Archive for May, 2014

Survival foods: Rodents

Posted: May 19, 2014 by Rex Trulove in Survival, survival food, wild food
Tags: , , , , , ,

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People can get a little squimish when it comes to the thought of eating certain foods. In a survival situation though, many food choices are mostly based on availability. This means that people must be willing to eat what is available. They can also be quite surprised to find that the food is tasty, though they might not have otherwise considered consuming it if the situation hadn’t be so dire.

Rodents fit into this catagory, because many people might not consider eating them and yet they can be delicious and healthful. Rodents are also found around the world. It should be considered that most rodents normally eat primarily vegetation, which is what livestock animals eat. Most are far from being ‘filthy’.

Voles, muskrats, beavers, nutria, lemmings, squirrels, porcupines and even mice are quite edible and are excellent sources of protein. They all populate quickly and survive in such varied habitats that it is hard to find an area that doesn’t have rodents, any time of the year. Some do hibernate in the winter, but others don’t.

Rabbits and hares are purposely not true rodents, though most people understand that they are edible. They are separate from rodents, in that they have double incisor teeth, one set in front of the other, instead of the single incisors of the rodents. For practical purposes, though, they can be added to the long list of rodents that can be eaten for survival.

They aren’t especially difficult to catch or clean, with the exception of porcupines, and homemade traps aren’t hard to make for this purpose. Cooking them also isn’t difficult since they can be fried, boiled, baked, barbecued, roasted or cooked almost any way that other meat can be.

Some cultures have been eating rodents for a long time as a normal part of their diet. In fact, some rodents are commonly eaten in even the United States, though people may not realize that they are eating rodents. High class restaurants routinely serve them, by using names that may not be familiar to the diners.

We will be looking further into some of the ways various rodents can be prepared to create delicious meals that will sustain a person as well as filling their bellies with great tasting food.

The picture is of a nutria, a quite edible rodent, and it was taken by , public domain, pixabay.com/en/nutria-rat-myocastor-coypus-273577/

Last in the series: Survival foods: Wild Mustard

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There are many different kinds of wild mustard and the grow virtually everywhere in the world except the permanently cold north and south polar regions. These wild herbs are not only great survival foods, they are wonderful additions to the dinner table or a camping meal.

Many familiar garden vegetables belong to the mustard family, including cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, rutabaga, turnips and Brussels sprouts. Because of the number of variations in wild mustard, it is difficult to give a good description. The flowers tend to be small and are often yellow, but they can also be white, reddish, and even pink or purple. The leaves are often lobed. One of the best representatives in general is garden mustard, which is grown mainly for the leaves and the seeds.

The plant also has a big range since there are so many species; from highland to lowland, good soil, poor soil, drier locations, damp locations, gardens, waysides, waste areas and fields.

The leaves can be steamed or boiled and they are quite tasty, especially when the plant is younger. They have a characteristic peppery flavor that gets stronger and more bitter as the herb grows older. To overcome this, boil the leaves in a couple changes of lightly salted water. Note, however, that pouring the water out when changing it also means that you will be losing a lot of vitamins and minerals.

Speaking of the nutritional value, a cupful of chopped mustard greens has only 15 calories and are a good source of fiber. This herb is a good source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, vitamin B6, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and copper. It is a very good source for folate, vitamin C, vitamin E, and an excellent source for vitamin K, vitamin A and manganese.

In addition to boiling or steaming, the raw leaves can also be added to green salads. They are also pleasant when used in sandwiches in much the same way that lettuce is used.

Wild mustard is often overlooked as a survival food, but it could easily be a staple that has great value because of how available and healthful it is.

The picture is by PollyDot, public domain, http://pixabay.com/en/treacle-mustard-275614/?oq=wild%20mustard

Previous survival food in the series: Arrowhead (Sagittaria genus)

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This wild plant gets its name from the shape of the leaves, which are distinctly arrowhead shaped. These are water plants that grow in almost any fresh, clear, slow moving water. They grow from the lowlands all the way up to mountain forests, if there is a good water supply. Arrowheads put up a thick flowering stalk from the base of the plant, and from this, four to 10 small white flowers open up.

The base of the plant anchors itself in the mud at the bottom of the water, often growing at a shallow depth, with the leaves held erect above the water surface. Tubers grow from the main root mass and can grow two or three feet from the main plant, through the mud. The tubers float, if broken off the main plant. Both the stems and the tubers can be eaten, and since the tubers float, collection just amounts to breaking them off and then scooping them up when they come to the surface.

While there are other survival foods that are healthier, arrowheads make a good survival food. The stems can be stir-fried or boiled and the tubers can be washed, sliced and either fried, boiled or baked. The roots are edible raw, as well.

An ounce of the root has just under 30 calories, almost 80 percent of it coming from starches and sugars. This edible wild plant is also a good source of protein and it is quite low in fat. It isn’t packed with vitamins, but it is a good source of iron. Some tribes of American Indians boiled the tubers, pounded them to a pulp and then let the water evaporate. The resultant course, sweetish powder can be used like wheat flower.

The roots will also keep for a couple of weeks if kept cool, so this isn’t a food source that goes bad rapidly. They can also be dried and later boiled in water. Wrapped in a bit of foil, with a pat of butter added, arrowhead tubers are great for cooking in a campfire, much like small potatoes can be, and the cooking time is usually about 10-15 minutes, like with the spuds.

Because of the starch content, this is a good plant for a survivalist, camper or hiker to add to meals to stretch them out and make them more filling. Harvesting the tubers also encourages the plant to produce more, so there is no need to damage the entire plant.

Picture by Amédée Masclef, from Atlas des plantes de France. 1891, public domain because the copyright has expired. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:310_Sagittaria_sagittifolia_L.jpg

The last survival plant in the series: Coltsfoot