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I have been watching the German YouTube series "7 vs Wild" (YouTube here, German Wiki link here). The premise is that 7 participants have to survive for 7 days after being marooned in the Swedish wilderness. Participants are allowed to bring 7 items (e.g. tarp, knife, small fishing kit, ...), but, importantly, no food. The ecosystem is best described as Taiga / boreal forest, with the participants being dropped in the late summer at the shore of a decently sized lake.

Anyone who ever spent some time in the Taiga will know that it can be a very beautiful, but (even in summer) harsh and unforgiving environment, with little (visible) wildlife.

The participants all have to deal with hunger and try to forage for food - but struggle to find much of anything, let alone something that would keep them from starving mid to long-term...

  • Blueberries seem abundant, but have very little calories (36 kcal per 100g according to some numbers) - I'm unsure if picking blueberries would actually be bottom-line energy-positive.1
  • Some candidates try to fish, but have a hard time finding even a single worm/grub/bug/... to use as bait.
  • In the same line, there don't seem to be any insects/grubs one could eat.
  • Big game is theoretically present (moose, deer, bears, wolves), but shy and very hard to track, and lacking any hunting equipment a kill is close to impossible.

--> What could one forage in the Taiga, that is actually worth the foraging effort in terms of energy and nutrient value?

(I know that for 7 days you technically don't need any food - so imagine a real survival situation where you'd have to stay put but would not know when rescue arrives.)


1: There is an answer to this question here which talks about blueberry picking, but I'm not convinced. From what we see in the show, it takes participants easily 40-60 minutes to forage an amount of blueberries that looks to be some 200-300g - and that is from what I would call a lush, ripe blueberry field in the wild.

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    I suspect the show is playing it up a bit. At the right time of year and in the right location blueberries are far more common than that. I've visited Finland in summer and they were plentiful. Even in Scotland last year, in a well-visited area, I got around 50g in under 5 minutes. That was only picking ones that were easy to reach, growing on a bank next to me, rather than getting down to ground level. There are also lingonberries but the same arguments apply.
    – Chris H
    Jun 29 at 10:40
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    And small game is probably easier. On this timescale rabbit starvation isn't a major concern. As for eating bugs, I reckon that's the wrong way round - the midges will eat you
    – Chris H
    Jun 29 at 10:45
  • The problem of getting enough food doesn't seem to be specific to the taiga. The participants of the US-Series "Naked Survival" are set out in very different climates (from desert to the tropics), but all of them struggle seriously with getting enough food.
    – PMF
    Jun 29 at 20:37
  • if you remember Into the Wild that is pretty much what happened to the protagonist, starvation in spring/summer Alaska due to river flooding cutting him off. This is a true story and the guy had been somewhat living off the land for a while, elsewhere. He even had a gun. But not in Alaska. Natives would know how to, using plants as Tomas says. Joe Average probably not so much. Jul 3 at 18:00

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Speaking about taiga implies average climate. If things happen neither in middle or eastern Russia nor northern or western USA or Canada, then these territories are quite dense populated and any healthy adult man should come to some road or settlement, or, at least, river within a week of walking straight.

Most healthy food will be various berries, but they exist only after the middle of summer. Depending on the area and time of year, you can find strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, lingonberry, stone bramble, shadberry, hawthorn (whitethorn), viburnum (at late autumn), elderberry (only black, ripe!). They are healthy and safe in any quantities. After some days of such diet your bowel will adopt and it will not cause any problems.

A good addition to berries can be oxalis leaves, Aegopodium (ground elder), nettle leaves, ramsons, fireweed, Stellaria (chickweed), silverweed, young Atriplex and Artemisia (mugwort) leaves, young coniferous shoots (as tea). These are common in most middle climate and in your area there may grow more edible plants. Dandelions and some other bitter weeds are also edible after soaking for an hour or two. I ate most of these plants. You can eat them in everyday life, especially in spring, as salads, soups or even pancakes with addition of some flour and egg. Fireweed leaves give nice healthy tea, untreated green or fermented black.

Birch and maple juice are at once drink and light food. Although they are most often harvested during spring, trees have juice during all warm season. To get juice we should make small V-shaped cut through tree bark, insert something like spout to guide juice into cap. Don't forget to cover the hole with resin after all!

There are mushrooms which we can eat without cooking, they are called noble. Although mushrooms are assumed as high-calorie food, they are digested badly, so they should not be eaten if there is vegetable food. Also, if you do not have an experience in mushrooms, you can make a deadly mistake. At last, they should be washed and you may not have enough water.

Hunt for small animals requires time and vigor, then they should be carved and cooked, and meat also is digested not as good as many people think. So, it could be advised only of you plan to walk more than 3 weeks and there are no other food.

Hunt for wolves, pigs, bears, moose is really dangerous even if you have a weapon. If you do not have an experience, injured animal almost certainly will kill or injury you. Almost all animals are faster and stronger than humans.

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I highly recommend maple syrup during the spring and fall seasons when it can naturally be harvested. Relevantly you will need to process it by reducing a large amount, and the extraction may take some time, but it requires little more than finding a few trees and a few mason jars and taps.

you can heat the very same jar in a fire to bring it to a boil. The Maple sap should be at about 185°F (85°C). Never let it go over 200°F (93°C) unless you want to make candy. The amount of sap you have to Syrup is a `40 to 1` ratio, meaning for 40 jars of sap, you get a single jar of syrup. OR a single jar of sap can produce a few tea spoons. At 52 calories per a tsps that's actually pretty significant.

However, sustained stranded in the woods for several days, this calorie-dense substance shouldn't be ignored as it can be harvested reliably seasonally and in volume in a forest. Taps can be produced from wood, and a simple knife can tap a tree enough for sap to start to flow.

If you managed to tap 5 jars on 5 trees you would fill them in about 2-3 days. This would produce nearly a quarter jar of warm thin maple syrup. Not a bad thing to have after being stuck waiting for help for a few days.

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  • I'm not sure why you'd need to concentrate it for short term survival, or at least not so much. You need water too and the sap is a good source. For seasonal storage of course you do. But that would need a lot of containers which seems unlikely
    – Chris H
    Jul 12 at 18:07

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