I enjoy harvesting edible wild plants throughout the year, but no other season is as satisfying to me as autumn. From the calorie rich tree nuts to the sun sweet berries of early fall, it’s like nature is putting on its very own version of Thanksgiving. Here are just a few of the wild foods that sustained our ancestors, and could sustain us now if we become lost in the autumnal wilderness.
Tree Nuts On The Trail
The seeds of trees (typically called nuts) are the most calorie dense menu item of the fall season. There are many different types of tree nuts that offer us a valuable back-up food supply at home and in the wild. Black walnut, butternut walnut, pecan, hickory, beechnut, hazelnut and even pine nuts can be eaten after picking the meat meats from shattered shells if you can beat the squirrels to them. For most of these foods, you won’t need much more than a nut cracker (although the bitter acorn will need to be shelled and soaked to become palatable). Just make sure you know an Acorn from a Buckeye, as Buckeyes (and the very similar looking Horse Chestnut) are poisonous for people to eat.
Pick A Better Berry
A common and tasty place to start gathering fall berries is the wild rose hip. These red fruits grow on upward branching clusters on thorn covered bushes. Every wild member of the genus Rosa will provide safe, edible fruit; and even a few cultivated roses can make an edible rose hip too. The insides of these fruits contain a lot of indigestible seeds, but the skin and pulp contain a significant amount of vitamin C and a good sweet flavor. These hips can be eaten out of hand, and convey a flavor that reminds me of fruit leather and apples. They can also be broken up and steeped as tea, or cooked into jams and jellies. One cup of these fruits contains 162 calories, and seven times your daily allowance of Vitamin C. They’re also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamin A.
These tips and many more survival tips are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – and How To Survive Anything
Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.