Many campers enjoy the back-to-nature feel of finding and cooking edible plants in Oregon. In a survival situation, the ability to identify edible plants can even save lives. The trick is being able to tell the edible plants from harmful lookalikes.
As a small child I remember my grandmother telling me never to put anything in my mouth if I didn't know what it was. Apparently she never passed these words of wisdom on to my uncle.
On one summer campout, we had to almost physically restrain him from eating some particularly alarming-looking mushrooms. An immigrant from Poland after World War II, he swore that the orange mushrooms looked exactly like those he'd eaten in the "Old Country."
Pointing out that we were on the other side of the globe from Poland had little effect. Finally his wife had to step in and threaten him with dire consequences if he ate a single mushroom. I never figured out exactly what she threatened him with that was worse than mushroom poisoning, but she was an imposing lady. I've no doubt she came up with something good.
To this day I don't know if those mushrooms were the same species my uncle remembered so fondly. I'm just glad he didn't eat them. Stay away from sampling wild mushrooms. Even expert mushroom hunters can confuse edible mushrooms with deadly lookalikes.
Easy to Indentify Edible Plants
A good field guide helps people identify edible plants. Receiving instruction from an experienced botanist or guide is even better. The first rule for eating wild plants sounds very similar to my grandmother's advice. If you can't identify the plant with absolute certainty, don't eat it. Especially as many plants look alike.
Here's an example. You can find wild carrots and parsnips in many areas of the United States. You can also find hemlock. The three plants look very similar. Two of them are edible. One of them--the hemlock--can kill you.
Some wild plants are easier to identify than others. Wild strawberries, for instance, are difficult to mistake for anything else. The young shoots of cattails are edible, and all parts of the common dandelion can be eaten.
Oak tree leaves and acorns can be eaten, but they tend to be very bitter. Wild blueberries and blackberries are a tasty treat, presuming you can differentiate them from less palatable berries. Remember that berries are a popular bear food. Always watch for bears in areas with berry bushes.
Never eat any plants from the side of the road. Roadside plants may have been sprayed with pesticides, and have certainly been exposed to automobile pollution.
Some edible wild plants can be eaten raw. Others require preparation to be palatable. Acorns, for instance, are too bitter to eat raw, and best rinsed and ground into flour. Other plants are safe cooked but poisonous raw. Again, eat nothing unless you're absolutely sure how to prepare it safely.
If you're cooking in the wild, a portable grill makes a camper's life much easier. In addition to direct grilling, a portable grill can also be used as a support for pots and pans.