I ran across this article on a totally unrelated blog I was reading, but being the herbie that I am I had to read it, then of course, to share.
What is the universal edibility test?
by Charles W. Bryant
What is the universal edibility test?Getting lost or stranded in the wilderness is serious business, and you need to make sound decisions to give yourself the best chance at survival. It also helps to know some basic wilderness survival skills. To make sure you're safe from the elements, you'll need to know how to build a shelter. To provide you with an opportunity to cook food, boil water and send a rescue signal, you should learn how to build a fire without a match or lighter. The other crucial component to survival is finding water in the wild. People can live without food for up to a month, but water is necessary to keep us alive.
But just because you can live without food doesn't mean you should. Going without food will leave you weak and apt to make poor decisions, which could endanger your life. Being able to identify edible plants in the wilderness is a good skill to have under your belt. The problem is, there are more than 700 varieties of poisonous plant in the United States and Canada alone, so unless you have a book that clearly identifies edible species, it's nearly impossible to determine whether or not a plant will make you sick with absolute certainty.
It's dangerous to eat a plant you're unsure of, especially in a survival scenario. It's better to be hungry than to poison yourself. Some poisonous plants look a lot like edible plants. Some plants have parts that are edible and parts that are toxic. Some are only edible for certain periods throughout the year. You can see where mistakes can easily be made.
If you're in a survival situation and you don't have a book on local edible plants, there is a test you can perform to give yourself a good shot at eating the right thing. It's called the universal edibility test, and we'll cover it in this article.
Universal Edibility Test: Separate, Contact, Cook and Taste
The universal edibility test requires breaking down the parts of a plant and testing them individually over a period of 24 hours. In a survival situation, you don't want to go through this trouble if there isn't a lot of the plant you're testing. If there are only a few sprigs of what you think might be the colorful and edible borage, it won't help you much even if you find that it is the cucumber-like herb. Find something near you that's growing in abundance. To prepare for the test, don't eat or drink anything but water for at least eight hours beforehand. If you're lost or stranded in the wild without any food, this should be pretty easy to accomplish. Now it's test time:
Separate - Because only some parts of the plant may be edible, separate it into its five basic parts. These are the leaves, roots, stems, buds and flowers. There may not be buds or flowers. Check out the parts for worms or insects -- you want a clean and fresh plant. Evidence of parasites or worms is a good sign that it's rotting. If you find them, discard the plant and get another of the same variety or choose a different one.
Contact - First you need to perform a contact test. If it's not good for your skin, it's not good for your belly. Crush only one of the plant parts and rub it on the inside of your wrist or elbow for 15 minutes. Now wait for eight hours. If you have a reaction at the point of contact, then you don't want to continue with this part of the plant. A burning sensation, redness, welts and bumps are all bad signs. While you wait, you can drink water, but don't eat anything. If there is no topical reaction after eight hours, move along to the next step.
Cook - Some toxic plants become edible after they're boiled, so get out your apron and start cooking. Your goal is to test it how you would eat it, so if you don't have any means to boil the plant part, test it raw. Once you've boiled it, or if you're going raw, take the plant part and hold it to your lip for three minutes. If you feel any kind of burning or tingling sensation, remove the piece from your lip and start over with a new part. If there's no reaction, press on.
Taste - Pop the same part in your mouth and hold it on your tongue for another 15 minutes. If you experience anything unpleasant, spit it out and wash your mouth with water. You're looking for a similar burning or tingling as you did on your lip. It may not taste great, but that doesn't mean it's toxic.
If there's no adverse reaction in step four, keep on truckin' to the following page for the next steps.
Now I am not going to copy the whole article, you can read the rest here. But I will tell you this,
I hope you have some fat on you cause this is going to take a little time and you will be hungry before the tests are completed.
Also notice it is on the How Stuff Works website. A very interesting place to browse.
Kudzu grows from Florida to New Jersey, and as far west as West Virginia and East Texas. However, a small patch of it has been found in Clackamas County, Oregon. No one is sure where it came from.
The leaves, vine tips, flowers, and roots are edible; the vines are not. The leaves can be used like spinach and eaten raw, chopped up and baked in quiches, cooked like collards, or deep fried. Young kudzu shoots are tender and taste similar to snow peas.
Kudzu also produces beautiful, purple-colored, grape-smelling blossoms that make delicious jelly, candy, and syrup. Some people have used these to make homemade wine. The large potato-like roots are full of protein, iron, fiber, and other nutrients. They are dried and then ground into a powder which is used to coat foods before frying or to thicken sauces.
Kudzu recipes to try:
Click here for some recipes for kudzu jelly, kudzu quiche, and kudzu collard greens.
More kudzu recipes
More recipes, including kudzu wine