In the video embedded below I discuss with Gordon Dedman of Bushcraft Survival Australia, problems with the Universal Edibility Test. These problems largely fall into two categories; 1) problems caused by the way this test is commonly presented, especially on the internet, and 2) shortcomings inherent in the application of the the test itself, even when fully presented and properly applied.
There are many references to the Universal Edibility Test on the internet and in published books. Many instances on the internet are poorly presented, as are some instances in printed books. A common issue is that the test is presented incompletely. In cases of incomplete presentation, important parts are left out. An often neglected part of the test are the exclusions of types of plants that should not even be tested in the first place.
Misrepresentation of the Universal Edibility Test
The worst offences include statements such as “how to know if any plant is edible”. This is absolutely not the case. It’s categorically wrong and potentially dangerous to frame the Universal Edibility Test in this way. In part of the discussion in the video below I explain why not using the exclusions as a pre-filter to reduce the scope of the plants one might test is problematic.
You Need To Target Specific Plant Parts
There are also further issues with the way this test is generally presented. The test, properly stated, dictates that you separate the plant into constituent parts (meaning roots, stem, leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, etc.,), testing each part independently. If the reason for this is not obvious, then let me explain that some plants have some parts that are edible but other parts that contain toxins. While this separation rule is present in most presentations of the test, it’s uncommon for there to be any discussion of targeting particular parts of a plant over others. There is likely more energy in some parts of a plant than others. I discuss this more fully in the video.
Every Survival Website Mentions The Universal Edibility Test
A further issue with the Universal Edibility Test, is not in the test itself. Rather, this issue is the popularity of the test. It is widely presented as a magic bullet in a survival situation, even as something you can use to learn about recreational foraging. The latter is idiotic and dangerous.
The widespread promotion of the test, including on general outdoor websites, not just those sites dedicated to survival know-how, tends to result in a subset of inexperienced people seeing it as an easy solution to their ignorance about wild edibles. This is especially the case when the test is presented with undue authority.
Is The Universal Edibility Test Useful?
The Universal Edibility Test, properly understood, and properly applied has its place. However, it should not be seen as a crutch or a reason not to learn any more.
Learning about wild plants can be challenging but I hope the conversation between Gordon and me also shows that some basic knowledge, focussed in the right areas, will go a long way.
You can start with the free articles on this site linked further down this page under the heading related material.
If you’d like to learn more about tree and plant identification, you might like to consider my online Tree & Plant Identification Masterclass.
Conversations With Gordon Dedman
The conversation between Gordon and I is the second part of a recording made by Gordon in the summer of 2022. Gordon was in the UK for the Global Bushcraft Symposium. He stayed on to take a number of courses in the UK, including one of mine. Aferwards we sat down to record an interview for his channel. There were a number of areas Gordon was keen to discuss. The above video is the second part of the conversation. The first part of the conversation can be seen and heard here.
If you are not familiar with Gordon Dedman, then here is a little background. Gordon is lead instructor at Bushcraft Survival Australia. Gordon is a former member of the Australian Army 1st Commando Regiment and is currently a survival instructor in NORFORCE, an Australian Army Reserve Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU). Gordon is also a Combat Survival SERE instructor (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape) and instructs on RAAF Combat Survival Training School courses in North Queensland.
Related Material On This Site
Further Discussion Of Edibility Tests
For ease of reference students of my paid online courses will find the following links useful in the above context too. Both these presentations are part of the Continuation Study Series, which is open to students of my Online Elementary Bushcraft Course.