Universal Edibility Test

Are You Familiar With This Life-Saving Skill?

You’ve probably heard people wondering from time to time how people found out – before modern science – how different parts of a plant were edible, and other parts were poisonous.  How would they know if they could eat the berries of a new plant? (Other than, perhaps, forcing a low-ranking servant to eat it.)

Well, it turns out that there were and are helpful precautions that people could and would – and do – take.

The Universal Edibility Test is a series of tests you can use to determine if a plant is safe to consume.

GIANT DISCLAIMER – The advice in this post does not constitute up-to-date medical advice.  Please don’t go out and get yourself sick trying to use this.  We offer no guarantee that the steps presented here are foolproof or up to date.  The safest path is always to be prepared, and to find or have supplies that you recognize and already know are edible.

That being said, the “Universal Edibility Test” is quite interesting, and it’s been around a long time, and helped a good number of people.  Read up below!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Chew – After you’ve held the piece of plant on your tongue for 15 minutes with no adverse reaction, chew it thoroughly and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. Don’t swallow. Once again, if you feel any kind of burning, tingling or numbness spit it out and rinse withwater.
  6. Swallow – If you make it through step five, you’ll have a pretty soggy piece of plant in your mouth. At the end of the 15 minutes, you need to swallow that soggy piece. Now comes more waiting. Don’t eat anything for eight hours. You can drink water, but no more plant or any other kind of food. If you feel nauseous, you need to induce vomiting and drink a lot of water. If you feel fine during the eight-hour waiting period, proceed to the next step.
  7. Chow – Now you get to chow down a little. Gather roughly one quarter cup of the exact same part of the same plant and prepare it in the same way you did in step three. Eat the plant and wait another eight hours. If you feel sick, follow the same steps as above. You can drink water during the waiting period, but as always, refrain from eating anything else.

If you make it through this final waiting period and you feel fine, then congratulations, you just aced the universal edibility test. You can now assume that this one part of this one plant is safe to eat if prepared in the same way.


Source – HowStuffWorks

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