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May 25, 2019

Greetings ‘Crafters!  I hope you enjoyed the last article and managed to get out foraging for some tasty morsels.  As ever, forage legally, safely and if in doubt, leave it out! 100% ID AT ALL TIMES!

Onwards for another favourite five to search for this week.

Common Gorse (Umex Europaeus)

The Bain of every rambler, hill walker and certainly every person to have been awarded the coveted Green Beret, Gorse is a plant that has had its fair share of profanity thrown it’s direction, why? Because it is adorned with the sharpest spikes known to mankind I’m sure!

The bright yellow flowers stand out from a great distance and may confuse the plant with types of ‘Broom’ once up close though, the thorns are the clue.  These flowers are the edible parts and are jammed full of vitamin C.  They can be eaten raw, added to stews or made into a tea.

Another use for the flowers is to make a yellow dye, the bark used in the same way, will make a green dye.

It is rumoured that the Northern side flowers taste of Mangetout peas, the Southern of coconut!  Although this is very subjective, in a survival situation, noting a difference in flavour could add to the clues you need to determine direction, be prepared and buy a compass here at the Bushcraftlab!

Nettles (Urtica Dioica)

Little introduction is needed for Nettles, there are lookalikes but there remains the key identifier – the sting!

Netttles are an extremely useful plant, the leaves and seeds are edible, they should be cooked to destroy the proteins which cause the stinging sensation, they are eaten raw in a yearly competition in Dorset, I personally wouldn’t like to be stung in the throat whilst in the comfort of my home let alone in a survival situation! 

Later in the year, Nettles contain larger amounts of calcium, the tips are the leaves to go for but eating very large amounts may cause a build up of said calcium which can lead to kidney stones if eaten in vast amounts; treat like spinach when gauging how much to put on your plate/mess tin/piece of non-poisonous tree bark.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium)

Predominantly seen in the UK as part of a well-arranged garden or perhaps as an escapee; spread, unknowingly, by a greedy bird.  The leaves resemble those of the holly tree but are less rigid, therefore, less likely to make you bleed!

After the bright yellow flowers, this plant will grow long clusters of small, around 1cm long powdery purple ‘grapes’.  It is these grape-like berries that are the edible part, be warned though, they are tart! Best used to make a jelly, flavour other dishes or even to make wine!

Vitamin C is the main benefit from the Oregon Grape, as a survivor, this is extremely important to maintain the immune system.  One of the main ingredients ‘Berberine’ is a double-edged sword, in high quantities it may be dangerous; in the correct quantity it is said to have cancer fighting properties!

Be aware if you know you have an intolerance to Berberine, this plant should be avoided.

Ribwort/Common Plantain (Plantago Lanceolata)


Ribwort is a very common ‘Weed’ but also is one of the most important medicinal plants not to mention one of the most abundant! Easy to spot from afar in late spring, the seed heads stretch high and have brown cigar shaped buds atop.  The leaves have ribs that run from bottom to top and when the leaf is pulled from either end, some of these stringy ribs will protrude from the tear.

The young leaves and the seed heads are edible, older leaves becoming more bitter.  The seed heads themselves, surprisingly have a flavour and smell of mushroom! Though the texture is not quite so pleasant.  The roots of this plant are edible too and can be chopped and roasted for a decaff coffee substitute (Don’t get too excited)

Vitamins C, E and K are the prize, among a host of useful minerals.  The medicinal properties are too varied to list here but give this plant a research, you will be astounded!

Navelwort (Umbilicus Rupestris)

A common sight in the South West of the UK, often seen sprouting from the side of drystone walls, though I have seen them adorning the trunk of trees in the past.  Its name, Latin and common, are given due to the appearance of a navel or belly button.

The leaves are deliciously succulent, releasing a burst of moisture when chewed, perfect on a hot day to moisten the palate, they are best used as a salad green or eaten straight from the earth, in a grazing fashion.  Be aware when picking these leaves that it is best to trim them with scissors etc, a clumsy pull can remove the whole specimen from its substrate.

Another use for the leaves is as a wound or burn dressing, the lower cuticle or skin of the leaf is removed, and the leaf then applied like a plaster, fantastically cooling and soothing!

Little is documented of the nutritional content but the moisture within adds value to the effort of collecting this plant.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s feast of five.  Please, always remember the number one rule 100% ID AT ALL TIMES.

Steve Aley

If you wish to learn more about the plethora of plants around us, please take a look at my page https://www.facebook.com/SteveAleySurvival/, there is also lots of information regarding the other priorities of survival: Protection, Location and Water, with plenty more to come; don’t forget to give it a  and with your friends!

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