This guy says you can survive the end of the world with only a pocket knife and a lighter

Words: Josh Rakic
Photo: Unsplash/Flickr

Biologist and food forager Forrest Galante’s guide to surviving and thriving in the wild. 

It’s not a matter of if the apocalypse will happen but when. And with food certain to be scarce, you could do worse than take the advice of biologist and expert food forager Forrest Galante.

The Zimbabwe-born adventurer has barely set foot in a supermarket for the best part of a decade, instead using only his trusty 99 cent field guide and self-taught survival skills to feed his family a bounty of berries, mushrooms, game and seafood he’s foraged personally.
And when alone in the woods, his foraging goes even deeper. The champion spearfisher and environmentalist has eaten rats in their entirety - among other floor-swelling delicacies - in order to survive a week in the wilderness.

So with the apocalypse looming and Forrest’s unique skill set, we asked him to detail how to feed yourself for week without buying groceries or snacks. And to make sure he was the real deal, we spun a globe and landed smack middle on the California coastal woodlands.

Here’s a list of what to look for, where to find it and how to eat it.

Basic preparation

All you really need is a pocket knife, a fire starter and a field guide. A pot to cook in would be helpful, but it’s not necessary. I can’t stress the importance of having a field guide for absolute confirmation until you learn what’s edible and what will kill you. I mean, that’s how the main character croaked in Into The Wild, right? You don’t need to know all 200 species of mushrooms in California. Just learn to identify the edible ones.


Forrest with a giant porcini mushroom in Northern California.

© Photo: Forrest Galante

Magically nutritional mushrooms

Winter can be one of the best times to forage if you know what you’re looking for, and the wet season is when we get our mushroom flushes. There are roughly a dozen or so species of edible mushrooms in California alone, but most common and easiest to find would be the golden chanterelle mushrooms, black trumpet and porcini (sponge type under surface instead of gills), which grow to look like mushrooms out of Jurassic Park. They grow all the way up to Oregon and Canada.

golden, chanterelle, mushroom, close, yellow

Golden chanterelle mushroom.

© Photo: Sandra and Colin Cohen-Rose/Flickr

How to identify edible mushrooms

Golden chanterelles like to grow on the roots of coastal live oak, which can be found in any of our open woodlands and hilly areas. So look amongst the roots of them and it’s quite easy to find golden chanterelle because apart from their color, they don’t have gills underneath their caps - they have veins. But that’s not a distinguishing factor for all mushrooms. Sometimes you spot one and if you dig around the leaf litter a bit, you’ll hopefully stumble upon a patch - which can hold up to 30 pounds of mushrooms.

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Plants and flowers for him and her

From daylilies to cattails to stinging nettle and water hyacinth, there’s a ton of stuff. Miner’s lettuce grows rampant this time of year. Believe it or not, most grass species are edible, too. The main thing to look for is young growth. Fresh green grasses and those four-leaf clover things that pop up. Fresh sprouting green stuff is generally not toxic. So if you really just need some kind of nourishment and calories, look for a water source where there is fresh green stuff sprouting up. It’s a good source of moisture and means water is close by, too.


Wild huckleberries handpicked.

© Photo: Forrest Galante

The good berries

Manzanita bushes are common all through California and hold red berries that are delicious. There are loads of edible berries. Things called madrone berries. We have wild blackberries, too. Huckleberries are an absolute delicacy and [can be found] in the millions at times.

Acorns ain’t just for chipmunks

Even the acorns that come off our oak trees - although they’re poisonous to just eat straight - are edible if you boil them. The trick is to boil the raw acorns until the water turns clear, then grind them up with a rock and dry overnight. You can then make acorn flour, which is edible and quite delicious.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle makes an amazing tea. Although it’s horrible to touch, if you pick it with your shirt over your hand you can brew a tea from it that tastes good and has all kinds of healing properties. If you find a big bush, you can harvest 10-20 pounds off of it.

quail, eggs, wild

Wild quail eggs.

© Photo: Wikimedia

Birds eggs

These are a great source of protein. Anywhere you see a tree with a lot of birds coming and going, if you look closely you can find some kind of nest. And birds eggs are great forageable protein sources. You can boil them, but eating them raw is fine - just make sure the birds aren’t endangered. In California, dove eggs and quail eggs are the easiest to find. Just follow the birds.

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cooked, bush, rat

Open fire-roasted bush rats

© Photo: Wikimedia

Wild kill

This will gross people out, but it’s a great way to get protein without having to actually kill something. It’s all about freshness. And you can determine that two ways. If you find a dead deer or mammal out in the bush, and it doesn’t smell and its eyes are clear - not glossed over - then it’s generally fresh enough to eat the meat off of. And as long you cook it until its well done over a fire, for the most part you’re pretty safe.

Catching and eating rodents

Pretty much every animal in the wild is edible. If you can catch it, you can eat it. And you can eat pretty much all of a wild rat. There are many kinds of makeshift snares and traps you can set. Using a shoelace or some vine, tie a regular little slip knot, then take a stick and jam it into the earth on the high side of a warren or hole that you think a rodent is coming out of. You attach the slipnot to the stick, effectively making a noose just big enough for the animal’s head to fit through, with the slip knot dangling over that hole. When the animal leaves, it will generally walk through that, catch on the noose and as it walks it will tighten. To eat it, you take the guts out, chop the head off and roast it on a stick over a fire. And you’ve got yourself a little piece of something that tastes kind of like chicken - kinda. People have been known to gobble the tails up like noodles. Just avoid the fur and guts.

giant, limpets, tide pool

Prying limpets from the rocks - taste like “mini abalone”.

© Photo: Forrest Galante

The tide pool buffet

Rock pools are a veritable buffet of edibles. Flip over a rock and you might find two-spot octopus, snails, limpets, little crabs, tiny lobsters, shrimp and small fish. You can eat them raw, but boiling or putting right over a fire or open flame on a stick is the best thing to do for safety. For snails and limpets, all you need is a pocket knife to pry them off the rocks then you pop them straight in your mouth raw and they taste like mini abalone. In California, you’ll also find two-spot octopus, which grow up to maybe five pounds. You’re not going to get harmed by grabbing an octopus or a small crab.

California Gold. #Uni #Sushi #SeaUrchin #EatWhatYouCatch #HunterGathererGourmet

A post shared by Forrest Galante (@forrest.galante) on

Sea urchin

Even sea urchins, which everybody associates with a stinging horrible pain, won’t hurt you. The sea urchin that comes out of the water in California is the most prized sea urchin on the delicacy market in the world. It’s one of the most fragrant, perfumey, gourmet foods you can get. Just crack them open and eat the roe inside. They can be found in and around tide pools. Just don’t step on them and pick them up gently.

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01 2017  The Red Bulletin 

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