Edible Plants in Tropical Climate Zones

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Gary Braasch/CORBIS

Food is usually abundant in a tropical survival situation. In addition to animal food, you will have to supplement your diet with edible plants. The best places to forage are the banks of streams and rivers. Wherever the sun penetrates the jungle, there will be a mass of vegetation but riverbanks may be the most accessible areas.

If you are weak, do not expend energy climbing or felling a tree for food. There are more easily obtained sources of food nearer the ground. Do not pick more food than you need. Food spoils rapidly in tropical conditions. Leave food on the growing plant until you need it and eat it fresh.

There are an almost unlimited number of edible plants from which to choose. Unless you can positively identify these plants, it may be safer at first to begin with palms, bamboos and common fruits. The list below identifies some of the most common foods.

TROPICAL ZONE FOOD PLANTS

  • Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos)
  • Bamboo (various species)
  • Banana or plantain (Musa species)
  • Bignay (Anti esma bunius)
  • Breadfruit (Artrocarpus incisa)
  • Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera)
  • Fishtail palm (Caryota urens)
  • Horseradish tree (Moringa pterygosperma)
  • Lotus (Nelumbo species)
  • Mango (Mangifera indica)
  • Manioc (Manihot utillissima)
  • Nipa palm (Nipa fruticans)
  • Papaya (Carica papaya)
  • Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
  • Rattan palm (Calamus species)
  • Sago palm (Metroxylon sagu)
  • Sterculia (Sterculia foeti a)
  • Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum)
  • Sugar palm (Arenga pinnata)
  • Sweetsop (Annona squamosa)
  • Taro (Colocasia and Alocasia species)
  • Water lily (Nymphaea odorata)
  • Wild fig (Ficus species)
  • Wild rice (Zizania aquatica)
  • Wild yam (Dioscorea species)

POISONOUS PLANTS

The proportion of poisonous plants in tropical regions is no greater than in any other area of the world. However, it may appear that most plants in the tropics are poisonous because of the great density of plant growth in some tropical areas.

Information courtesy of the U.S. Army Survival Manual

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