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Stuck in the wilderness, how do you eat?

Discussion in 'General' started by Nekodaiden, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    This is a thought experiment and something I’ve wondered about since seeing the movie “Van Diemen’s Land”. If you are unfamiliar with the movie a good summary can be found here:





    It is based on the true story of convicts escape, struggle for survival and finally cannibalism.



    As Vegans, we know we can not only survive but thrive on whole plant foods. Here is where the thought experiment comes in:



    You are one of the convicts. Bread has run out. You don’t know about tree cambium (edible part of trees that can sustain humans in emergency situations).



    You also do not recognize any of the plants. As in the movie, the convicts quickly discover they cannot hunt or fish, they must turn to plants. In one scene, one of them tries cooking some unrecognized plant leaves in a stew, swallows it and quickly gets sick and vomits it all up.



    So the question is:



    How do you choose what plants to eat?
     
  2. Sax
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    Sax Active Member

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    Universal Edibility Test

    Net calories would be another concern. Are you burning more calories gathering than it provides? Would you be able to tell?
     
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  3. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    That seems like a very good testing method, it is vaguely familiar, I think I've seen it before.

    Calories. Hmm. We know many plants that have seeded have lots of starch (corn, barley, wheat etc). But if they haven't seeded, where do they store the starch? Roots perhaps? I don't know.

    Then there's fat for more calories, but I only know of fats (substantial amounts of them) from certain seeds and nuts and legumes like peanuts. Alas these are all seed pods that aren't available year round.
     
  4. Veganite
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    Veganite Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've taken several survival courses over the years, as I used to volunteer with search & rescue. I actually took the courses because I enjoy the knowledge of survival, as well as the wilderness. I still do lots of back-country hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. I also like to hike and rock climb in the alpine areas, locally, as well. I've climbed several of the big summits over the years.

    Every year people get lost and/or injured, and even killed, in some of the remote areas of our local Rocky Mountains. Avalanches are a huge threat here in the winter months. Between March 7, 2017 and March 4, 2018, S&R had 56 incidents where assistance was required, up from 46 the year before.

    Anyhow, I know a thing or two about the local wild edibles here. Sax is spot-on with the universal edibility test. This technique is survival 101. Nonetheless, the fact is we can go a very long time without food in our stomachs. 3 weeks would be pushing it for most people, but some people have been known to go a lot longer on just water. The same can't be said for water. We can only survive 3 days without water. So food is usually your last priority when lost or trying to survive. Survival is your priority, which often means simply staying warm and remaining calm.

    I would put survival in this order of priority:

    1/ Shelter
    2/ Fire or water, depending on the time of year.
    3/ Refer to priority #2
    4/ Food comes last for obvious reasons

    There's a TV reality show called Alone, which has been filmed on location several times in my province. Mainly on Vancouver Island. I always get a chuckle out of the people struggling to survive on this show. It's not actually that funny. The problem with the contestants is they don't know the area and terrain. There's no shortage of food if you know what to look for. A little knowledge can go a long ways.

    You could even remain vegan for a long time here, if you know what you look for when trying to survive. Here's a list of wild edibles here: http://northernbushcraft.com/guide.php?ctgy=edible_plants&region=bc

    In that movie, I wonder why they never took to eating insects and worms? You would think there would be an abundance of those in just about any forest or jungle. The rivers had no fish either?

    So just for the sake of your question, I am dropped off in a remote wilderness I am not familiar with, what would I do? I would refer to the rule of 3.

    You can survive for 3 Minutes without air (oxygen) or in icy water. You can survive for 3 Hours without shelter in a harsh environment (unless in icy water) You can survive for 3 Days without water (if sheltered from a harsh environment) You can survive for 3 Weeks without food (if you have water and shelter).

    So following certain rules of survival, you can still forage for food in unfamiliar terrain as well. A little knowledge goes a long ways. Most aquatic plants with leaves above the water's surface are often edible. Again, the universal edible test should be used before committing to swallowing it. A little knowledge and common sense can go a long ways in such a situation.

    The Art of Manliness gives eight features of poisonous plants to watch out for:

    1. Milky or discolored sap
    2. Spines, fine hairs, or thorns
    3. Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods
    4. Bitter or soapy taste
    5. Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley-like foliage
    6. “Almond” scent in the woody parts and leaves
    7. Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs
    8. Three-leaved growth pattern

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  5. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    3. Can you elaborate further? We know many beans are safe and some of the them come in pods (like peanuts, walnuts, green peas, other beans)

    4. I sprouted chia once. The sprout was definitely soapy tasting from memory. I didn't eat much but have heard of people who do.

    5. As applied to the foliage only, I assume. The root would have to be tested separately.


    I tried the universal edibility test linked in Sax’s post today with something I thought for sure would likely to be safe but I’ve never heard of being eaten.

    Barley root (not grass, not seed). Basically the white/rooty part of the grass. I eat sprouted barley, and have at times used small amounts of grass in shakes, but I’ve never tried nor heard of the root being eaten.

    I went through all the steps, boiled it, then gently pan heated and took a portion the size of about the my finger up to the first joint, chewed and after 15 minutes swallowed.



    1 ½ hour later, no ill effect. This is when I had breakfast. Another ½ hour still no ill effect.



    It doesn’t taste like much but it is starchy.
     
  6. Veganite
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    Veganite Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, while many beans are safe, this rule applies to seeking out unfamiliar wild edibles, which really is never a good plan. I prefer to know for absolutely certain what I'm eating. Only in a life and death situation would I use these survival tactics.

    So when searching out wild edibles in an unfamiliar area, like in the movie, you generally should avoid beans, bulbs, and seeds inside pods. There may very well be exceptions, but this is the general rule of thumb to follow when in such a desperate survival scenario. Only if you know for certain its safe would you risk it.

    Getting sick when lost and trying to survive can be fatal. So if the plant doesn’t kill you, your weakened state, and possible dehydration could. Why risk it?

    It is far better to understand the vegetation in the area you live or are visiting. Do your research first, which of course the prisoners in the movie didn't have the option of, but we do have that option. There's no excuse not to research where you're hiking and/or foraging.

    People die every year here from eating misidentified mushrooms. Mushrooms are something I really love a lot, but won't risk under any circumstances. I've gone out with experienced mycologists many times, and still won't risk it with certain varieties on my own. Some I can safely identify, but man this is risky business.

    The same applies to the chia seeds you sprouted. Since you know chia seeds are safe, no worries, but this rule applies to using the universal edibility test. If it passes the first steps and makes it into your mouth, this is where common sense and a bit of training will go a long ways.

    There could again be exceptions to this rule, but in general these are reliable rules to follow in a survival situation. If it tastes soapy or bitter, chances are it will either make you sick or kill you.

    I am familiar with many of the wild roots and tubers where I live, but I would not have a clue where you live. Again, only in a real survival situation would I attempt testing these things. I'd much rather research it and know for sure. Even after researching, extensively, people can still make mistakes.






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  7. Veganite
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    Veganite Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not sure if you have bullrushes where you live, but they are edible, and actually tasty when in season. I believe they're also quite high in starchy carbs.

    upload_2018-9-15_19-25-15.jpeg
    upload_2018-9-15_19-25-37.jpeg

    Bulrush (Typha latifolia ) and Lesser Bulrush (Typha angustifolia) : Natives of Britain, growing in pond margins, these plants are an absolute must for any self-respecting vegan ‘self-sufficientist’. Their catalogue of uses is most impressive and just why they are not used commercially is beyond us. Their rhizome is edible raw, cooked, or dried and ground into flour. Young shoots can be eaten raw or used as an asparagus substitute. The base of more mature stems can be eaten raw or cooked (but remove the outer covering). The seeds are edible and, when roasted, are said to have a pleasant, nutty flavour. An edible oil can be extracted from the seed. The pollen, which is a good source of protein, can be added to flour, and the young flowering spikes can be cooked and eaten. As if all that was not enough, the leaves can be used in weaving to make hats, mats etc, the hairs on the fruits can be used as a stuffing material for pillows etc, the stems are used in paper making and the dried flowers make a good insulating material. It’s quite wonderful, isn’t it?

    They also make excellent tinder.



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  8. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    If the movie is true to the real story (which I admit I am only vaguely familiar with), then they escape in autumn or near winter. Less insects. Even so, insects still would have to be caught. Worms have never sounded appealing to me even when I was meat eater.

    They'd have to catch/eat a lot of them to survive on whatever fat and protein those insects/worms had to convert to energy.

    Fishing would be an option, but from my understanding the convicts have no skills in hunting or fishing. They were urban dwellers like most of us, growing up with food provided by others and worked/paid for...without any working knowledge of plants, how to survive in the wild and certainly without an internet to reference. Like most people from western societies, they also likely believed they had a biological need for animal products (or just protein from non-plants), and without the skills to obtain them...
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2018
  9. Veganite
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    Veganite Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's hard for me to imagine such a dire situation, but you would think any human being would eat worms and insects before they'd turn to cannibalism. You don't have to be a genius to know to dig in the ground for worms or a rotten logs for grubs. You also don't need a lot because they are packed with nutrients, including omega 3's in many cases. A lot of bugs are high in B vitamins too, including B12. As gross as it may sound, stinkbugs are common in Tasmania, as would be many of the other bugs and critters listed below.



    Here's a short list of edible bugs:
    • Grasshoppers and crickets
    • Ants
    • Termites
    • Grubs
    • Woodlice
    • Earthworms
    • Stinkbugs
    • Scorpions
    I googled edibles in Tasmania to see what would've been available to the prisoners. Here's a look at what the Tasmanian Aboriginal diet consisted of:

    Fruits, roots, seeds and sap were all part of the Tasmanian Aboriginal diet.
    An important year round food source was the native pigface. The leaves of the pigface are edible and have a mildly salty flavour and following flowering it bears sweet red fruit. This plant is still widely used by Tasmanian Aboriginal people today for stings, bites, wounds, and food just as it has been for hundreds of generations.
    The grasstree is another versatile plant for Tasmanian Aboriginal people; the leaves, nectar, root and stem of the plant are all edible. Grasstree seeds were collected and ground into flour to make damper and the flowers were soaked in fresh water to make a drink.
    Other plants eaten included native currants, native cherry, kangaroo apple, native potato and native carrot, honeysuckle nectar, pith from manferns, and the 'native bread' fungus. A unique seasonal food collected in highland areas was the fermented sap of the cider gum which provided a weak alcoholic beverage, used occasionally.


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  10. Nekodaiden

    Nekodaiden Active Member

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    Based on the reading I’ve been doing combined with knowledge already obtained:

    I think the first factor to look at would be the Universal Edibility Test as linked in Sax’s post. That being said, season would play a big role in where I look to first:

    Summer: Fruit and seed of fruit. Likewise the seed of grasses. Starchy or fatty seeds (seeds in the most general term, so including nuts) would be highly prized for their energy and vitamin and mineral values that are cofactors in energy metabolism.

    Autumn/Winter: Roots, especially tree roots, but also any grass roots that are still growing/alive. The reason being primarily starch and other nutrients the plants retain for the upcoming spring.

    Spring: Flowers and edible foliage (again per the Test if it’s not known). At this time the plants are calling on their storage in the roots to make new leaves and flowers.


    Of course, if all the plants/trees are unrecognized, then the UET would have to be applied to all before consuming substantial amounts of them.

    - Had I been one of the convicts though, or even more generally living as an omnivore in a society that extols animal flesh (like we are still living in if you live in the West) and refined carbohydrate (such as that you cannot find in nature), I think I’d be relatively lost. Just a few years ago I barely ate any of the fruit from my fruit trees, much less saved their seeds.
     

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