There are all kinds of plants serving all kinds of purposes in and around human habitation. Every once in a while, you come across a plant that is pretty divisive.
Some folks might love it for its beauty or aroma, but it might have physical characteristics that make it a nuisance to others.
Honeysuckle is one such plant, simultaneously loved for its beauty and fragrant, delicate flowers while simultaneously being hated because of its tendency to climb over every vertical surface and choke out other plants nearby.
But that’s for domestic life; we need to know whether or not we can eat honeysuckle to survive in the wilderness. So, is it safe to eat raw honeysuckle?
Yes, certain species of honeysuckle are safe to eat, even raw. However, there are many species of honeysuckle that are mildly poisonous. It’s important to thoroughly learn local and regional species if you want to make use of them as survival food.
Maybe you don’t have an opinion about honeysuckle one way or the other, except your fond childhood memories of trying a little drop of the sweet nectar.
In any case, honeysuckle is very common in most places around the country, but you just can’t eat them without any reservations since eating the wrong kind could make you seriously sick.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about incorporating honeysuckle as a survival edible down below.
Okay, we need to tackle the obvious issue with depending on honeysuckle as a survival food before we do anything else.
The bottom line is that many honeysuckle species are toxic, though most are minimally poisonous.
As far as human beings are concerned, there are no known deaths that have resulted from eating toxic honeysuckle, berries, flowers or any other part of the plant, but animal deaths have indeed happened.
In any case, ingesting toxic honeysuckle is going to make you sick, likely resulting in serious digestive upset.
And identification might not be easy: most species produce those beautiful, delicate and sweet-smelling flowers and also glossy berries which are bound to look very appetizing when you’re hungry.
The trick is that these flowers and berries are produced by safe and by toxic species alike. It’s up to you to learn, and learn precisely, which species are safe and which aren’t…
For instance, the common tartarian and fly honeysuckle varieties are very toxic, and both produce delicious-looking berries.
But you can avoid the berries and still get sick off of these plants because the toxin is present in all parts.
On the other end of the spectrum, the beloved sweetberry honeysuckle produces, as the name would suggest, sweet, safe and delicious berries.
Finding one of these plants any survival situation would be a godsend because you can eat the flowers and other parts too!
And, there’s a little more good news for savvy survivors: most places around the globe only have two to three honeysuckle species that are commonly encountered.
What this means is, it isn’t too hard to figure out which ones are safe and which ones aren’t by memorizing their distinctive characteristics.
The honeysuckle plant usually tastes quite very grassy, or vegetal, and some have been reported to taste unpleasantly bitter even though they are safe to eat.
That being said, the safe species can be used very much like you would ordinary salad greens and eaten as is, or they can be boiled as part of a stew or even steeped to use for tea.
Also note that most of the berries grown on edible varieties of honeysuckle don’t taste very sweet.
They usually taste better than the rest of the plant, but they tend towards being tart and astringent tasting.
As previously mentioned, one notable exception is the sweetberry species which produces those delicious berries…
Yes, it is. It is worth mentioning that the nectar of all honeysuckle species is safe to eat.
However, you get so precious little of it from any given bloom that deriving anything in the way of actual nutrients from it is going to be a highly laborious and time-consuming task.
Yes, assuming they are from a non-toxic variety of honeysuckle. The blooms of the honeysuckle are safe to eat raw as they are and they are also a common ingredient in many teas and tinctures.
Yes, once again as long as they come from a non-toxic variety of honeysuckle. In most cases, even berries from toxic plants are only mildly poisonous, though that’s no reason to eat them if you can avoid it!
Assuming the berries are safe, they are safe to eat raw right off of the plant, though they tend to be tart.
A few varieties produce sweet, delicious berries that you’ll be glad to get, and the high sugar content of these varieties is great for a quick boost of energy.
Yes, you can as long as it is a safe species. Cooking a honeysuckle plant will reduce the overall level of vitamins and minerals present, but it also kills off any germs that might be lurking on or in the plant, potentially preventing you from getting sick.
This is also a good time to mention that cooking a toxic species will not destroy the toxins, or destroy enough of them, to make it non-toxic and therefore it won’t make it safe to eat just because it’s cooked.
There isn’t much reliable nutritional information about honeysuckles because they are not cultivated and harvested for regular human consumption.
We do know that safe species are indeed truly safe to eat like many other wild edibles, and that you can expect to get vitamins, minerals and some calories from these plants.
That might be enough to help you supplement a diet that is lacking in one or two nutrients, help fill you up and stave off hunger pangs, or provide you with calories to keep your energy levels a little bit higher.
As you might have expected, honeysuckles are nowhere close to nutritionally complete for people.
Honeysuckle, of one type or another, can be found globally and is particularly abundant throughout the northern hemisphere.
There are well over 150 varieties of honeysuckle growing in various places, though the majority is spread across Europe, North America, and much of Asia.
Further complicating matters, you can sometimes find invasive species growing right alongside indigenous species, though invasive species tend to outcompete their indigenous cousins.
Honeysuckle generally prefers temperate environments, not too hot or too cold, neither too shady nor too sunny.
Honeysuckle is truly a plant species that prefers “just right” conditions, and if you are living or traveling through any such temperate zone there’s probably going to be at least one honeysuckle species you can find.
Something else to keep in mind is that various species are also cultivated as garden or landscape plants, so it’s not uncommon to encounter them in urban and suburban areas.
Something to possibly keep in mind if you’re able to track down a sweetberry honeysuckle growing in someone’s garden during an urban survival scenario.
The single biggest risk associated with eating honeysuckle is if you eat any part of the plant from a toxic variety.
Typically, the toxins present in these species are pretty mild, and as mentioned above, no human deaths have been reported.
Even so, it won’t take too many for you to wind up with serious abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and potentially a headache and loss of coordination.
Eating way, way too many berries or other parts of the plant could result in more serious trouble, to include death, so take it seriously.
Once again, consider this your reminder to never eat any plant, including honeysuckle, that you have not positively identified as safe to eat.
The other major thing to be aware of when eating honeysuckle raw is the same for any sort of raw plant or produce, and that’s the presence of germs.
There are all sorts of viruses, bacteria, and other gribblies that can give you food poisoning or worse.
Food poisoning might not be that bad when you were in the middle of a functioning society with help just a few minutes away, but in a survival scenario it could prove fatal.
Vomiting, diarrhea and the overall loss of electrolytes could stress your body to the breaking point when you’re already in trouble, or just prevent you from taking care of all of the many survival tasks that you must attend to under the circumstances.
If possible, try to wash any harvested honeysuckle at a minimum, and consider lightly cooking it if you can.
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