This page contains information on how to survive by finding food in the desert in an emergency situation, also you will find useful tips on how to use the "Universal Edible Test".
Your survival in the desert depends upon your ability to use the available survival equipment, and your special skills to apply them to cope with the hazards you face as well as your will to survive. But most importantly your ability to improvise, because every survival situation is different, so think and improvise by taking advantage of what you have available to you.
In the desert, the most pressing need is water, once you have that, you can live for about 3 weeks without food. When looking for food, it's important to note that you should be careful before starting on your quest, because there are poisonous plants and venomous reptiles and insect. But that doesn't mean you should starve to death. If you must eat, here are some tips you should consider. The food sources you can exploit are determined by the habitat you are in. Vary your diet to make sure you get the appropriate proportions of fat, protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Most experts agree that the main edibles are in the fruits of the cacti and legumes. All cactus fruits are safe to eat. The legumes are the bean bearing plants. The identification of all poisonous plants is beyond the scope of this article. The reader is encouraged to study the matter further based upon the degree of interest. There is no pattern of geography, habitat, relationship, seasonal appearance or plant part that can be used successfully to separate poisonous plants from harmless ones. But if you must eat and doubt whether a plant is poisonous or not, you can use the "Universal Edibility Test" (See chart at the bottom of this page).
If water is not available, do not eat, as food will only increase your need for water. However, in a survival situation where use of strange plants for food is necessary, follow these rules: AVOID plants with milky sap. AVOID all red beans. If possible, boil plants which are questionable. Test a cooked plant by holding a small quantity in the mouth for a few moments. If the taste is disagreeable (very bitter, nauseating, burning), do not eat it.
Some common desert edible plants are:
Reptiles are a good protein source and relatively easy to catch. Thorough cooking and hand washing is imperative with reptiles. All reptiles are considered to be carriers of salmonella, which exists naturally on their skin. Turtles and snakes are especially known to infect man. If you are in an undernourished state and your immune system is weak, salmonella can be deadly. Cook food thoroughly and be especially fastidious washing your hands after handling any reptile. Lizards are plentiful in most parts of the world. They may be recognized by their dry, scaly skin. They have five toes on each foot. The only poisonous ones are the Gila monster and the Mexican beaded lizard. Care must be taken when handling and preparing the iguana and the monitor lizard, as they commonly harbor the salmonellal virus in their mouth and teeth. The tail meat is the best tasting and easiest to prepare.
Your most vital nutritional needs in a survival situation are protein and fat. Most insects are rich in both. Turn off your cultural bias against eating insects. Edible bugs are good "survival food".
Trapping: Unless you are an experienced hunter, hunting animals for meat is inadvisable in a survival situation. Hunting is difficult and you will expend a lot of energy to get your food. Instead of hunting consider trapping. Trapping requires less skill and leaves you free to spend time searching for other food sources. The wilderness survivor needs simple traps that are easy to remember and easy to construct. Check our page about Traps and Snares.
Reminder: You must have water to survive, but you can go without food for many days without harmful effect. Protein needs water to be digested, and therefore eating it will make you more thirsty and dehydrated. For more tips about getting water check our page Getting Food to Survive
There are many plants throughout the world. Tasting or swallowing even a small portion of some can cause severe discomfort, extreme internal disorders, and even death. Therefore, if you have the slightest doubt about a plant's edibility, apply the Universal Edibility Test before eating any portion of it.
CAUTION: Test all parts of the plant for edibility, as some plants have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part that proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test the part raw to ensure edibility before eating raw. The same part or plant may produce varying reactions in different individuals.
Before testing a plant for edibility, make sure there are enough plants to make the testing worth your time and effort. Each part of a plant (roots, leaves, flowers, and so on) requires more than 24 hours to test. Do not waste time testing a plant that is not relatively abundant in the area.
More information: We hope this page was helpful and provided you with some survival techniques on how to find food in the desert. Check out our main page for more survival scenarios here Survival Guide, knowledge is light, and knowledge can save your life. Make sure you do your best to know what to do in a survival situation and then hope for the best.