Posts Tagged ‘survival’

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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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Sometimes called coughwort, butterbur or the tash plant, coltsfoot is a valuable survival food that also has some good medicinal qualities.

The plant grows from a rhizome and can spread easily. An interesting trait of this wild herb is that the rhizomes put up leafless stalks, which bear the yellow flowers. After the flowers die back, the leaves grow out from the base of the stalk. The plant can grow up to a foot in height.

This plant isn’t native to North America, coming from England, Europe, Africa and Asia, but it has become naturalized. It grows in poor soils, so it is often found in waste places, along roadsides and in other areas that have nutritionally weak soil.

As a food, the leaves and flower stalks can be steamed or boiled. It can be added to soups, stews and cooked with meats. The flowers are occasionally used in salads and have a sweet taste, while the cooked leaves are mildly bitter. Rinsing after cooking can remove some of the bitterness. The leaves are occasionally dried and used as a substitute for salt.

NOTE: According to Japanese researchers, this plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It should not be consumed by anyone who has a pre-existing liver ailment and it should not be eaten in large quantities, since liver damage can occur.

Coltsfoot has been used for a long time for coughs, wheezing, bronchitis, sore throat, congestion, sore mouth and inflammations. For this, it is usually made into a tea or occasionally smoked. This wild plant is considered to be one of the most useful for treating coughs of any sort.

While its worth as a food plant is limited and not on the order of many other wild plants, coltsfoot is still useful for someone who is looking for foods that will help them survive disasters.

The picture is by byrev, public domain, http://pixabay.com/en/angiosperms-coltsfoot-edge-flowers-88466/?oq=coltsfoot

Previous survival food: Dead nettle

Stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica)

Stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica)

Anyone who has inadvertently brushed up against stinging nettles probably remembers the painful experience, and probably quickly learned to identify the plant. This wild plant is covered with what appear to be fine hairs. Actually, they are silicon tubes, much like tiny glass tubes, each with a tiny bulb at the end. When a person brushes up against the plant, the bulb breaks off and the tube acts like a very sharp syringe, injecting the contents: Formic acid.

It is no wonder that this burns. Formic acid is the same base that contains the venom of stinging ants and certain bee stings.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing the plant, since the pain has probably etched the image of stinging nettles into your mind. However, this plant is widely distributed and is found in the Americas and in Europe.

Many people might find this surprising, but stinging nettles are a tremendously valuable survival food. Cooking the plant deactivates the formic acid and breaks down the silicon tubes. The hard part is in the collection, which should be done using gloves and wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt. Though even the mature plant is edible and contains health and nutrition benefits, after the plant is taller than about eight inches, the silicon becomes fixed and food made from it will have a gritty texture, rather as if a handful of sand has been added.

The young plant can be boiled or steamed and served as a potherb. It is excellent when it is steamed, before adding some milk and a pat of butter, to make cream of nettle soup. The soup is so delicious that some people collect stinging nettles every spring, when the plants are still young, specifically for this purpose.

Nutritionally, a cup of cooked nettles contains less than 40 calories and this is a good source of both protein and carbohydrates. It is very high in vitamin K, high in vitamin A, and is a good source of vitamin B6, ribovlavin, folate and niacin. It is also between high and extremely high in calcium, manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and copper. Nettles is a very good fiber source. At the same time, it is extremely low in fat and contains no cholesterol.

Medicinally, stinging nettles is used to treat arthritis, swollen joins, sore muscles, anemia, gout, sprains, tendinitis, hay fever, enlarged prostate, high blood pressure and it has diuretic and blood thinning properties. It is sometimes used to ease itching of insect bites, too.

The plant and the root can be dried, which also negates the formic acid, for later use as a tea for the medicinal benefits and treatments.

This is one of the most valuable wild herbs for survival and arguably one of the tastiest. It is so wide spread that it is also pretty easy to find some, except in drier places. The plant often grows along river banks since the roots do like being able to take a drink.

The picture is by byrev and is public domain: http://pixabay.com/en/acetylcholine-dioica-histamine-88521/

Last survival food in the series: Alfalfa

 

alfalfaWhen people think of survival foods, edible wild plants in particular, there is an excellent chance that they won’t often think about alfalfa. After all, alfalfa is widely grown, harvested, baled and fed to livestock. However, this is a very good food for surviving whatever holocaust might come your way.

To say that this plant is widespread would be understating it. It occurs in the wild, but its value as a high protein livestock feed has resulted in it being cultivated and grown almost everywhere except in the polar regions.

The leaves look quite a lot like those of clover, which alfalfa is related to. However, alfalfa can grow much taller than clover. With some support, the plant can easily reach above four feet in height.

The flowers are blue to purple and occur on a flower cluster that grows from one of the main stems. The clusters often have one to two dozen flowers in it. The flowers have a slight but sweet scent that is favored by bees and hummingbirds.

As a food, the young shoots and the leaves can be simply picked and eaten, they can be added to salads, they can be added to soups and stews and they can be steamed or boiled as a potherb. The flavor is sweet and mild. As a potherb, a pat of butter seems to bring out the sweetness. The stems tend to get a little tough, but they can still be cooked and eaten if they are chopped up. Since the flavor is sweet but bland, alfalfa leaves are sometimes added to potherbs that have a bitter or particularly strong taste.

The seeds are also edible when they are sprouted. Alfalfa sprouts are sometimes sold in stores for additions to sandwiches and salads, and they have a slightly nutty flavor.

This plant is quite high in vitamin K and is a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, magnesium, manganese and copper. The plant is also high in protein, which is of course the reason it is grown for livestock, and it also has a good amount of fiber.

Additionally, alfalfa has medicinal properties. Tea made from the fresh or dried leaves can be used to increase appetite, to stop bleeding including in women during menses and to treat digestive ulcers, it can lower cholesterol, it increases the number of white blood cells so it can help when a person is trying to overcome an infection, it is a powerful source of antioxidants and it has even been used to increase milk production for lactating mothers.

Safety note: The seeds shouldn’t be consumed by people who have ever suffered from Lupus.

Alfalfa may not be commonly consumed, but though it does have medicinal value, the nutritive value is great. The flavor is good, too. This is a plant that definitely belongs on the checklist of survival foods.

The picture is by Pollinator, creative commons share alike 3.0 attribute.

Last survival food post

Portulaca_oleraceaThe purslane, also known as pigweed, pursley and moss rose, is a delightful survival plant with nearly a worldwide distribution. In the United States, this wild herb is considered to be a weed, but in some countries, it is cultivated on purpose. There are really good reasons for this, owing to food and medicinal value as well as the fact that it can grow in nutrient poor clay soil and can withstand drought conditions. All of this makes purslane a terrific survival food in times of trouble.

The wild plant has round stems and oval shaped fleshy leaves. It is classed as an annual, but it is also a succulent and grows readily from seeds. The plant usually grows close to the ground, though some species can grow as tall as 16 inches in height. The flowers are small and yellow, giving way to seed pods, each of which have many seeds. The pods pop open when the seeds are ripe.

Purslane is widely eaten in Europe, Asia, the middle east, Mexico, South and Central America and even Australia. The Greeks call this andrakla and cook the leaves and stems, mixing them with tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil and feta cheese.

The flavor is sour but mild, so it is good when eaten in salads, raw. The stems and leaves can also be fried, stir fried, steamed or boiled, with other ingredients or as a stand-alone potherb. The potherb is similar to spinach, though the plant doesn’t shrink as much as spinach does when it is cooked. This herb is great when used as an ingredient in soups and stews, such as wild stews, because it is slightly mucilaginous, in the way that mallow is, though not quite as much. In fact, moss rose is quite good when cooked with mallow. It can even be cooked in pastries, and this is a favorite way of preparation for the Turks.

Thicker stems can be pickled in much the way that cucumbers often are, too.

As a food, purslane is a healthy addition to the diet. The herb is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, fiber and is extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids. Purslane is packed with antioxidants and appears to inhibit the growth of tumors, while preventing them from becoming cancerous. Few plants are higher in vitamin A, calcium or iron.

It has been and is used medicinally to treat insect bites, snake bites, bee stings, punctures, burns, boils, sunburn, rashes, and internally for diarrhea, bleeding in the digestive tract and hemorrhoids. For external use, the plant can simply be crushed and rubbed on. It can be made into an infusion, but this is seldom necessary.

In short, this wild herb is a powerhouse just waiting to help the survivalist or anyone else who wants to live healthier. It is found all over the place, is tasty and is easy to identify.

Picture by ZooFari, creative commons 3.0 unported attribution.

Last survival food in the series: Dock

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This plant, sometimes called the common thistle, is considered to be an invasive weed nearly everywhere it grows. That is saying a lot, because it grows almost everywhere in North America except for in a few places in the deep southeast. It is also widespread in Europe.

This is a biennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall in its second year, producing the blossoms on branched stems. The leaves are deeply lobed, with spines at the end of each lobe as well as on the midvein, on the stem and around the flower. The flowers are pink to dark pink or nearly purple in color and they are actually quite attractive. The leaves at the base of the plant form a rosette that can be over a couple feet across.

The herb grows in sunny areas that have from damp to dry dirt. It is sometimes seen in waste areas, roadsides, empty lots, trails, pastures and even occasionally in gardens. The plant has a thick, tapering tap root but propagates by seeds.

Looking at one, a person might easily dismiss it as something not worth eating, even for a survivalist. This would be a mistake, however. It is actually a healthy and good tasting wild plant, with a flavor that is similar to celery, though bland.

A sharp knife can be used to remove the spines from the leaves and the leaves can then be eaten raw, steamed, boiled or added to other foods such as soups and stews. The leaves are best when they are harvested during cooler times of the year, like spring and autumn.

The thick tap root can also be peeled, sliced and either boiled or fried, stir-fry style.

A personal favorite is to collect the flowerheads before they’ve totally opened and to peel off the thorny outer skin. These are then boiled. Once done, the flavor is similar to artichokes (which are also members of the thistle family). I like slicing the cooked flowerheads and dipping them in mayonnaise. The downside is that they aren’t usually very large, so it takes a lot of them to make a meal.

This plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, iron and fiber, which makes it a nutritional powerhouse. It also contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so it has value because of the anti-oxidants.

Medicinally, Asians have used bull thistles for a long time for the treatment of internal bleeding and hemorrhages. American Indians also used the plant to treat bleeding gums, inflammation and stomach ulcers. The plant has properties that help with almost any kind of internal bleeding.

For the survivalist, this is a plant to remember. It is common, healthy and can help sustain a person in the case of an apocalypse or even after a natural disaster. Don’t let the thorny appearance fool you. Just remove the thorns.

There are many species of wild onions but they all have something in common with the store-bought variety: All of them are edible. Most wild onions don’t have hollow leaves like garden grown varieties, though. Instead, the grass-like leaves are flat, narrow and taper to a pointed tip.

Some species also lack a noticable bulb like domestic onions have, and they may have thick rhizomes instead. Like regular onions, however, both the leaves and the roots are edible, raw or cooked, and both have a distinct onion flavor and aroma when crushed. The scent is a major identifier for these wild plants, too. There are quite a few look-alikes, but none of those look-alikes smell like onion when a leaf is crushed. Most wild onions have blossoms that are varying shades of pink, sometimes so light that they appear almost white.

These plants grow from lowland to high altitude and in forests, river valleys and prairies.

Wild onions have about 64 calories per cupful, raw. They are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and manganese. This is all good news for someone attempting to survive an apocalypse. They are even good for lowering cholesterol. After all, nobody said that you couldn’t survive and be healthy about it at the same time.

Medicinally, American Indian tribes used the juice to treat insect bites and to reduce swelling and puffiness. Cooking wild onions in a thick simple syrup or honey can be used to treat coughs and colds. The juice acts as a natural tonic, too. Like other members of the onion family, the juice is also an insect repellent, especially for biting insects such as mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks.

They can be cooked by simply chopping and adding to other foods, or by boiling or baking. The roots can also be dug up and used any time of the year if the survivalist knows where the wild onions are growing. The flavor is good enough that it can be used with fish, wild game or even grubs and other soft bodied invertebrates. Additionally, wild onions can be used to flavor other survival foods, especially those that are bland.Image

Like other survival plants, this is a good one to include in meals even if you are simply out camping.

Other survival foods: https://survivingthezombieapocolypse.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/survival-food-mallow-plant/

The picture of wild onion blossoms and buds is by George F Mayfield, creative commons share alike 2.0 generic attribution.

ImageOne of the necessities if you are trying to survive an apocalypse of any sort is to make sure that you have something nutritious to eat. Thankfully, there are a lot of different wild plants that are quite edible, widespread, easy to identify and even tasty. Among this is a plant called Mallow, also known as Cheeses or Cheeseweed.

There are quite a few species of mallow, which means that one species or another can be found in most habitats and climates. They are also distributed nearly worldwide, excluding only Antarctica. In fact, as many gardeners will attest, once established, it is very hard to get rid of these plants without poisoning the soil.

Common mallow (Malva neglecta) is representative of the mallows. They tend to be low growing plants with a roundish leaf, deep green in color. The tap root is stout and long, and a new plant can arise from even a small piece of the root – part of the reason it is despised by gardeners. The blossoms are usually pinkish-white, normally with five petals. These give way to seeds that are arranged in a segmented circle, not unlike a round of cheese, hence their alternate name. A well-known member of the family is the garden hollyhock, which has a similar appearance to mallow, though usually much larger in all respects. (Hollyhock is also edible.)

The entire mallow plant is edible. Many kids have experienced munching on the raw cheeses. The leaves can be added to salads, raw, or they can be cooked as a potherb. Additionally, they can be added to soups and stews. The cheeses and the roots can also be cooked. When these are cooked, they release a sort of mucilage that can thicken soups or stews. This trait is one of the uses of a member of the family: Okra. The flowers can add a splash of color to salads.

Mallow also has medicinal properties. It is an expectorant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and very mildly laxative. For these purposes, it is often made into a tea at a rate of one tablespoon of the leaves to a cup of boiling water. The leaves can also be dried for this purpose. The flavor is bland and the tea can be sweetened with honey. Externally, mallow is emollient and demulcent, so it can be rubbed on dry or chapped skin as well as on cuts, scrapes, insect bites and punctures.

This is a multi-purpose plant for survivalists and others. The plant is a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. This makes it useful for hikers and campers, as well as for people who are just trying to stretch their meals.

It is good to become acquainted with this wild herb and to learn to identify it on sight. That way, should you ever find yourself in a survival situation, you will have at least one identifiable source of usually-plentiful food.

(The picture is by Soulignac (Gironde, France) 2004 – GFDL, creative commons share-alike, unported)

Imagine yourself where the snow is many feet deep, snow is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is dropping. This situation would be dire, but certainly one you could survive, especially if you had a little preplanning.

The first step would be to build a shelter. In the stated situation, Mother Nature has already supplied you with building supplies: The snow. Snow is a surprisingly good insulator.

Dig a hole into the snow, preferably on a slope. Basically, you are making a tunnel slightly larger in diameter than your body. If it is on a slope, you are burrowing slightly upward so that the snow and wind are less of a factor. When you’ve dug in between six and 10 feet, excavate a ‘room’ that is a little longer than you are when you recline and about triple your width.

Poke a hole from the side edge of the room to the surface at an angle. This is for ventilation and it should be just an inch or two in diameter. Without ventilation, the shelter can hold in the carbon dioxide that you exhale, until it reaches toxic levels.

The next step is to get tree boughs and pull them into the shelter, on the bottom, to keep you off of the snow. Otherwise, your body heat will start melting the snow, you’ll gradually get wet and when the water refreezes, you’ll be in trouble. Fir boughs are especially good for a bedding cushion. Even if it isn’t especially comfortable, at least it keeps you off the snow.

Okay, so what’s the bit about the candle, mentioned in the title? The candle serves a triple purpose. First, it supplies light. You wouldn’t believe how dark it gets when you are 10 feet inside a snow bank.

Second, it provides a huge amount of warmth. There is little worry that the snow will all melt, because the heat simply melts the facing edges. The snow that is behind it causes the thin layer of melted snow to freeze into a layer of ice. In turn, this reflects the heat back into your little room, making it even warmer. The ice also lends strength to the structure. You might note that neither the light nor the soot is usually visible from outside the snow cave.

The third purpose of the candle is that candle wax is both waterproof and flammable. Sooner or later, you are probably going to want to build a fire and the candle wax can be quite helpful is helping you get it started. It can generate enough heat that even damp twigs can dry out and burn. A tiny fire can be built inside of the snow cave, provided that the room is large enough, however even if a warming fire is built outside the cave at a later time, any candle drippings can be used to start it and they should be saved.

Though the building of snow caves is often part of winter survival training, this is something I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and living at Crater Lake National Park, where I grew up. The difference is that we did it for fun rather than survival. Our tunnels were also often much more elaborate than what I’ve just described, so there is room for the imagination.

Have you ever built or been inside a snow tunnel?

The mushroom cloud that started it all

The mushroom cloud that started it all

Colin Sumpterfeld breathed deeply of the fresh, scented mountain air. He’d always loved the way the Rocky Mountains smelled in the late spring, when the snows had finally receded. He sat upon the stump, looking southeast toward the city. Secretly, he was happy he couldn’t actually see the city, though in the distance, the swath cut through the fir forest for the power lines was visible and he wondered idly how long it would take nature to reclaim the scarred land, if left to its own devices.

It would happen if it could happen, Colin knew. Already, signs of the old equipment bunker were overgrown and invisible to anyone who didn’t know where it was. Decades earlier, the army had built the bunker into the side of the mountain, ostensibly to hold emergency supplies in case of a natural disaster, such as the ever present threat of the super volcano many miles to the southwest, erupting. Colin knew where the bunker was, but he didn’t know how far the army had gotten in stocking it. He’d never been inside and the hatch that led down into the bunker was padlocked. The hatch and warning signs were now overgrown, but Colin didn’t particularly care anyway.

He took another deep breath and allowed his eyes to fall to the ground near the stump. He was, after all, here to look for wild mushrooms. That was only an excuse, but it would be nice if he could find a morel or two to take back home with him.

Colin jumped when he heard a voice say, “Hello!”

He whirled, nearly dropping his rifle, his eyes fixing on the woman who stood a dozen feet away. He took her in with little more than a glance; athletically slender, shoulder length brown hair, pretty face, dressed in khaki shorts and a short sleeved shirt, with a knapsack on her back and a walking stick in her hand.

“Ma’am, it isn’t wise to walk up on someone like that,” Colin grumbled, half angry at himself because he’d not heard her.

“Sorry,” she said cheerfully, giving him a bright smile. She glanced distastefully at the rifle Colin laid back across his lap. “So were you going to shoot me, or is that reserved for defenseless animals?”

Her tone was mild, but her words irritated Colin.

“Ma’am, the rifle is just in case. There are hungry grizzlies in these mountains that would love to munch on tender flesh,” Colin said.

He felt a moment of satisfaction, quickly followed by a twinge of guilt, as the woman looked around nervously. Bears rarely attacked people without reason, and not to have a quick snack.

“Is there something I can help you with, ma’am?” he said calmly, hoping to remove some of the fear his last comment had created.

The woman blushed and said, “My name isn’t ma’am, it is Julie. I…um…got turned around somehow. I was hiking with a group from college and we sort of got separated.”

“Well, I’ve not seen anyone out here, except for defenseless animals,” Colin said, immediately sorry for the needless barb. He sighed, adding, “Maybe you can backtrack to where they were. I’ll come with you if you’d like.”

Julie blushed again, deeper red than before.

“I don’t know if that will help. I got separated from them yesterday evening and I’ve been looking for them most of last night. I think that I may have made matters worse because none of this looks remotely familiar,” she said, waving an arm to include the whole area.

Colin opened his mouth to chastise her for leaving a place the moment she knew that she was lost. The words never left his mouth, as a brilliant flash occurred in the southeast and the rumble of thunder could be heard as a tell-tale mushroom shaped cloud rose up over where the city had been.

He knew that there was only one thing that could cause such a flash, rumble and enormous cloud, and he knew what the results would be if they remained exposed on a southward facing slope.

“Come on!” he yelled, jumping to his feet and running. He noticed that there was no hesitation in Julie as she fell into stride with him, a half pace behind. It impressed him that she followed, though she was clearly bewildered, and also that she was able to match his stride.

“What happened?” Julie yelled without breaking stride.

“Atomics!” Colin yelled back. As the implication struck her, Julies pace quickened and she passed him though she clearly had no idea where they were going.