Habitat and Distribution: These plants grow throughout most of North America. They are found in quiet, fresh, shallow water (never deeper than 1.8 meters). Edible Parts: All parts of the plant are edible. The fruits contain several dark brown seeds you can parch or roast and then grind into flour. The large rootstock contains starch. Dig it out of the mud, peel off the outside, and boil the flesh. Sometimes the rootstock contains large quantities of a very bitter compound. Boiling in several changes of water may remove the bitterness. Walnut Juglans species Description: Walnuts grow on very large trees, often reaching 18 meters tall. The divided leaves characterize all walnut spades. The walnut itself has a thick outer husk that must be removed to reach the hard inner shell of the nut. Habitat and Distribution: The English walnut, in the wild state, is found from southeastern Europe across Asia to China and is abundant in the Himalayas. Several other species of walnut are found in China and Japan. The black walnut is common in the eastern United States. Edible Parts: The nut kernel ripens in the autumn. You get the walnut meat by cracking the shell. Walnut meats are highly nutritious because of their protein and oil content. Other Uses: You can boil walnuts and use the juice as an antifungal agent. The husks of "green" walnuts produce a dark brown dye for clothing or camouflage. Crush the husks of "green" black walnuts and sprinkle them into sluggish water or ponds for use as fish poison. Water plantain Alisma plantago-aquatica Description: This plant has small, white flowers and heart-shaped leaves with pointed tips. The leaves are clustered at the base of the plant. Habitat and Distribution: Look for this plant in fresh water and in wet, full sun areas in Temperate and Tropical Zones. Edible Parts: The rootstocks are a good source of starch. Boil or soak them in water to remove the bitter taste. CAUTION To avoid parasites, always cook aquatic plants. Wild crab apple or wild apple Malus species Description: Most wild apples look enough like domestic apples that the survivor can easily recognize them. Wild apple varieties are much smaller than cultivated kinds; the largest kinds usually do not exceed 5 to 7.5 centimeters in diameter, and most often less. They have small, alternate, simple leaves and often have thorns. Their flowers are white or pink and their fruits reddish or yellowish. Habitat and Distribution: They are found in the savanna regions of the tropics. In temperate areas, wild apple varieties are found mainly in forested areas. Most frequently, they are found on the edge of woods or in fields. They are found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Edible Parts: Prepare wild apples for eating in the same manner as cultivated kinds. Eat them fresh, when ripe, or cooked. Should you need to store food, cut the apples into thin slices and dry them. They are a good source of vitamins. CAUTION Apple seeds contain cyanide compounds. Do not eat. Wild dock and wild sorrel Rumex crispus and Rumex acetosella Description: Wild dock is a stout plant with most of its leaves at the base of its stem that is commonly 15 to 30 centimeters brig. The plants usually develop from a strong, fleshy, carrotlike taproot. Its flowers are usually very small, growing in green to purplish plumelike clusters. Wild sorrel similar to the wild dock but smaller. Many of the basal leaves are arrow-shaped but smaller than those of the dock and contain a sour juice. Habitat and Distribution: These plants can be found in almost all climatic zones of the world, in areas of high as well as low rainfall. Many kinds are found as weeds in fields, along roadsides, and in waste places. Edible Parts: Because of tender nature of the foliage, the sorrel and the dock are useful plants, especially in desert areas. You can eat their succulent leaves fresh or slightly cooked. To take away the strong taste, change the water once or twice during cooking. This latter tip is a useful hint in preparing many kinds of wild greens. Wild grape vine Vitis species Description: The wild grape vine climbs with the aid of tendrils. Most grape vines produce deeply lobed leaves similar to the cultivated grape. Wild grapes grow in pyramidal, hanging bunches and are black-blue to amber, or white when ripe. Habitat and Distribution: Wild grapes are distributed worldwide. Some kinds are found in deserts, others in temperate forests, and others in tropical areas. Wild grapes are commonly found throughout the eastern United States as well as in the southwestern desert areas. Most kinds are rampant climbers over other vegetation. The best place to look for wild grapes is on the edges of forested areas. Wild grapes are also found in Mexico. In the Old World, wild grapes are found from the Mediterranean region eastward through Asia, the East Indies, and to Australia. Africa also has several kinds of wild grapes. Edible Parts: The ripe grape is the portion eaten. Grapes are rich in natural sugars and, for this reason, are much sought after as a source of energy-giving wild food. None are poisonous. Other Uses: You can obtain water from severed grape vine stems. Cut off the vine at the bottom and place the cut end in a container. Make a slant-wise cut into the vine about 1.8 meters upon the hanging part. This cut will allow water to flow from the bottom end. As water diminishes in volume, make additional cuts further down the vine. CAUTION To avoid poisoning, do not eat grapelike fruits with only a single seed (moonseed). Wild onion and garlic Allium species Description: Allium cernuum is an example of the many species of wild onions and garlics, all easily recognized by their distinctive odor. Habitat and Distribution: Wild onions and garlics are found in open, sunny areas throughout the temperate regions. Cultivated varieties are found anywhere in the world. Edible Parts: The bulbs and young leaves are edible raw or cooked. Use in soup or to flavor meat. CAUTION There are several plants with onionlike bulbs that are extremely poisonous. Be certain that the plant you are using is a true onion or garlic. Do not eat bulbs with no onion smell. Other Uses: Eating large quantities of onions will give your body an odor that will help to repel insects. Garlic juice works as an antibiotic on wounds Wild rose Rosa species Description: This shrub grows 60 centimeters to 2.5 meters high. It has alternate leaves and sharp prickles. Its flowers may be red, pink, or yellow. Its fruit, called rose hip, stays on the shrub year-round. Habitat and Distribution: Look for wild roses in dry fields and open woods throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Edible Parts: The flowers and buds are edible raw or boiled. In an emergency, you can peel and eat the young shoots. You can boil fresh, young leaves in water to make a tea. After the flower petals fall, eat the rose hips; the pulp is highly nutritious and an excellent source of vitamin C. Crush or grind dried rose hips to make flour. CAUTION Eat only the outer portion of the fruit as the seeds of some species are quite prickly and can cause internal distress. Wood sorrel Oxalis species Description: Wood sorrel resembles shamrock or four-leaf clover, with a bell-shaped pink, yellow, or white flower. Habitat and Distribution: Wood sorrel is found in Temperate Zones worldwide, in lawns, open areas, and sunny woods. Edible Parts: Cook the entire plant. CAUTION Eat only small amounts of this plant as it contains a fairly high concentration of oxalic acid that can be harmful.