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Universal Edibility Test

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Hired Gun
Staff member
HCL Supporter
Nov 26, 2017
US of A
I need someone to peruse this and tell me if it has credibility. This is not my area of expertise.


  1. The Universal Edibility Test – The 9 Critical and Lifesaving Steps
    January 8, 2020 by Bob Rodgers
    It is unfortunate but true that there may be times when you bug out or in for that matter, and you have nothing left to eat. You always see a lot of plants around, but how do you know if you can eat them? Well, first of all, you may find it very beneficial to know your local area, and what plants can and cannot be eaten. If you are in an area that you do not know, however, that’s where the universal edibility test comes in.

    Of course, the last thing that you want to do is eat anything that you find. If you are in a survival situation, you will be in a lousy position already. However, why make that worse by eating something that is going to make you sick? Knowing how to find plants that you can eat could very easily save your life one day.


    First of all, I would like to point out that this test is NOT for use in everyday situations. If you have the option to go to a store and buy food, or go home and have a meal, take it. Also, take the time to research plants that you can safely eat in your local area and any other area that you may find yourself in if the situation requires it.

    This test is not definitive, and you may still have reactions to foods that you find pass all of the requirements. Therefore, this test is only to be used in an emergency situation when you have no other choice.

    One other point to note, we do not recommend this test for fungi, moss, or anything other than green plants.

    Learn what you can about where you live, if you find yourself in an area where you know nothing, proceed with this test, with caution.

    The Universal Edibility Test
    Getting in a situation where you need to be eating plants that you find in the wild is something that you want to hope you never get into. However, things happen, situations change, and disasters occur. It is at that time that you may find yourself hunting for food and scavenging as much as you can.

    You see an abundance of plants around you, and think, I am so hungry, I would be so much better if I ate those. Unless you are fortunate, or you will become very ill. You may want to study the plants that are in your area anyway, but if you ever have to leave that area, that knowledge may well be useless. Therefore, your best option is to learn the universal edibility test, or better still, print it and keep it in your bug out bag. Either way, you want to follow these steps:

    Ensure There Is An Abundance Of The Plant
    There are a lot of steps that you need to complete, and they can take some time. Therefore, you will want to ensure that there is enough of the plant to make the time worth the reward. If you go through the process of the universal edibility test and there are only a few plants available to you, you will have to hunt for more, or hope that you stumble across them.

    Sperate The Plant
    After you have found the plant that you want to test, you will also want to separate it from any other plants too. Try to wear gloves for this, but if you can’t, then touch the plant first to ensure they don’t sting you. If you can find a solitary plant, that will be better. The reason for that is because, if you have a plant that is good to eat, touching a plant that you cannot eat, the plant may fail the test because of the connection between the two.

    Also, you need to separate the plant parts from each other:
    • Flowers
    • Buds
    • Seeds
    • Stems
    • Leaves
    • Roots
    Not all plants are the same. Some parts of a plant may be edible, while other parts of the same plants may be dangerous. Also, you may need to cook some of the plants that you find to make them edible. For example, tomatoes and potatoes are both, of course, edible. However, the foliage of those plants is poisonous. Although that is a simple example, I have used it because it is quite a powerful one.

    Ensure that you test each of the parts of the plant separately, and start with the most abundant element. If there are only a few flowers, but a lot of stems or leaves, try them first.

    Smell Each Part
    If there are any parts of the plant that smell unpleasant, disregard those straight away.

    Touch the Plant
    After you have separated it, you need to touch the different parts onto sensitive parts of your body that will not affect your ability to be relatively comfortable. The inner elbows and wrists are the best place for this.

    Of course, you have four of these areas, and you can use each of them if you remember which part of the plant you test where. Using a notepad to write them down is a good idea, but if you do not have one, write in the specific areas. So, if you test the flower on your wrist, write flower.

    Place the plant in the area, and allow good contact for about 15 minutes, unless irritation occurs before that. If there are signs of irritation, remove the plant, and disregard that part completely. Some of the signs that you are looking for are:
    • Numbness
    • Itchy
    • Burning
    • Rash
    Again, if you see any of those symptoms, get rid of that part of the plant.

    The Universal Edibility Test – Preparing To Eat
    Preparing the plant to eat is very simple. Boil it. Unfortunately, there are no other ways in which you should plan to eat plants you don’t know anything about. Boiling will remove all of the germs and toxic elements from the plant. That is even required in some other, more commonly known foods such as kidney beans. You need to boil kidney beans for at least ten minutes to make them edible from raw.

    Two points to note that I rarely see on any other explanations of the universal edibility test are:
    • Boil each part separately. – You may cross-contaminate good parts of the plant with bad.
    • Rinse them after you boil them. – You may leave toxic elements on the plant that is still in the water.
    Touch The Plant On Your Lips
    Next, place a small amount of the plant part on your lips. Hold it there for a few minutes and wait to see if you have any reactions, as described above. Again, if you do, discard that part. This part is a little more challenging to do with multiple parts of the plant. However, you could try to do separate sections on your top lip and bottom. Remember to keep them apart after, though.

    If there is no reaction in about 15 minutes, move onto the next step.

    Taste The Plant
    Take a small bite of the plant part and chew it slowly. Keep chewing until it is mush, and allow it to sit in your mouth for around 10 minutes. If there are any reactions such as the ones listed above, or if it tastes very bitter or soapy, spit it out and discard that part too.

    Eat The Test Piece
    Only eat a small amount of the plant. A lot of literature that you will see will advise you to swallow the part of the plant you have had in your mouth for a while. That is an excellent recommendation for initial tests. However, we think that it would be inconclusive to leave it here.

    Therefore, swallow that part and wait to see if there are any adverse effects such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. If there are no symptoms within a few hours, you can move onto the extra step that we include.

    Eat More
    The final step that we like to include in the universal edibility test is eating another small piece without chewing it for an extended period (around 1/4 cup). The reason for that is because you are unlikely to eat every piece in that way. Also, your saliva has enzymes that will break down some of the toxins, etc. If you eat it quicker, they will not have the time to break them down before they get to your gut, where a reaction may occur.

    Doing this step may add time to the test, but in our opinion, it is worth testing.

    Please read the disclaimer at the beginning of this article. However, if you ever find yourself in a situation where starvation is a real possibility, then, and only then, you should complete this test. There are no two ways about it; the universal edibility test could save your life one day. But it could also make your day a lot worse if you do not follow it with caution.

    Please feel free to print this guide and keep it in your bug out bag for if you ever need it.


Awesome Friend
HCL Supporter
Dec 3, 2017
SE Washington State
Before you eat but after you taste put a small piece of the plant between your lip and gums. It is not good if it burns, numbs, or is bitter. Spit it out and rinse your mouth out with water.


Dec 20, 2017
Touching a plant to your lips to see if you may have a reaction...that makes me nervous. Touch it on your skin next to your mouth might be safer since you could have a reaction that would include breathing problems. I would wait a good 20-30 minutes personally. I'm not a nurse or anything but unless I can really safely identify a plant or consider other factors, no bueno.
Also, I would draw what the parts of any plants looked like before discarding them, if able.

You can't assume the plant still has flowers or has formed seeds yet.
Berries are tricky.
@Peanut can you remember the key for berry colors and safe to eat? It seemed to me any white berry isn't safe, but that's all I can remember.


Awesome Friend
HCL Supporter
Dec 16, 2017
I don't have time today to research this "test". After a quick read I say this test is a recipe for disaster. Off hand I can think of 2 local plants with cute berries that would kill you within 4 hours after a taste. Color has nothing to do with a berry being safe to eat.


Awesome Friend
HCL Supporter
Nov 27, 2017
Isn't there a protocol for this? It seems to me I read something once about an almost fool proof method for determining the safety of a plant, but it had multiple steps and took several days. Therefore, it was not useful in an emergency situation...

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