Episode 185 S5-22
Wild Foraging In the Rockies
Dark Days in Denver Ch 22
The Rocky Mountains have a vast bio diversity which can change drastically as you move from the elevation of two thousand feet to eight thousand feet. In the lower elevations, cattails are a forageable that can be utilized year round. In the winter you can harvest the roots but they will not taste as good as the shoots that are harvested in the spring. However, both are packed with starch and will fill your belly.
The time of year makes a huge difference, no matter where you are in the Rockies. Berries like the service berry will only be available for a three week window. Berries like the alder and choke cherries will be ripe at other times of the year. Try to learn at least ten different types of berries that ripen at different times of the year. Be aware that with some types of berry plants the berries themselves can be poisonous at different times of the year. The stems and leaves of other berry plants, like the Alder, are poisonous.
Acorns are a great food source that, if processed correctly, can provide you with a year round food supply. Depending on where you are, pine nuts can be collected from the cones of the Pinion Pine.
Eric is a big believer in redundancies. You should always focus on bugging in but if you have to bug out, you should have survival caches. This allows for you to partially bug in, once you reach a designated location. Wild foraging is very dependent upon multiple environmental circumstances. That being said, foraging should only be counted on as a supplemental food supply. Even if you have a large cache of long term food storage, use foraging as a supplement. It will help to vary your diet and provide you with a fresh element. Plan to fail, build in redundancies.
In the Rockies, strawberries are not as prevalent as some blogs make them sound. They do exist in the wetter areas. They are a special berry because once harvested, they will regrow providing a longer term food supply. However, wild strawberries are much smaller than domesticated ones. Raspberries are another source of food that exists near water sources.
When foraging always ask yourself if the amount of calories you are going to spend harvesting and processing the forageable is worth it. In other words, will you spend more calories collecting the plant than you can reap from the plant? There is a survival pendulum that exists. On one hand we overharvest and waste resources and on the other we under-harvest and miss out on valuable resources. The pendulum is based upon knowledge, practice and adaptability because the one constant is change. You can be sure that you, your circumstances and you environment will change, count on it. We have to be adaptable.
We have created artificial environments and many individuals will not be able to survive without the technology that makes it that way. However, you can decide if it is going to be a shock, a slight inconvenience or a vacation. Always practice the survival theories you are learning. Shut off your conveniences and see where the flaws in your plan are. Theory plus practice equals skill and you will never know what problems you need to solve unless you create them in a controlled environment. Don't say, "I would if I had to," practice so you know.
In the Rockies, like other areas there are plants that look like one another. For example the wild onion's look alike is the death camas. You can tell the difference by smelling the plants. Beginning foragers should identify not try! Don't ingest anything that you are not 100% certain of.
In southern Utah, in the four corners area you will find Pinion Pines to harvest pine nuts from. They are calorie packed. You can also find the prickly pear cactus. If you know how to harvest and eat it the whole plant is edible. Learn to prepare various edibles because many are not the types of things you can just pick and eat. Also do not harvest a plant to death. Overharvesting the plant will kill it and in the subsequent years you will have nothing to harvest.
Mormon tea, otherwise known as: green ephedra or Bingham Tea, is another plant that is common. It has many vitamins and minerals but it is also a vasodilator used to treat upper respiratory infections.
Rose hips are ready for harvest in the fall. They naturally preserve themselves through the winter and provide a long term food supply. They are packed with sugar and carbohydrates. Boil them down and take the seeds out. You will find them in wet areas.
Mountain Ash Trees can be harvested during the winter. They naturally dry on the tree as well. They can be used to make a jam but they also make a good filler. They can be added to pemmican bars to bulk up the nutritional value.
Wild foraging does not mean that you will be eating bland food all the time. Plants like juniper berries can add a delicious flavor to meat. Pine nuts, pine needles, sage and wild onion also make a great addition to increase the flavor of your food.
Pines and aspens have an inner bark that is edible. Harvest it carefully so you do not damage the tree too much. When dried and ground as a meal it adds a lot of added calories to your food. Once in it's ground form it can be kept year round.
Just because a berry is bright and beautiful does not mean that it is edible. The baneberry is a beautiful red color but if you eat it, you will get very sick. Also, just because the animals are eating something, doesn't mean you can. If you had to pick an animal that the digestive capabilities most similar to humans, it would be the bear.
Study the calories, sugars, carbohydrates and proteins associated with each plant you learn to identify. This way, you can focus on the superfoods and study them with more vigor. There are edibility walks that help you learn to identify plants in your area available. Focus on the two hundred miles surrounding you.
Most plants are not universal but two good ones to know are nettle and water cress. Water cress is known as the seaweed of the Rockies. Make certain you boil it as there are many small bugs that like to call it home.
When considering taking shelter in the Rockies, any shelter you build will have to elevate you off the ground. There are critters there in the summer and all year long you have to be aware of the moisture level and the heat loss to your body that the earth absorbs. Eric uses his hammock and tarp setup year round. It is quick to setup and keeps him dry. Another shelter he commonly uses is the forest lean to.
Choosing the right location can be the difference between success and utter failure. You don't want to be hauling stuff back and forth. Don't fight nature, use it to your advantage. Use a rock or fallen log as your backdrop for your fire. Find an area with lots of down materials that you can easily access. Pick a location that is closest to the items you will be using the most. Even a one hundred yard walk will get old quick and burn up calories fast.
A wickiup is an efficient shelter for you to build. It is basically a tri-pod that you lash together and then stack pole on pole on top. It minimizes the use of the cordage that you carry, unlike the debris hut which will use it all up. Eric recommends carrying at least one hundred yards of cordage. Wickiups are good shelters for windy conditions.
In the mountains, you should avoid the ridges. Seventy five percent of your shelter's success depends on location. Pick a good spot that is free from falling rocks or trees.
In a bugout situation, where mass chaos is occurring, people will be the most dangerous element. Conceal yourself and your shelter. Be low key. Don't build too big. Your shelter only needs to fit your body. This way it stays warmer and is easier to camouflage.
Build your survival kit around winter and scale back in the summer.
Learn what plants look like year round. Most books only show one picture at a given time of the year. Identify plants in areas and know your location well. Constantly add too your knowledge base. Keep your personal knife (your mind) sharp.
Prickly Pear Cactus
Featured Quote From Today's Chapter:
"We still have a mission to do, and I'd like to see you live through it."