Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

There are many edible wild plants. Leaves, shoots, flowers, berries, nuts, seeds, roots, and bark of different plants and trees can provide us with some form of sustenance at different times of the year.

What’s more, foraging is fashionable, having featured on several TV programmes in recent years. Wild foods are even showing up on restaurant menus. Whether harvesting from nearby hedgerows or purchasing from a local market, many people are taking a greater interest in wild foods gathered from the countryside.

But there is a big difference between nibbling on some tasty wayside morsels and being able to live from the land. For a given environment, living from the land requires a detailed knowledge of the food resources available as well as the hunting, fishing and foraging skills to utilise those resources.

Wood sorrel leaves
Wood Sorrel is full of flavour but these leaves won’t keep you alive for very long. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

In terms of plant foods, to start with you need to know which are edible and which are poisonous. This isn’t black and white either. Some plants can only be safely eaten at certain times of the year, while they contain toxins in other seasons. Others require processing to remove toxins. You must also be able to recognise the optimal time to harvest a particular species, so you obtain the greatest food value.

Three underground storage organs
Of these roots/tubers, one is edible raw or cooked, another is edible only if cooked and the other is toxic. You must know the difference. Photo: Paul Kirtley.
Hadzabe man hunting with bow
This Hadzabe man in Tanzania has a detailed knowledge of his environment and the skills to go with it. Photo: Amanda Quaine.

If we look at societies across the globe that still live close to the land, it is apparent that this kind of knowledge is essential. A detailed understanding of food resources would also have been essential to our forebears who lived a hunter gatherer existence. Unfortunately for those of us who are interested, because this way of life no longer exists in much of the world, a great deal of know-how has simply been lost. Archaeology can provide snippets of information but nothing close to what is likely to have been the full picture.

Some plant foods which are thought to have been important in the diet of our ancestors require significant processing to remove toxins, to make them digestible, to increase the amount of available nutrition or so that it can be kept until the next season. In many cases the exact methods used can only be speculated upon, with experimentation by researchers allowing their theories a degree of validation.

Storing food obtained during a seasonal glut and – if possible – keeping it until a period where there may have been very little food available could well have been very important.

Starting From Scratch

What we do know for sure is that if today you found yourself lost, stranded, marooned, hiding or, for any other reason, needing to gain sustenance from the land, you would not have the benefit of last season’s provisioning. Nor would you have any tools or implements prepared to process the more difficult foods that may be available right now. You’d have to start from scratch, with no savings in the bank as it were.

We should also be honest – none of us have the skill, knowledge or experience in living from the land that one of our European hunter gatherer forebears would have had before the onset of farming. Nor would they recognise the land we now occupy – we have altered it so much.

Given how we travel these days, if you are lost or stranded somewhere wild, you may find yourself needing to find food in a part of the world you are not as familiar with as the environment local to your home.

So, if you do find yourself needing to keep yourself alive from what you can forage, you are starting from a tough position. What we need to learn first then, so that we can stand on our own two feet and feed ourselves (at least for a little while), are plants that are:

Easily Identified

Our ideal food plants are easy to spot, easy to recognise and have few, if any, poisonous lookalikes. Where there are toxic lookalikes, we need a failsafe method of differentiating between them.

Widely Distributed

Some of the best survival food plants are those that have a wide geographical distribution. You won’t have to be in a very specific environment to stand a chance of coming across them.

Relatively Common

As well as being widely distributed, the best survival food plants are also relatively common in the territories where they do occur. You won’t have to go as far before you encounter them.

Easily Processed

As mentioned above, if we are thrust into a situation where we must feed ourselves from the land, we are unlikely to have any specialist processing equipment. Also, some processes are time-consuming, requiring us to work on them for some time. Others just need time to work; for example leeching or fermenting. If I have to soak something in water for several weeks to make it edible, it’s not much use to me if I’m hungry right now. Plus we don’t want to be spending precious energy processing a food source if we don’t need to. Prioritise the easily-processed foods. If we can consume the food immediately – or almost immediately – on finding it, this will be a good source to go for. This basically translates to plant foods that can be eaten raw or easily cooked on an open fire.

Available (for a good portion of the year)

Our ideal survival plant food sources will also be available to us for longer than just a short window of time. There are some great fruits that are easy to recognise, available around much of the Northern Hemisphere for example; they are relatively common and can be eaten immediately. They are, however, only ripe for a short period of time and if we don’t get to them quickly, some other creature will. I’m not suggesting you ignore them if they are available but you’re going to need to have other options for the 50 weeks of the year they aren’t available.

A secondary consideration for availability is making sure you know a spread of plants so you stand a reasonable chance of finding at least one of them at any given time of the year.

Providers (of a favourable return on energy invested)

What you should be considering is how much energy you need to expend versus how much energy you will get in return. Check your thinking carefully. Don’t fall into the trap of sitting in a shelter, doing nothing. The food won’t come to you! This is definitely a time for thinking “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. And the more plants you know, the more food you’re likely to gather while walking a particular foraging route.

That said, you still need to prioritise. There are only so many hours in a day and you are burning calories continuously. Make sure what you collect counts.

I like to think in terms of two broad profiles:

First we can look for plants that are going to give us a good amount of energy just by finding one or two of them. They may take a bit of effort to collect – digging up a large root for example – but we get a good reward.

Burdock, Arctium sp, roots
Burdock roots require some effort to excavate but are relatively large. Photo: Paul Kirtley.

The second profile is one of a plant where we may only get a few calories from each instance of the plant but they are easy to collect. So we don’t expend much energy in the collection. This profile is best when many of the same plants grow together, alongside each other. Then we don’t even have to expend much energy moving from one instance of the plant to the next.

Energy Requirements

So how much energy do we need? What type of food should we be consuming?

Before I get into that, you’ll be forgiven for already wondering “why all this talk about food? Can’t we go without food for three weeks anyway?”

Not eating anything for three weeks may be survivable if you are rescued in week four and taken to hospital. There you’ll be fed intravenously because your digestive system will have stopped working. Studies have shown that you are much better off getting some food – even a small amount – into your system on a daily basis than eating nothing at all for an extended period of time. This will keep your digestive system from shutting down completely.

It’s also important to understand that if you eat the right sort of food, it will help you burn your body’s fat reserves more efficiently as well as reduce the amount of muscle loss that would otherwise occur. You’ll stay stronger for longer and if you are successful with fishing or trapping, you’ll also be able to take on board the full value of these foods too.

The recommended daily energy intake for an average man is 2,500 calories and for an average woman it is 2,000 calories. If you are working hard physically or the environment is cold, you are quite likely to burn through more than this.

Studies have shown, however, that taking on only 500 calories of starchy, carbohydrate-filled plant food per day will maintain your digestive functions and provide enough energy to significantly reduce muscle loss compared to eating nothing. So this consideration should also inform the types of plant foods we prioritise when living off the land.

Hadzabe women digging for tubers
Hadzabe women digging for tubers (note the small pile in the bottom left of the picture). Tanzania, East Africa. Photo: Amanda Quaine

In this context it’s interesting to note that the fallback food Hadza hunter-gatherers resort to when more preferred foods are not available are underground tubers of vines. These tubers are underground storage organs (USOs) which contain carbohydrate in the form of starch and generally available all year-round.

In future articles, I’ll be expanding upon this notion of fallback foods and looking at specific species which fit the bill for the survival forager based on the criteria above.

Related Articles on Paul Kirtley’s Blog:

Conopodium majus: Pignuts and How to Forage for them

Foraging For Spring Greens: Some To Eat, Some To Avoid

Boost Your Bushcraft With Urban Botany

87 thoughts on “Survival Foraging: A Realistic Approach

  1. Hi Paul,
    Very interesting, i am looking forward to more articles on this subject 🙂

    Take care Mate

  2. Hi Paul,
    Yet another brilliant article, out of all the different aspects of Bushcraft I find this, foraging, the most difficult.


  3. Hi Paul,

    I hope your well?
    Thanks for taking the time to write this up. I’ve been experimenting with burdock roots. I ate a boiled one in the autumn, and it tasted like a warm sponge. I’m going to dig one up this spring and see if it’s any sweeter. They do take a lot of effort to dig up though, especcially when they grow in dry clay.

    Happy bushcrafting,


  4. Paul,

    This is interesting because I have the same idea about this subject. Not even is the food per square km, rather low. And what most people do not realise is the time you are busy gathering. When I told them that bushcraft will take you all day and mostly gather as you walked by it. Never reject an oppertunity. They looked at me if I was crazy, when I explained it opened their eyes. Nothing is for sure, your area dictates what you are eating that day. Luckily we have supermarkets, where a product not available is rare and we have lots of choices.

    1. Hi Rody,

      Nice to hear from you.

      It’s good to know that you also have a similarly realistic approach.

      Quite many people are surprised they will not be living off the land on our introductory courses at Frontier Bushcraft.

      I tell them that if we would do this, they would spend all their time trying to find calories and probably still be hungry. And there would be no time to learn anything else.

      There are more efficient ways to build up skills and knowledge; you can test yourself later, once you have attained a good level.

      Warm regards,


  5. Very interesting and useful information.I read it with pleasure.Thank you Paul!
    Greetings from Bulgaria!
    Exclusively interesting article about maintaining digestive functions on 500 calories. This is one really good thing to be learned and remembered by every person.
    Thanks once again!

    1. Hi Galya,

      It’s good to hear from you again.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the artlicle and found the content particularly interesting. I shall be writing more on this area in future.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Warm regards,


  6. Hi pual.
    Very good thanks for that. Totally agree if we had to live of the land for whatever reason our bodys and minds would be in for a big shock. As you said skills that are lost! How long would it take us to regain the skills? A lifetime? So best to start now and pass the knowledge on to the furture and get the kids involved so they do it without thinking. There is not eough of this in our schools along with outdoor ed. it should be combined, feed that young mind and who knows where it will take us. I am game!! Grizzly Bear

  7. Paul, that’s excellent, thank you for getting it up on the blog as I couldn’t stay to hear you at the Bushcraft Show. Looking fwd to further articles …
    And it’s pleasure to read someone who can write English 🙂

    1. Hi Elen,

      Thanks for your compliment (or should that be complement? Only joking) on my writing.

      I did touch on this in my talk at the Bushcraft Show but also on some other related aspects.

      I’m hoping to get a recording of the talk on here before too long.

      I will, of course, let you know when I do.



  8. Hi Paul,

    Great article- thought provoking.

    The woods I use have become my ‘back yard’ to a certain degree. It is very interesting how this back yard has become such an important source of local resources. After quite a few years ‘up there’ we recognise where certain plants grow and when. We look to conserve them and even bring on other crops.

    I constantly find myself looking forward and manipulating situations to protect and provide me with more resources. I constantly feel connected to the peoples who must have lived in this area long before modern agriculture.

    As I say your article provokes many thoughts….

    Go Well


    1. Hi Mark,

      As always, it’s good to hear from you.

      Your experiences at your site ring true with mine.

      And I’m glad my article has also provided food for thought.

      Warm regards,


  9. Hi Grizzly Bear,

    Times are a changin ! There is a definate trend out there to teach Wilderness Living Skills as some part of our National curriculum- OFFSTED enjoy it and want it to flourish.

    That said teaching children Wild Foods nutrition is extremely difficult and hazardous. It only really works with full parental involvement and reasonable to good knowledge at every ‘port of call’. Even I am witnessing cases where pupils are actively foraging with their parents as a result of Bushcraft lessons !

    Like all good education it has to start at home. People like Paul who teach the parents are in effect teaching the children aswell. This fountain of knowledge, although almost lost is going through a new period of rediscovery. Happy days !



    1. Hi Mark
      Totally and full heartily agree. We all need to bring on these skills and yes the parents will take the skills to the children just like we have with tv and computers. There will come a day when these skills will be worth more than gold, just hope I do not see them in my time hence why I mention the children. However parents are ever scare of normal outdoor ed and fail at the red tape side of risk assessments of local councils. It’s had to break the habit by with help of things like the bushcraft show and what Pual does with his blogs. Hopefully people will realise the wilderness came become your friend, and people will grow out of their comfort zone at what ever level that is. As for teaching children the skills with the risks it all comes down to good education. The children for example are much better at recycling than my age group and I am in my 40’s. long story short keep up the good work every one

  10. have no fear theres plenty of meat walkin around, if you know what i mean. lol…….

  11. Paul,

    Thanks for the article…interesting and life saving subject. I am in Kentucky in the USA and a whole different set of food products to be gathered from the rest of the world. I await your follow up article with specifics….Steve

    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll be sure to let you know when I post more on this and related subjects.

      Warm regards,


  12. Hi Paul
    Many thanks for yet another really interesting article. I personally am most interested in wild edibles although I have not yet tried any as I am always a little weary. The more information you can provide in your future articles the better, and I look forward to both reading and learning from them .
    Keep up the good work

    All the very best


    1. Hi Simon,

      You are most welcome and I’ll endeavour to get as much useful info over to you as possible via this blog.

      But you are right to be cautious until you are confident you can identify a plant 100%.

      Remember – If in doubt, leave it out! 😉

      All the best,


  13. Hi Paul, great article. I have known for a while about the difficulties of actually living off the land, but this really breaks it down into bullet points that are easy to digest 😉 have you managed to live off the land like this yourself for any period of time?

    1. Hi Louisa,


      I’m glad you appreciated the article content and layout.

      Yes, I have lived off the land but only for relatively short periods of time.

      Warm regards,


  14. Hi.
    I enjoyed reading the article. Literally food for thought.

    It certainly Illustrates why mankind started farming! Perhaps bushcraft will similarly evolve into “Farmcraft” in a few thousand years , choosing the right grains to sow, how to domesticate wild animals etc!



    1. Hi Leon,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Why farming became the dominant form of food production/acquisition, is an interesting question.

      Modern, industrialised farming methods aside, anthropologists have observed that subsistence farmers typically work longer hours each day in producing their food than hunter-gatherers. The advantage farming seems to bring, however, is greater certainty of food supply from one season to the next and from one year to another.

      This is a trade we humans seem to be prone to make – in modern society most people would rather trade a large amount of their time for a predictable income (i.e. a job) than be self-employed/free-lance/entrepreneurs and have more risk in their life yet potentially more free time on their hands.

      It’s an interesting psychological parallel…



  15. Good article, looking forward to future installments.

  16. Dear Paul,
    Thanks for the insightful article, its a keeper in my book. Always enjoy what you have to say.
    I have been also enjoying wild edibles this year. Spring it was cattail shoots, mid summer it was Mulberries, and now this fall we have been collecting mushrooms. Nice additions to our diet and so much more flavorful!
    Take care and keep writing the good stuff

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to read that you enjoyed my article. I hope the info it contains serves you well in the future.

      It’s also good to read about what you have been foraging over recent months.

      What fungi have you been collecting out of interest? It’s been a bumper year here…

      Warm regards,


  17. Thanks Paul, Great Blog, I would like to read some more on the subject as it is a subject which greatly interests me. Even if not survival food, I believe that wild food adds a great deal of missing nutrients to our modern diet.

    1. Thanks Adrian, I’m pleased this interests you. I plan to write more on the subject and I agree, wild foods add a diversity to diet that is difficult/impossible to obtain in any other way.

      Warm regards,


  18. Thank you for another lively and thought provoking article.

    I find the difference between my French and English friends’ attitudes to wild foods of interest. In England, we tend to ignore and waste what is available in Nature’s larder whereas in France, the seaonal harvesting of natural goodies is a matter of routine enjoyment. French people of my generation may well have had survival in mind during WW2, but the knowledge of when and where to find wild asparagus remains. My English neighbours, on the other hand, pass up on such commonly available treasures such as blackberries.

    We may be fortunate in not having to struggle for survival on a daily basis, but I do find the casual loss of knowledge of what nature has to offer a worry. We need people like you to keep that knowledge alive and available.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for your comment. That’s an interesting comparative observation.

      I too find the casual slip into general ignorance quite disturbing.

      I think it’s incumbent on all of us who have knowledge in these areas to help pass them on to others.

      Keep in touch.

      Warm regards,


  19. Thank you Paul. It’s just what I’m looking for.
    Incidentally, I recently found an article about the 6 elements of nutrition. I always thought there were only proteins, fats and carbohydrates, but water, vitamins and minerals are essentials, too. One of the most interesting things about bushcraft is, for me, a thirst for more knowledge. Keep on writing; I’ll keep on reading.


    1. Hi Jim,

      Good to hear from you again. Also good to read that this is up your street. I’m glad you found it useful. Personally I find clarity and prioritisation very powerful tools.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      Warm regards,


  20. Hi Paul

    Yet another very interesting and informative article. I am interested in being able to forage, and find so many books and articles on the subject that I feel I am suffering from overload. Are there any books that YOU would recommend for a beginner?

    I have a grand daughter who is coming on for 2 years old, and I would like to be able to show her some bushcraft and survival skills when she is older. Obviously, for me to pass on these skills and information, I have to be proficient in plant recognition etc.

    Keep up the excellent work, Paul.

    Best regards, John

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article interesting and informative. I understand about overwhelm and I understand about the lack of prioritisation in the literature, that does not tell you which species to put at the top of your list for gaining calories in a particular environment nor tells you which species to learn first so you get most benefit from a limited knowledge.

      You do need to be proficient in your identification skills before you start nibbling on things. I think you concentrate on broadening your ID skills first and gently move into the world of foraging once you are confident to positively identify some of the species. This may require a mentor/teacher.

      In terms of books I recommend, I have some lists in my resources pages, which I have linked to below for your convenience:


      For extending your identification skills, you might be interested in my Tree and Plant Identification Masterclass.

      Hope this helps.

      Warm regards,


  21. Hi Paul another great article looking forward to the next one

  22. Hi Paul , as ever more great information from you ,
    I do a little bit of foraging on the few things
    I know about.I have an awful lot to learn.
    Thanks for the time and effort you put in on on your blogs ,
    I and i’am sure everyone else look forward to them.

  23. Nice article,
    I’ve always “lived off the land” as much as possible: hunting, fishing, berrying, nuts, and wild greens; wild asparagus will be coming on in mid-May. Such living is easier further south, but here in Northern Minnesota, with 2 or 3 feet of snow on the ground and the ground frozen down as much as 6 feet, it’s a tough go much of the year. And too, I’ve gone without eating or consuming any calories at all: many times for 3 days to a week, one time for 27 days, and still another time for 33 days. These were by choice “fasts”, but they were eye openers. After 3 days I wasn’t hungry, just missing the habit of eating, after a week or so, food smelled so bad it was difficult to shop or prepare meals for my children. I worked too, and walked at least 5 miles every day; I shingled a house on the 27th and 28th day of one fast. Eventually, one reaches a state where one is once again hungry. There is a passage from the Bible; Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights and afterward, he was hungry”, that is about the way it goes with fasting. The trick to not going hungry is to learn to find the available food in one’s area at all seasons; here in Northern Minnesota, it’s pretty much protein and pine needle tea in winter, though I know there are some edible inner barks. I read once that further north, aboriginal hunters would consume the contents of a caribou’s stomach; caribou would consume lichen’s, and these lichens, once harvested from the dead caribou’s stomach, tasted like greens with vinegar. I’ve been hungry, but not that hungry yet.

    Good article though Paul, really enjoyed it.

    Take care out there,

  24. Nice article, I will be looking out for follow-ons

  25. Foraging is such a huge subject, I realistically know very little. I really look forward to hearing more. Meanwhile I need to do some serious botany homework.

  26. Dear Paul,

    Here’s one of my favorite reference books: “Nature through the Seasons”. By the author of “Watership Down”, Richard Adams, it’s a small guide with wonderful illustrations by Max Hopper. It’s a great read, if you come across it.


  27. Hi Paul
    When I lived in Canada I learned a lot of similar stuff from a guy trying to regain / preserve the skills of his Huron ancestors. Then in UK it was a lot easier, a la Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. But this was only skimming the surface of what was available to an artist like yourself. I regret that I never got to master fungi. Now I live in Turkey, where the land is old, tired, well-used, worn out. Many of the poorer folk here have an excellent understanding of their local wild food – some of it is harvested for the weekend markets. My beach for instance is covered in samphire. When it’s just ready and I go out to gather some, I am competing with farmers wives (and are they tough!!)
    Maybe you could write about identifying strange foods – the lower lip test etc.

  28. Hi paul
    Very interesting article as always, be very interested to hear about the less common wild foods such as tree barks and plants that need processing , information on these subjects are hard to find, also whats your thoughts on this book for plant id ” the vegetative key to the british flora”, it seems to be a bit of a revolution in plant id but theres not many reviews on it. keep up the awesome blog all the best, mike

  29. Absolutely true! If one is trying to acquire maximum substance from vegetation roots are the only way to go. That said, meat is still the best bang for your buck.

  30. Thanks Paul, this is a subject i am constantly learning about and the biggest obstacle to living off the land in the UK is the law, simply put, you can’t legally hunt without permission, even with permission you can’t legally use the most efficient and effective trapping methods from the twitch up to the deadfall, you can’t even legally dig up the roots of a plant without falling foul of the law.

    Obviously in a survival situation the point where you would be caring about breaking any law i’m sure quickly becomes a distant thought. Sadly living off the land by choice in UK is a criminal fantasy as resources would be limited in any one area due to how we have altered the landscape and no one can possibly get permission for to hunt and forage across the whole country as in the style of a hunter gatherer lifestyle following the seasonal glut as our forbearers. Shame really because the knowledge is long lost and under the legal system we are in it will never truly be rekindled and all we can do is fantasise about it.

    I am guilty of this fantasy, the thought of packing it all in and hitting the trail with a lightweight pack is very endearing to me but the reality is no matter how little and light my kit is my bergen is doubled in weight due to how much dried food I have to take to supplement whatever I can catch and forage and even then i am breaking several laws just to acquire what i do as I can’t possibly acquire land owners permission, a perfect example of this is I am currently planning for doing the West Highland Way leaving in a couple of weeks time as a solo venture living wild all the way and just to legally fish on this journey would cost me over £1000 to cover all the waterways i will pass on my journey in the expected time it will take me, without this fish resource the food weight of my pack would triple at the lowest estimate and how could i possibly acquire permission for whoevers land i may be on when i am taking the small amounts of wild game along the way? I want to do the journey without having to resupply at every town i pass so technically i will be breaking several laws to make my journey possible without taking a wheelbarrow full of food as i couldn’t possibly carry it all without doing myself an injury

    My apologies if that seems a bit of a rant this stuff infuriates me and hampers any planning of any adventure I go on regarding living wild in the UK

    1. A good and well justified rant Rob. I rather like the idea of you stealth surviving out there, and would say, just do it. Have a look on ebay at the pen sized chinese fishing rods and reels, at 160 grams, you can carry one on your pocket and not have it noticed. I took one to Patagonia and caught two very respectable trout.
      Best of luck on your walk, and if you get caught, don’t call me.

      1. Cheers Steve i am still a free man, i sometimes use a hobo handreel now and then that i made myself but i prefer to set ‘L7’ trigger spring loaded hooks and use the Native American fishing trap for my fishing, set them, leave them and come back to fish for supper or breakfast

        L7 fishing

        Native American fishing trap


        All illegal for some strange reason hahahahahaha even the hobo handreel as fishing without a rod is against the law!!!! Don’t make me quote that old rap group NWA but i am sure you get my feelings there

        1. My apologies for putting links in my previous post Paul it was the only way to properly explain what i was talking about

          1. Hi Paul if my previous post with the video links in does not pass your moderation criteria you might as well delete the post apologising for using them,



            if i could have explained it clearly without the video links i would have

            1. Hey Rob,

              No problem. I’ve approved your comment.

              More than one link in a comment automatically sends the comment to the moderation queue – just helps cut down on spam.



    2. dude youve hit the nail on the head. It is impossible to live from the land now and anyone who says you can is talkin shit. Ive just spent nearly 2 years homeless with no where to call home at all……. you name it ive slept in it or under it and for the most part ive lived off road kill, food hunted, foraged and fished for and ive lost 4 and a half stone!!!! Ive hunted, fished and foraged all my life and aint a bandwagon bushcrafter and the LAW and SYSTEM in place will not allow ‘fish to slip through the net’ if you know what i mean. Ive been hounded by the police more times than i can count but mainly by joe public who simply cannot stand a dude going it alone. The piss gets taken and youll be treated worse than shit because you dont have a tv license etc. No joke! People are scared shitless of freedom and those who have more than them. Its the herd mentality….stick in or you stick out…..

      all land is owned by someone and doing as you please wherever you please will eventually land you in the shit and of course jail. Hunting is illegal unless done via stringent controll with a rifle. Get caught using a bow etc and your screwed and you go to jail. You take a salmon out of an an anglers river and the bailiffs will have you up in court or jail. Even the wild places simply do not have enough food to sustain life and trust me the types of food youll eat just to live another day will be boring tasteless shit that’ll do your head in and have you coming back to macdonalds and burger king quick sharp. Thats reality! Bushcraft is a hobby and nothing more….. anyone who tells you otherwise is a bare faced bullshitter who hasnt spent more than a month outside alone on their own trying. Its common knowledge that those who go it alone like the old mountain men dont last long as life is just too fuckin hard. Being alone is a major buzz kill and ofcourse… company, requires more food and resources to survive. Take a look out the window….. the wild world is about knackered and is pretty much a giant farmed garden. Theres too many people consuming everything in site. If society breaks down so too will the food chain and the large supply of people will become part of the food chain. It’ll be a horrid messy existance.

      Living from the land is a dream and a hobby….. nothing more. Its certainly nice attending courses and having a jolly week or 2 outside here or abroad but everyone comes home to the modern world. simple as.

      1. Harsh but sadly also true, sounds like you have seen it from the extreme sharp end of things Dave where living wild is definitely not a game to be played but instead life or death, it’s like you said the maximum i manage to do is 3 weeks when living wild and then i have carried 5-10 kilo of dried food to supplement what i catch and forage to make that possible, on top of this everything i have caught and foraged i have broken the law to do so, can’t even dig up a pig nut without breaking the bloody law.

        If it was not for ‘twitch up’ snare traps (on land and water and totally illegal) i’d have to carry meat too as i don’t carry a rifle or fishing gear and my crossbow or regular bow is even more illegal if used to hunt with and there is no way i am going to sit at the waters edge all day waiting for fish to bite as i’m out there to do more things than just fishing.

        Anyhoo better stop myself there before i end up on another rant on Pauls blog

  31. Really good article paul ,wild edibles really interests me,the skill of being able to live off the land has mostly been lost I think !

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your feedback on this article. Yes, I agree – foraging for food is a dwindling skill.

      All the best,


  32. Hi Paul,
    I often forage, and have thought many times about the knowledge that has been lost. Of course our continental cousins have retained the habit, and whilst truck driving, I would often see Italian, French and Spanish cars parked at the roadside while their occupants wandered the fields gathering wild food. Many times I had the urge to stop and get an education, but never had the time. Sadly I’m stuck with just the common foods, ie blackberries, nettles, hawthorn leaves, acorns, several parts of pine trees and a few herbs, hardly enough to sustain life, and so look forward your coverage of the subject.

  33. Hello Paul.
    Yet again a great article. I have often sat and though about this subject. I have foraged and continue to. Trying to gather enough is some task. With our environment so heavily influenced by agriculture good foraging is usually in small pockets or islands and usually long distances apart. If the trucks stopped coming into town it would be purely subsistence living until you could get a summer and autumn behind you having stored and preserved. Living on the the west coast of Ireland i reckon i could make a go of it. When the tide is out the table is set.

  34. Great and informative article, Paul, like always.
    I think that such knowledge like all primitive skills are basic information and knowledge, that we could survive in such situations, without food or water supplies on the long run…

  35. I enjoyed the article. In reading history and survival stories it seems the hardest part is to admit not everything you eat or do is going to be pleasant. Many have starved because they won’t eat raw fish, insets grubs or worms. I look forward to that part of your discussion. The challenge with our limited diet is we don’t know how we will react to these less savory items as we don’t usually have termites for breakfast. The difference in geography is huge. On the Oregon Coast the food is fairly easy to provide as compared to the desert of Arizona.

  36. Paul –

    Great read! Thanks for framing the skills of foraging and giving it a language – this is all new to me! I have naively thought that someday I would be able to “live off the land”. Reading your article makes me think of the importance of being familiar with not just the plant sources themselves but also the land and where these sources can likely be located. If we’re in the same area frequently, logic would even bring up the idea of primitive farming – “how can I encourage more of these whatevers to grow here”.

    Excellent as usual! I look forward to seeing (and hearing!) more from you on this topic.

  37. I don’t think it can be done in the UK either. Too many restrictions, and especially here in Scotland, the weather is a killer. Can you imagine living on the Mounth plateau without taking your own calories? No me neither.
    Down in glens near water sources it might be possible, but even then . . . night lines, bailiffs etc etc . .

    There’s a fascinating book, called The Stone-Age Health programme, by Eaton, Shostak & Konner which although a tad faddy (as in it is a diet programme!) really goes into ancient and modern calorific values very well – worth a read if you can find one.

  38. Hi Paul,
    very interesting article!!

    I have Always been interested at wild plants but I do not know where to start from….
    Also I think it is very dependable knowledge to live out of land and, most important, a day by day bushcraft. I have a lot of plants around my walking to eat if I know them…..

    Thank you very much for teaching .

    Best regards

    Pierluigi Tucci

  39. Now that foraging is fashionable I have noticed that people devastate wild edibles one example is a place I used to get a few muscles from there where a great many and the shore line was abundant all the years I have been taking just what I need now and again with some sea weed. Now it has been taken by everyone to the point the muscles are not really there anymore I’ve never seen anything like it in my area and the same with my patch of Samphire which has almost been wiped out. I all ways thought stuff was pretty resilient but it seems there is a diminishing point, this somewhat worries me as and this is my own opinion that most people who are into fashionable fads have no respect they just want to be seen to be doing the in thing regardless of others or nature. If I see there are none to a few of something I think it’s important not to take anything.
    Sorry for the rant that’s just the way I see things. lol no offence meant to anyone
    All the best

    1. Hi Paul,

      I think you make a very good point about potential overuse of resources.

      I know people who have seen the same decimation of mushrooms.

      We must do our best to educate new foragers not to over exploit resources and I think you encapsulate the message well with your comment “If I see there are none to a few of something I think it’s important not to take anything.”

      All the best,


  40. Hi Paul, once again you are spot on with your topic. I dabble a bit in medicinal herbs and some local edible plants so this is right up my alley. Thanks for the inspiration!


  41. It would be nice if we all had sufficient warning before SHTF to relocate to some locale resplendent with the verdant foliage in these photos. Living in the desert southwest US as we do, we’re lucky to see anything green at all! Maybe we’d better move now!

  42. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for this article on wild edible plants. I like this down-to-eartth approach of this subject . I look forward to read more on specific plants you would recommend in the northern emisphere in a survival situation.
    Best regards

  43. Dear Mr. Kirtley!
    I look forward to every new news.
    You might want to also write about the diet of animal origin.


    1. Hi Bozidar,

      Thanks for your comment.

      It’s good to hear from you in Croatia. I’m happy you like the material on this blog.

      Thanks also for your suggestions for future writing.

      Warm regards,


  44. Hi Paul that’s an interesting intro to foraging and i’ll look forward to reading some more soon. Incidently my wife makes a mean Nettle Soup, and the kids have caught Crayfish and cooked them from our local stream but we’ve a long way to go to self sufficiency, especialy as the Co-op is just up the road!

    Great stuff on your site, keep up the good work.


    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your comments. I’m somewhat envious – nettle soup and crayfish sounds delicious!

      Keep up the family foraging skills. You’ll be able to bypass the local Coop before too long… 🙂

      Warm regards,


  45. Wonderful. your articles always provide me with a framework for moving forward with my own curiosity, but with so much information out there it’s hard for a novice to know which way to turn. With financial mayhem on the horizon, again, for our ‘civilised’ nations and crop failures anew, all we need is a proper fuel crisis of a few weeks with the resulting supermarket apocolypse and your rationale will move from jolly good read to essential information that will keep my family going.
    All I need now is for you to put this is in a child friendly, write’n’wipe, metal spiral bound book I can take to the wilds of East Sussex so I can send the kids off to the ‘shop’ with a digging tool while I brew up the last precious coffee grinds – acorns simply don’t cut the mustard! Really would love a short field guide following your rationale, water proofed and with big writing.

  46. As a frequent armchair explorer,, Margaret Elphinstones book, The Gathering Night about a Stone Age community was very helpful in improving my understanding of the practice of foraging for a living. Thanks for your good work and interesting article, much appreciated

  47. Great post Paul!
    Excellent breakdown. Thank you for your knowledge and look forward to the future posts 🙂


  48. Having had no experience in any type of foraging, I would be lost at first. However, I do enjoy reading your information, more so than I thought I would.

  49. I enjoyed your article, but would really like to know which items are best for you and how to identify them plus for sure which ones are not edible at all, thanks !!

  50. Great article Paul. I have only been doing Bushcraft a few months and learned a lot of the basics.
    Foraging is one subject I am very interested in what with Spring coming up.
    Looking forward to your future blogs


  51. Great article Paul. I have only been doing Bushcraft a few months and learned a lot of the basics.
    Foraging is one subject I am very interested in what with Spring coming up.
    Looking forward to your future posts.


  52. Hi Paul

    Another great article.

    As said by someone else above, I struggle with this lack of knowledge and practice.

    Doyou or will you run any courses where this is the focus? Would be very interested in attending such if you do.



  53. Many thanks sir, my utmost appreciation for the hard work of
    your team, i am a regular visitor to your website indeed, i thought
    to, (out of courtsey) provide some suggestion and
    feedback of my own , would be thankful if you
    could reply or acknowledge my suggestions to make this site more content focused .

    Rana Duggal.

  54. Great post Paul.. I simply love Wood Sorrel.. Can’t wait for that to pop up again! Wood Sorrel Pesto here we come!

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