Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What is the universal edibility test?


Universal Edibility Test: Chew, Swallow and Chow
Despite the milky white sap in the stem, all parts of the dandelion are edible. Boil the leaves or bake and grind the root for a coffee substitute.
Despite the milky white sap in the stem, all parts of the dandelion are edible. Boil the leaves or bake and grind the root for a coffee substitute.
Quarto, Inc./Getty Images

If you've made it this far through the test, then you're well on your way to determining if part of the plant is edible. But before you can start wolfing down that root, stem or flower, there are a few more steps to the universal edibility test.

Chew - After you've held the piece of plant on your tongue for 15 minutes with no adverse reaction, chew it thoroughly and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. Don't swallow. Once again, if you feel any kind of burning, tingling or numbness spit it out and rinse with water.

Swallow - If you make it through step five, you'll have a pretty soggy piece of plant in your mouth. At the end of the 15 minutes, you need to swallow that soggy piece. Now comes more waiting. Don't eat anything for eight hours. You can drink water, but no more plant or any other kind of food. If you feel nauseous, you need to induce vomiting and drink a lot of water. If you feel fine during the eight-hour waiting period, proceed to the next step.

Chow - Now you get to chow down a little. Gather roughly one quarter cup of the exact same part of the same plant and prepare it in the same way you did in step three. Eat the plant and wait another eight hours. If you feel sick, follow the same steps as above. You can drink water during the waiting period, but as always, refrain from eating anything else.

If you make it through this final waiting period and you feel fine, then congratulations, you just aced the universal edibility test. You can now assume that this one part of this one plant is safe to eat if prepared in the same way. In order to determine if the other parts of the plant are safe to eat, you need to perform the same test on those parts. It's a time-consuming process, but if you're in a survival situation, it might just save your life. Try to multi-task during the waiting periods -- gather wood, build your shelter, hunt or fish for food, find water and signal for help.

For more information on wilderness survival, please put down that carrot root and click forward to the next page.


More to Explore