Universal Edibility Test

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For past few days I have been reading into this book Prepper’s Survival Medicine Handbook: A Lifesaving Collection of Emergency Procedures from U.S. Army Field Manuals among others books. The author Scott Finazzo have served as a firefighter over two decades & is still in the line.

The content is as appealing as the title itself & I would defninitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get familiar with basic first-aid methods, military-tested medical tactics & beyond, which could be life saving in many situations.

The EPUB I have opted for is 265 pages long & It will take me two more days to finish the book.

As I was reading through the chapter on surviving in specific climates, I came across a section on how to test the food for its edibility if you are not sure about its poisonous nature. It is called Universal Edibility Test. Although it is time-consuming but in the absence of conrete knowledge & when the survival is at stake, it is the safest way to consume unknown plants.

step by step instructions

  1. Separate the plant into its various parts: roots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers.
  2. Test one part of the plant at a time.
  3. Smell for strong or acidic odors—a bad smell is a bad sign.
  4. Test for contact poisoning—hold the part of the plant against your wrist or inner elbow for several minutes, and wait 15 minutes to see if there’s a reaction.
  5. If the part has passed the steps above, prepare it the way you plan to eat it—boiling is always a safe option.
  6. Touch part of the plant to your lips. Wait 15 minutes to see if there is any itching or burning.
  7. If there is no reaction, put a small part of the plant in your mouth and hold it there for 15 minutes. If it tastes bitter or soapy, spit it out.
  8. If there is no reaction, swallow the bite and wait several hours to see if there is an adverse reaction.
  9. If there are no ill effects, it can be assumed that part of the plant is safe to eat. Prepare a small amount (¼ cup) and consume, waiting again for several hours after to feel any adverse effects.

Ideally it would be better to have a detailed field guide, particularly for edible plants, such as The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying, Harvesting, and Preparing Edible Wild Plants or the SAS Survival Handbook (this is in my reading list already), which can help to safely identify edible plants and avoid dangerous ones.


A few common misconceptions exist when it comes to identifying edible forest plants:

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