I wrote a little bit about what to eat in the wild a few weeks ago when I mentioned Mykel Hawke's (Man, I've been writing about him a lot lately) recommendation for sticking with a meat only diet in the wild. When I read it in Hawke's Special Forces Survival Handbook it made a lot of sense to me. Up until that point I was trying to figure out what in Colorado is safe to eat in the wild, and I realized that perhaps my effort might be better spent elsewhere. If you want to know what I'm talking about, Hawke says:

Animals and insects can meet about 90% of all your nutrition needs in a survival situation, and it's an easier and safer bet to catch and kill animals than trying to subsist off of plants alone. Ounce for ounce, you will always get the most calories from meat over any other food source out there.
That being said, I don't think it's wrong to learn what is safe to eat as far as plants go. In fact, if your goal in life is to live off grid, or perhaps be a survival instructor yourself, then you should take the time to learn all of that stuff.

I'm a survival student for the fact that I like spending time outdoors hiking, camping, fishing, and geocaching. Because I'm outdoors a lot I want to know some general skills that will keep me alive long enough to either get rescued, or until I can find my way back to civilization. In my mind, I don't want to stay out in the wild longer than I have to. Because of that, Hawke's philosophy on sticking with meat really resonated with me because I really don't want to die from poisonous plants.

Okay, so if I'm only eating meat and insects and I'm only getting roughly 90% of my nutritional needs, what am I not getting that can hurt me? Well, one thing that you won't get very much of, if any on a meat only diet is vitamin C. Why is that important you ask? Well interesting enough with a lack of vitamin C you can develop scurvy which according to Wikipedia is:
...a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C. Scurvy often presents initially with fatigue, followed by formation of spots on the skin, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes. Spots are most abundant on the thighs and legs, and a person may look pale, feel depressed, and be partially immobilized. As scurvy advances, there can be open, suppurating wounds, loss of teeth, yellow skin, fever, neuropathy and finally death from bleeding
I never really thought about the need to prevent scurvy until I watched an episode of Alaska: The Last Frontier when Eivan Kilcher was talking about a time he only ate meat one winter and developed scurvy. After that I decided to find out what in my area had lots of vitamin C in it, because screw that shit!

Two things happen to be widely available in Colorado that I know of that give you lots of vitamin C, and will keep you scurvy free as well as just generally boost your immune system. They are:
  • Pine needles: If you clip the needles off of a pine tree you can boil them in water to create a perfectly safe to drink tea which will give you lots of vitamin C. I've read that not all pine needles are good though, and to stay away from really long pine needles. Short and stubby needles like you find on Spruce trees are safe though. I'll be honest, the tea tastes like the tree smells (Like Christmas!) so don't expect it to be like English Tea or anything.
    White Spruce Needles
  • Rose hips: These easy to identify red little berries are packed with vitamin C. You can eat them raw, but they taste like shit. Just like the pine needles, it's better to crush them up and boil them into a tea to drink. Again, it won't taste like Earl Grey, but it will taste like your ass not getting scurvy!
    Rose Hips
Long story short, if I were stuck in the wild I think I'd follow Hawke's guidance and stick primarily to a meat and insect diet. I would also make sure that if I found myself stuck in a survival situation in the Colorado mountains, that I'd take the time to pluck some pine needles or rose hips to boil in the water I was processing occasionally to stock up on vitamin C and stay scurvy free!

What other plants do you know of that are great for vitamin C? Let us know in the comments!