The Realities of Wilderness Survival - Part 6 / Wild Food -Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wild Wanderings Blog – March 29, 2012

This week and my next several articles will focus on the acquisition of food in the wilds. Remember food is last on our list of Survival priorities, but with a little bit of knowledge there is no reason for anyone to go hungry…EVER!! Let’s focus on plants first…shall we? For the second straight year the local paper has run a front page story, stating that western North Carolina is experiencing a food crisis. People simply can’t afford quality food. Personally, I find this laughable! All they have to do, in most cases, is walk into their front yards and collect it. Throughout most of the year, wild food (plants) is not just abundant, but highly nutritious…and…FREE!! What a concept! (insert smirk here:)


I know we’ve been talking about wilderness survival / living for the past several weeks, but your database of knowledge starts at home! Studying about wild plants has become much easier these days. I grew up with several field guides (which I still use of course) which helped me gain the confidence to not just identify potential plants for food and medicine, but utilize them! Today, with the internet at our fingertips, knowledge can be gleaned and re-inforced with a few strokes of your keyboard. There are plant clubs in most of your communities, co-ops and several groups on social media outlets like Facebook that can help jump start or enhance your Nature studies. The only real questions are…”How bad do you want it?”… “Are you willing to do the work?”


Being lost in the wilderness is the LAST place you want to begin learning about such things. Yes, nature does provide everything we need, but if you can’t recognize the resources and know what to do with them…you’re in deep trouble! The wilds offer no safety for the disconnected or uninformed. Knowledge is the real wisdom here and only experience can provide REAL security. I have over 20 years of experience and I still practice my skills and learn new ones continually. If this is something that interests you?... “Get busy!”


If you’ve been following my Blogs, you know that we can go without food for at least 3 weeks. Obviously, given a choice we wouldn’t choose that. Luckily, we don’t have to! There are four main sources of food (plants) that are found in almost every environment. We’ll call them “The Big Four.” They are Pine, Oak, Cattails and Grasses! Most people with even the most basic education can identify these. All of these could potentially save your life by providing you with valuable nutrients in a time of need.


Members of the Pinaceae family include… cedar, pine, fir, spruce, larch and hemlock. Most can at least identify evergreens easily. Not necessarily the species, but as an evergreen. The green needles on these trees contain significant levels of vitamin C and should be utilized whenever possible. Don’t eat them, but rather chew them and drink the juices spitting out the leftovers. Your body will assimilate the vitamin C quite well this way. I will say that it IS an acquired taste, to say the least! A tea can also be made by steeping the needles in hot water for 10-20 minutes. Remember to steep and not boil as boiling will destroy the vitamin C we seek.


The inner bark of these trees is considered to be a Survival food. I was once told that the inner bark could be sliced into long strips and cooked like pasta! Trust me…if you like spaghetti you won’t consider this remotely similar. Frankly, it’s terrible:)) While it does have nutrients, I’ve found it to be quite disagreeable. Purely a survival chew (raw) in my opinion. On a Historical note…the inner bark of pine was widely used as bandaging during the civil and revolutionary wars. Lastly, many of us have heard of pine nuts and have enjoyed them in dishes like pesto and salads. The natural oils that wild pine nuts provide are quite healthy, but realistically only Pinion, Colter and Digger pines produce nuts of any size to be of much use to us (all Western species). Honestly, I’ve only eaten those of Pinion pine.


Oak is next on our list and, in my opinion, is one of our most widely ignored sources of nutritious wild food. Its Historic use by native peoples is extraordinary. Next week I’ll speak of it extensively and in great detail. Until then… I welcome your thoughts and input. Please consider joining a group I started called “Traditional / Primitive Living Skills” and I do encourage you to ask questions and contribute.


In Wildness,



Richard Cleveland lives in Asheville, NC. He is the founder and director of Earth School. A self-trained Naturalist, fishing and nature guide, he has taught traditional native skills to thousands of people, of all ages. For info about his programs visit



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Tags: camps, carolina, cleveland, earth, north, richard, school, survival, wilderness

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