Description: The abal is one of the few shrubby plants that exists in the
shady deserts. This plant grows to about 1.2 meters, and its branches look
like wisps from a broom. The stiff, green branches produce an abundance of
flowers in the early spring months (March, April).
Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in desert scrub and waste
in any climatic zone. It inhabits much of the North African desert. It may
also be found on the desert sands of the Middle East and as far eastward as the
Rajputana desert of western India.
Edible Parts: This plant's general appearance would not indicate its
usefulness to the survivor, but while this plant is flowering in the spring,
its fresh flowers can be eaten. This plant is common in the areas where it is
found. An analysis of the food value of this plant has shown it to be high in
sugar and nitrogenous components.
Description: This is a tree that grows from 2.4 to 4.6 meters tall, with a
dense spiny growth. The fruit is 5 to 10 centimeters in diameter, gray or
yellowish, and full of seeds.
Habitat and Distribution: Bael fruit is found in rain forests and
semievergreen seasonal forests of the tropics. It grows wild in India and
Edible Parts: The fruit, which ripens in December, is at its best when
just turning ripe. The juice of the ripe fruit, diluted with water and mixed
with a small amount of tamarind and sugar or honey, is sour but refreshing.
Like other citrus fruits, it is rich in vitamin C.
Description: The canna lily is a coarse perennial herb, 90 centimeters to
3 meters tall. The plant grows from a large, thick, underground rootstock
that is edible. Its large leaves resemble those of the banana plant but are not
so large. The flowers of wild canna lily are usually small, relatively
inconspicuous, and brightly colored reds, oranges, or yellows.
Habitat and Distribution: As a wild plant, the canna lily is found in all
tropical areas, especially in moist places along streams, springs, ditches,
and the margins of woods. It may also be found in wet temperate,
mountainous regions. It is easy to recognize because it is commonly
cultivated in flower gardens in the United States.
Edible Parts: The large and much branched rootstocks are full of edible
starch. The younger parts may be finely chopped and then boiled or
pulverized into a meal. Mix in the young shoots of palm cabbage for
Description: Dandelion leaves have a jagged edge, grow close to the ground,
and are seldom more than 20 centimeters long. Its flowers are bright
yellow. There are several dandelion species.
Habitat and Distribution: Dandelions grow in open, sunny locations
throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Edible Parts: All parts are edible. Eat the leaves raw or cooked. Boil the
roots as a vegetable. Roots roasted and ground are a good coffee substitute.
Dandelions are high in vitamins A and C and in calcium.
Description: Elderberry is a many-stemmed shrub with opposite,
compound leaves. It grows to a height of 6 meters. Its flowers are fragrant,
white, and borne in large flat-topped clusters up to 30 centimeters across.
Its berrylike fruits are dark blue or black when ripe.
Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in open, usually wet areas
at the margins of marshes, rivers, ditches, and lakes. It grows throughout
much of eastern North America and Canada.
Edible Parts: The flowers and fruits are edible. You can make a drink by
soaking the flower heads for 8 hours, discarding the flowers, and drinking
Description: This plant grows up to 1.8 meters tall. It has large, showy,
pink flowers and lance-shaped leaves. Its relative, the dwarf fireweed
(Epilobium latifolium), grows 30 to 60 centimeters tall.
Habitat and Distribution: Tall fireweed is found in open woods, on
hillsides, on stream banks, and near seashores in arctic regions. It is
especially abundant in burned-over areas. Dwarf fireweed is found along
streams, sandbars, and lakeshores and on alpine and arctic slopes.
Edible Parts: The leaves, stems, and flowers are edible in the spring but
become tough in summer. You can split open the stems of old plants and eat
the pith raw.
Description: The goa bean is a climbing plant that may cover small shrubs
and trees. Its bean pods are 22 centimeters long, its leaves 15 centimeters
long, and its flowers are bright blue. The mature pods are 4-angled, with
jagged wings on the pods.
Habitat and Distribution: This plant grows in tropical Africa, Asia, the
East Indies, the Philippines, and Taiwan. This member of the bean (legume)
family serves to illustrate a kind of edible bean common in the tropics of the
Old World. Wild edible beans of this sort are most frequently found in
clearings and around abandoned garden sites. They are more rare in forested
Edible Parts: You can eat the young pods like string beans. The mature
seeds are a valuable source of protein after parching or roasting them over
hot coals. You can germinate the seeds (as you can many kinds of beans) in
damp moss and eat the resultant sprouts. The thickened roots are edible raw.
They are slightly sweet, with the firmness of an apple. You can also eat the
young leaves as a vegetable, raw or steamed.
Description: Hackberry trees have smooth, gray bark that often has corky
warts or ridges. The tree may reach 39 meters in height. Hackberry trees
have long-pointed leaves that grow in two rows. This tree bears small,
round berries that can be eaten when they are ripe and fall from the tree.
The wood of the hackberry is yellowish.
Habitat and Distribution: This plant is widespread in the United States,
especially in and near ponds.
Edible Parts: Its berries are edible when they are ripe and fall from the
Description: This moss grows only a few inches high. Its color may be
gray, white, or even reddish.
Habitat and Distribution: Look for it in open areas. It is found only in
Edible Parts: All parts of the Iceland moss are edible. During the winter
or dry season, it is dry and crunchy but softens when soaked. Boil the moss
to remove the bitterness. After boiling, eat by itself or add to milk or grains
as a thickening agent. Dried plants store well.
Description: Junipers, sometimes called cedars, are trees or shrubs with
very small, scalelike leaves densely crowded around the branches. Each leaf
is less than 1.2 centimeters long. All species have a distinct aroma
resembling the well-known cedar. The berrylike cones are usually blue and
covered with a whitish wax.
Habitat and Distribution: Look for junipers in open, dry, sunny areas
throughout North America and northern Europe. Some species are found in
southeastern Europe, across Asia to Japan, and in the mountains of North
Edible Parts: The berries and twigs are edible. Eat the berries raw or
roast the seeds to use as a coffee substitute. Use dried and crushed berries as
a seasoning for meat. Gather young twigs to make a tea.
Description: There are two species of lotus: one has yellow flowers and the
other pink flowers. The flowers are large and showy. The leaves, which may
float on or rise above the surface of the water, often reach 1.5 meters in
radius. The fruit has a distinctive flattened shape and contains up to 20 hard
Habitat and Distribution: The yellow-flowered lotus is native to North
America. The pink-flowered species, which is widespread in the Orient, is
planted in many other areas of the world. Lotuses are found in quiet fresh
Edible Parts: All parts of the plant are edible raw or cooked. The
underwater parts contain large quantities of starch. Dig the fleshy portions
from the mud and bake or boil them. Boil the young leaves and eat them as a
vegetable. The seeds have a pleasant flavor and are nutritious. Eat them raw,
or parch and grind them into flour.
Description: This plant has soft, arrow-shaped leaves, up to 60
centimeters long. The leaves have no aboveground stems.
Habitat and Distribution: This plant grows widely in the Caribbean
region. Look for it in open, sunny fields.
Edible Parts: The tubers are rich in starch. Cook them before eating to
destroy a poison contained in all parts of the plant.
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