I'm writing a story that will have two people forced to spend the winter (late November to mid-February) in the middle of a forest (Alberta, Canada). They'll have food but it'll be mostly bread (they have flour + yeast), dry meat and potatoes or beans (whichever turns out to have a better balance weight-nutrients-store life). I wanted the characters to collect plant foodstuff to enrich their diet.

According to this website, the ground in the Edmonton area can have an accumulation of snow from 1cm (0.4 inches) to an average of 18cm (11.3 inches). Common sense dictates that the deeper the snow, the harder it will be to collect plant foodstuff, however, in the best case scenario (snow 1cm deep), would it be feasible to collect roots (like broadleaf cattail rhizomes or wild onion) or rose hips (since, not being roots, would be more visible, if they exist)?

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    I am voting to close this question as to broad. Each of your bullets should be a separate question. The fact that you are writing a book has no bearing on the questions and can be excluded. That you want to know about each of these things is enough. Mar 14, 2017 at 12:16
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    I would be concerned about how much snow there would in the story. Foraging for plant food would almost be impossible in Alberta during winter. You may wish to rewrite your question and ask something like: How to forage for foodstuffs during wintertime in Alberta, Canada? And in a separate question: How to trap for small animals for fresh meat during wintertime in Alberta, Canada?
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 14, 2017 at 12:56
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    @James: I think this is a reasonable enough question for this site. It's basically asking "What can I do to find food if stuck in the Alberta wilderness in winter?". That seems on topic here. Mar 14, 2017 at 13:06
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    @OlinLathrop, as written it has several sub questions. If the OP wants answer to the specific questions they should be separate. If the OP wants to ask your question, it should be shortened. I think it is all in scope. Mar 14, 2017 at 13:31
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    You're not digging up a root anything in the middle of an Alberta winter. You'll need them to arrive early enough to fill a root cellar or something. Mar 14, 2017 at 20:05

1 Answer 1


This is really a comment, or several of them, but too big to use the comments mechanism.

  1. Alberta is a big place with quite varied climates. In particular, you can divide the province into the Rocky mountains at the southwestern edge, and the plains in the east and north that cover most of the place. There is also a large difference between the nearly arctic conditions in the north and the more continental conditions in the south.
  2. In most parts of Alberta "winter" starts well before November and extends well past mid February. That's OK if your protagonists get into their mess in November and get rescued (or whatever) in mid February. It's not OK if you think that the conditions lighten up in February somehow so they get themselves out, which they couldn't do in January.
  3. Relying on finding edible plant material in winter isn't going to be a successful survival strategy. In winter, you'll have to be trapping, fishing, or hunting. What you trap, fish, or hunt and therefore what strategies you need depends on what area you are stuck in. The plains will be different than the mountains, for example.
  4. Unless you're stuck in the north of Alberta, you're probably better off trying to get out than surviving in place for a whole winter. That changes your priorities.
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    The information I gathered was for the Edmonton area, and yes, someone will go and pick them up as they're supposed to be hiding through the winter. They are going to hunt, but I figured that would make for a poor diet, hence the thought of plant material as a complement. Mar 15, 2017 at 13:54
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    @Sara Costa I suggest you research what the Inuit eat. My impression is that they survive well on an almost all (fresh) meat diet. You are giving your characters bread and beans or potatoes. They may get bored, but I don't think they will get a deficiency disease from the lack of fresh veggies.
    – ab2
    Mar 15, 2017 at 20:39
  • @SaraCosta small plants to supplement a mostly meat diet can also provide some added nutrients, and ultimately in a subsistence situation winter is about just surviving to the spring. I imagine most folks subsisting off the land through the winter, like most animals, are getting worse and worse as the winter goes on and it is a matter of staying in decent enough health to do what you gotta do in the Spring to make use of new growths, fresh water, and all that to help get yourself back in good shape.
    – cr0
    Mar 15, 2017 at 21:34
  • @SaraCosta, the key to surviving on a pure-hunting diet is to eat the entire animal except for the bones, including all the bits most people discard. (Careful about the liver, though: polar bears and some other animals have lethal levels of vitamin A in their livers.)
    – Mark
    Mar 16, 2017 at 2:32
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    @Mark: It's not quite that simple, especially when eating animals such as mammals that are relatively closely related to us. There are some glands, like the thyroid, that contain hormones in large enough quantities to mess up our systems. There are also some dangers in eating central nervous system parts. Parts like muscle, heart, and lungs are generally OK, with proper cooking or course. Mar 16, 2017 at 12:36

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