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Survival Skills

Backyard Bounty: How to eat the wild plants in your yard

Backyard Bounty: How to eat the wild plants in your yard

Ever look at the weeds in your yard and wonder if you could eat them?
Me either. Not until now. Most of us don’t have a clue.

by Leon Pantenburg

I always associated foraging for wild plants with wild places, or at least, weedy overgrown areas. Many people know that cattails are edible, but don’t know much about other wild plants.The weeds in my yard are a nuisance, and I didn’t give much thought, other than getting rid of them.

But maybe we should start learning about edible wild plants. After all, knowledge is key in surviving anything. There is no better place to start learning about edible plants than in your backyard, under a controlled situation.

Learning about edible wild plants (or any survival skill for that matter) should be done in a controlled environment, not after the disaster occurs!

This guest post by Abby Quillen describes and illustrates some common plants that might turn out to be really important!

All parts of a cattail are edible, but don't mistake them for the poisonous iris.

All parts of a cattail are edible, but don’t mistake them for the poisonous iris.

So much of what we used to know about living day to day has been lost. How many of us, in a pinch, could make up a shelter or go without a visit to the grocery store for a few days? These are all lost talents—but you can get some of that knowledge back. A good place to start is foraging for things to eat in your own back yard.

What you might call a week may be a plant with enviable nutritional properties. Plantain and broadleaf, for example, are all the target of chemical extermination, but they can be eaten and supply various vitamins. The same goes for the bane of the lawn lovers—dandelions.

We lost our need to eat plants like these when we domesticated plants and animals. That’s led to a lot less species variety in our diets. However, before you dive in with a clippers to what’s growing out back, familiarize yourself with some of the poisonous counterparts, too.

This graphic is a good place to start your journey to more backyard eating. Check out eat the weeds. And always remember – don’t eat ANYTHING unless you can positively identify the plant, and are sure it is safe. When in doubt – don’t eat it.

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Survival Skills

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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