Besides water, the other thing you'll need to survive in the jungle is food. Your dining choices largely revolve around edible plants, fruit, insects and fish. Unless you have a guidebook on edible plant varieties, you'll need to figure it out on your own. It can be deadly to eat a plant you're unsure of, so it's better to try and find food elsewhere than to risk eating a toxic plant. You can follow these general rules when foraging for plants:
- Avoid plants with white or yellow berries.
- Don't eat mushrooms. Some are safe, but many are highly toxic and even deadly, so it's not worth the risk.
- Avoid plants with thorns.
- If it tastes bitter or soapy, spit it out.
- Steer clear of shiny leaves.
- Stay away from plants with leaves in groups of three.
- Stay away from plants with umbrella-shaped flowers.
- Avoid beans or plants with seeds inside a pod.
- Milky or discolored sap is a warning sign.
- Avoid anything with an almond smell.
You can also use the universal edibility test to check whether a plant is edible. It involves steps like rubbing the plant on your skin and lips and holding it in your mouth to see if there's an adverse reaction. You can read about how to perform this test in detail in What is the universal edibility test?.
Fruit can be found throughout the jungle. Depending on where you are, you can find everything from mangoes and bananas to wild yams and sugarcane. Coconuts are a good food source in tropical jungles, as is sugarcane, figs, papaya and taro root. Familiarize yourself with local edible fruits before you travel to any jungle or rainforest.
Insects are another good source of protein. More than 1,400 varieties are eaten regularly everywhere on Earth aside from the United States, Canada and Western Europe [source: IRIN News]. The practice is called entomophagy, and it's been around for centuries. Unfortunately, there isn't a dead giveaway to tell if a bug is edible unless you know what you're doing. But there are some general guidelines you can use to help you decide:
- Steer clear of brightly colored insects.
- Avoid insects that are extremely pungent.
- Don't eat hairy critters or bugs that bite or sting.
Worms, grubs and termites are everywhere in the jungle and are all a great protein source. If you had fresh water, you could survive for months on insects alone. Beetles can also make for a hearty meal, but some carry parasites. A good way to make sure you're safe is to cook it. A good boiling or slow roast will usually negate the effect of harmful toxins.
So you don't fancy plants and insects? You're more of a meat-and-potatoes man? OK then, Rambo, grab that spear and we'll go fishing on the next page.