Hmmmm… the Universal Edibility test…
This has to be one of the most misquoted writings in all of wilderness survival.
1- The test was not designed for general civilian wilderness survival, it was intended for SURVIVAL IN CAPTIVITY situations that military personnel may find themselves in and even then only after all attempts to obtain animal protein have been exhausted.
The test is meant for military (and very select military members at that) that have received very specific training in how to apply it.
2- As yet I am still trying to find a copy of the entire correct format for this test in a civilian publication.
3- The Universal edibility test is constantly being reviewed and updated by panels of experts for the best possible methods based on the updates put forward. The tests published and perpetuated in the civilian publications is not the same as the test taught to Military Personnel at the various schools of Combat Survival and U.S. S.E.R.E institutions.
WARNING - The critical factor in using plants for food is to avoid accidental poisoning. Eat only those plants you can positively identify and you know are safe to eat.
Universal Edibility Test
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.
WARNING - Do not eat mushrooms in a survival situation! The only way to tell if a mushroom is edible is by positive identification. There is no room for experimentation. Symptoms caused by the most dangerous mushrooms affecting the central nervous system may not show up until several days after ingestion. By that time, it is too late to reverse their effects.
Before continuing with the following procedure, understand that this method is potentially life threatening, it should only be employed as a last resort, AFTER ALL OTHER POSSIBLE FOOD SOURCES HAVE BEEN EXHAUSTED!
UNIVERSAL EDIBILITY TEST:
1 - Test only one part of a potential food plant at a time.
2 - Separate the plant into its basic components — leaves, stems, roots, buds and flowers.
3 - Smell the food for strong or acid odours. Remember, smell alone does not indicate a plant is edible or inedible.
4 - Do not eat for eight hours before starting the test.
5 - During the eight hours you abstain from eating, test for contact poisoning by placing a piece of the plant part you are testing on the inside of your elbow or wrist. Usually 15 minutes is enough time to allow for a reaction.
6 - During the test period, take nothing by mouth except purified water and the plant part you are testing.
7 - Select a small portion of a single part and prepare it the way you plan to eat it.
8 - Before placing the prepared plant part in your mouth, touch a small portion (a pinch) to the outer surface of your lip to test for burning or itching.
9 - If after three minutes there is no reaction on your lip, place the plant part on your tongue, holding it there for 15 minutes.
10 - If there is no reaction, thoroughly chew a pinch and hold it in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do not swallow.
11 - If no burning, itching, numbing, stinging or other irritation occurs during the 15 minutes, swallow the food.
12 - Wait eight hours. If any ill effects occur during this period, induce vomiting and drink a lot of water.*
13 - If no ill effects occur, eat 0.25 cup of the same plant part prepared the same way. Wait another eight hours. If no ill effects occur, the plant part as prepared is safe for eating.
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.
Remember, eating large portions of plant food on an empty stomach may cause diarrhoea, nausea, or cramps. Two good examples of this are such familiar foods as green apples and wild onions. Even after testing plant food and finding it safe, eat it in moderation.
You can see from the steps and time involved in testing for edibility just how important it is to be able to identify edible plants.
To avoid potentially poisonous plants, stay away from any wild or unknown plants that have--
• Milky or discoloured sap.
• Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
• Bitter or soapy taste.
• Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
• Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley like foliage.
• "Almond" scent in woody parts and leaves.
• Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.
• Three-leaved growth pattern.
Using the above criteria as eliminators when choosing plants for the Universal Edibility Test will cause you to avoid some edible plants. More important, these criteria will often help you avoid plants that are potentially toxic to eat or touch.
(*) To induce vomiting mix a slurry of 2:1 charcoal powder and water and drink or, mix 3 table spoons of salt into a small cup of water for the same effect.
Remember also that the test must be conducted for both the cooked and uncooked state as the chemicals in the plant may be affected by exposure to heat, either removing a toxin or concentrating it...
(Universal Edibility Test: Updated May 2002. As per FM 3-05.70 Survival Manual. Supersedes FM 21-76 SURVIVAL 1999)