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DR DAVID CLEVELAND
CLEVELAND78@LIVE.COM
FINDING AND KNOWING
EDIBLES FROM POISONOUS FOOD

Growing, Catching, and Preparing Food - An Overview

If you are facing the prospect of gathering and / 

or catching food in the wild, you are facing one of two circumstances: 

this is a lifestyle choice, or you're in a long-term survival

situation, where chances of rescue within weeks 

are slim.

The time frame of weeks may surprise some, but the reality

is that in most survival situations, food is the 

least important

factor, i.e., if you make it your number one 

survival priority,

you'll probably get killed by something more important like

not having sought adequate shelter while you 

were chasing

badgers with a pointy stick. But getting down to brass tacks...

Chances are, you're not going to develop the 

skills necessary

to hunt wild animals without firearms in any immediate time

frame, so the next option available to us is to prepare snares

and traps. Snares and traps have the distinct advantage that

they are hunting for you night and day, rain or shine. A simple

circuit of your traps once a day is all that is required. The most important, and hopefully 

obvious consideration with traps is

site selection: place traps where animals will be. Bait is fine,

but to have bait, you have to have already caught something,

haven't you? If you haven't, consider that animals invariably

seek water, so a simple snare along a well-worn path to the

creek is perfect.

Types of Traps:

  • Deadfalls
  • Snares
  • Cage Traps
  • Nets
  • Fishing Lines

Edible & Poisonous Wild Plants

Here are some guideline for eating wild plant life. 

In most

situations, if you don't know what a plant is, 

don't eat it.

You can live 3 weeks or more without food. You 

can live a

lot less long with poison in your system. Only eat wild plants

if you have devoted a good deal of time to 

studying them.

  • Do not eat mushrooms or fungi unless you 
  • know for certain
  • that it is edible. Most are poisonous, and there 
  • is no way of determining which ones are edible without properly
  • identifying the species.
  • Plants with umbrella-shaped flowers should 
  • not be eaten.
  • Avoid legumes (beans and peas).
  • Bulbs should generally be avoided. Wild garlic 
  • and onions
  • are edible but have poisonous look-a-likes. However, garlic
  • and onions smell distinctively like garlic and onions.
  • Lichen
  • Avoid white and yellow berries, as most of 
  • them. are poisonous. Blue and black berries 
  • are usually safe to eat.
  • The "berry rule" is that 10% of white and 
  • yellow berries are edible; 50% of red berries 
  • are edible; 90% of blue, black, or purple 
  • berries are edible, and 99% of aggregated 
  • berries are edible. This is only a guideline, and 
  • unknown berries shouldn't be eaten.
  • Aggregated fruits and berries are almost 
  • always edible (blackberry, raspberry, salmonberry, and thimbleberry).
  • Single fruits on a stem are usually considered safe to eat.
  • Plants with shiny leaves or a milky sap are considered to be poisonous. The two that don't follow this rule are Dandelion
  • and Fig. (Both have milky sap.)
  • It is a myth that if an animal eats something, then it is safe.
  •  For instance, deer will eat poison ivy.
  • Wild nuts that taste or smell like almonds are EXTREMELY dangerous. They contain hydrogen cyanide.
  • Wild fruits and berries can be checked for 
  • edibility in the following way:
  1. Put a small amount of juice on your forearm 
  2. and wait until
  3. it dries. If there is no burning, swelling or
  4. redness go to the
  5. next step.
  6. Put a small amount of juice on the corner of 
  7. your mouth and
  8. wait until it dries. If there is no burning or stinging go to the
  9. next step.
  10. Put a small amount of juice on your tongue. If there is no
  11. burning or stinging go to the next step.
  12. Eat a very small amount. (If you immediately 
  13. feel sick or
  14. vomit, stop eating!) If no symptoms occur in 
  15. 24 hours,
  16. the item MOST LIKELY is not poisonous.
  17. Eat sparingly at first, and if symptoms still do 
  18. not occur,
  19. proceed to eat as much as you like.

NOTE: This technique can be very dangerous. 

Many plants

(Agave, to name one example) contain compounds that won't

burn or tingle, but can be powerful emetics and/or laxatives.

Others may be safe in small quantities, but can be dangerous

when large amounts are eaten. Your best bet is to familiarize

yourself with a few common plants for your area that can be

eaten, and not rely on potentially dangerous methods such as

the one listed above.

Animals

There are three main types of meat you can get 

in a survival situation: Insects, fish, and game. 

Here they are covered in that order; easiest to hardest.

All mammals and birds are edible. Some must be boiled or

roasted until tender, though.

Do not eat dog/wolf liver, it contains high levels 

of vitamin A

which can lead to hypervitaminosis and death.

Eating a long term diet of only rabbits can lead 

to "rabbit

starvation" and death. Rabbits have no fat which your body

needs.

Insects

In many places, insects are a staple of local diets. Some basic guidelines for insect eating:

  • Avoid brightly colored insects.
  • Avoid insects that bite or sting.
  • Avoid fuzzy or hairy insects.
  • Most worms and grub are good to eat. It helps 
  • to toast
  • grub until they are dried.
  • Some ants are good food. Dip a stick in water after letting it be coated by ants; repeat until 
  • you have enough.
  • Before eating grasshoppers and crickets, 
  • remove their
  • wings and legs. (They scratch on the way 
  • down.)
  • Only eat fresh, healthy insects.
  • Grasshoppers can contain tape- worms, grab them behind the head and hold their body and pull out the stomach and intestines, and it is a good idea to line them up on a small 
  • stick and roast them on a rock by a fire.

Fish

are easier to catch than wild game. It's best to go fishing

in the morning and at dusk; just after sunrise and before

sunset. In streams, look for deep still pools, undercut banks,

and the areas around and behind sandbars. In lakes, bass

gather around cover. Try areas around plant life, sunken logs

and boulders, docks, and areas around dropoffs 

and ledges.

In the ocean, try reefs, points, deltas, and 

channels. Here I

have listed some ways of catching fish, along with how to use

these ways to catch various types of fish:

Common Types of Fish

Bass
live in lakes and ponds. They like warm, clear, 
slow-moving
water. They gather around cover (as mentioned above). A
predatory fish, they like large worms, frogs, liver and other
organs, crickets and grasshoppers, any meat, and crayfish.
They average about 2-5 pounds. Bass weighing 8 pounds or
more are uncommon, but not unheard of.
Catfish
are bottom feeders living in lakes, ponds, 
channels, and
slow-moving rivers. There are also saltwater species. They
like deep water, and will eat anything strong and smelly,
such as meat, organs, and cheese. They have 
even been
caught using things such as bubblegum and cottonballs
soaked in meat juices. They are also one of the 
only fishes that can caught by noodling. For using a 
rod & reel, put bait and 
a heavy weight on the end of your line. Then, 
throw it out into
the deep water at the middle of a lake. Let it sit there until a
catfish comes across it. As for weight, they are usually
around 2-5 pounds, though the biggest on record was 646 pounds!Bluegill are small fish sometimes called panfish and bream. They are 
caught on either flies or live bait. They gather around
underwater vegetation. The average weight is a pound or two.

Techniques

Rod & Reel
Using a rod & reel is one of the best ways to 
catch fish. You
can use it in the normal fashion, or use the line 
and hooks to
make "set lines." (See below.)
Nets
Nets, when properly placed, can provide a wealth 
of food.
Lay one down in a creek with a line tied to each corner. Wait
till fish swim over it, then lift it up. Also, try tying one under a waterfall. As fish pass over the falls, they get caught in the net.
Also a "gill net" consists of thin strands of 
material making a "curtain". When fish take 
water in through their gills, they
draw in the strands and suffocate.
Set Lines
Your time can be used more efficiently by setting many fixed
lines from things such as tree branches 
overhanging water.
This is the same technique used by trappers; 
rather than
hunt one animal at a time, they set dozens of 
traps, increasing
their odds of catching something.
Spearfishing
Fish can be harvested with a spear. To make an improvised
fishspear: Find a long, strait pole or piece of bamboo. Wrap
a piece of cord (tightly) around one end, about a foot from
the end. Split the end of the pole evenly in half. 
The split will
stop at your cord wrap. Sharpen the two points. 
You may also
fire harden them.
To use it, stand perfectly still in waist deep water. 
If you have
 bait to spare, you may scatter some around you 
if you wish.
Keep the spear-point in the water and move it 
VERY slowly
towards a fish. When your point is a foot or so 
away from it,
jab it sharply, pinning it to the bottom. Try to 
make the fish
slip between the two points, wedging it. Wedging 
it is better
than piercing it; stabbing it can mess up the 
meat. Now, reach
down and grab it firmly; as long as it's still in the water, it can
fight with amazing power. Throw it on the bank 
and continue fishing.
Fish traps
You can construct fishtraps out of vines, bamboo, wire, or plastic jugs. As a rule, the time it would take you to construct a fish trap (if you could at 
all) is best spent on other things. 
However, I'll still include directions for their construction. To make a simple fishtrap from a large narrow-mouthed plastic 
jug: Cut the top few inches off of the jug, 
widening the hole just enough allow comfortable access for a fish. Then, cut the 
top third off of the jug. Invert the removed section, and stick it in the rest of the jug, creating a 
funnel. Secure it in this position. Put bait in the 
jug. Fish will be "funnelled" in towards 
the bait, but will be unable to exit. You are 
actually more likely to catch crawfish and lobsters than fish with this! The 
same design is used to make woven and wire traps.
(If someone knows the exact way to weave traps, put it here!)
Also, on a beach, you can build a fish-trap from 
logs and stones: 
When the tide is low, create an inland-facing half circle of logs and stones. The tide comes in, and 
the trap is submerged. 
When the tide goes out, fish a trapped in the half circle as the water level drops. They may then be picked up.

Fishing Poisons
There are some plants that deoxidise water 
(remove oxygen). When added to a small pool of still water, they cause fish to suffocate and float 
to the surface. Because you did not actually 
poison them, there is no danger when eating fish caught this way. (The green husks from the Chestnut tree and the Black Walnut tree can be added to still water to stun fish. (Illegal, 
but in a survival situation it is good to know) Also the pods from the Black Locust Bean Gum tree (Arkansas)
Handfishing
With practice, you can actually catch fish by hand. When you catch catfish in this way, it is called noodling. (Catching catfish uses a special 
technique, not covered here.) To catch fish by 
hand: Find an undercut bank over still water. Laydown on your
belly on the ground next to the water. Stick your hand in the water. Move very slowly and gingerly until you feel a fish. Work your hand under his 
belly. Grip firmly and lift him out. 
This is kind of like spearfishing with your hand. It takes a lot
of practice.

Older people have mentioned tickling the fish, 

then jamming

your thumb into the gills for extra grip.

Next Step

Now that you have a fish (or several fish) you should scale and clean them. (Instructions for scaling and cleaning to be 

added.) You can eat the heart and liver. Save 

the other
organs for bait. Cut open the stomach to see 

what the fish

has been eating, so you can get an idea of what 

bait to use.

If the stomach is empty, it means that the fish 

are very hungry,

and will bite almost anything. You can put the 

head on a

large hook and drop in the water to catch a snapping turtle.

Scatter whatever is left in the water to attract 

other fish.

FINDING AND KNOWING
EDIBLES FROM POISONOUS FOOD