Grass is something you can find easily. It’s just about everywhere you go and in large quantities for that matter. If you were able to eat a large variety of grasses in order to survive, you would pretty much be set. But that leaves the question of what grasses are edible for humans and if you can actually survive by eating them.
Wheat, barley, and oat grasses are the most common types of edible grasses for humans. While these grasses are fit for humans to eat, it’s unlikely that a human being could survive by eating grass alone. Our digestive systems aren’t made to fully digest grass to get enough nutrition.
That being said, certain grasses may still provide you with health benefits, even if they can’t effectively stave off starvation. Here’s everything you need to know about edible grasses for humans.
What Grasses Can Humans Eat?
Most grasses that can easily be consumed by humans are known as cereal grain grasses. That’s your wheat, barley, and oat grasses.
You can actually eat just about any grass that grows in North America without having to worry about being poisoned or anything like that. However, eating grass straight from the ground isn’t going to do you much good in a survival situation.
If you are going to add grass to your diet, these varieties are your best bet.
Wheatgrass has long been considered a superfood, with many people growing it in their homes specifically to eat. Most of the time people consume wheatgrass as a juice or by adding wheatgrass powder to their food to give it a boost.
Though there’s little scientific evidence to back it up, there are claims that wheatgrass can help with your digestion, lower your cholesterol, and boost your metabolism.
Barley grass is very similar to wheatgrass in how it’s grown and used. It’s generally used to make a nutritional juice or powder full of vitamins and minerals. Because it’s rich in antioxidants, it’s a popular add-in ingredient at juice and smoothie bars.
Just like the two above grasses, oat grass can produce juices and powders for humans to eat. And just like the two above grasses, oats are much more useful if you allow them to grow fully into grains so you can make flour, bread, and other dishes from them.
But if you’re planning to eat grass in one form or another, oat grass ranks up at the top with wheat and barley.
Indian ricegrass is full of fiber and protein without any gluten. It was a staple grain of the Native American diet before corn came into the picture. The seeds of Indian ricegrass can easily be harvested and eaten raw, made into porridge or oatmeal, and turned into flour for baking purposes.
Lemongrass is usually used to flavor food like soups and teas. However, it is possible to eat raw lemongrass if you come across it. Before consuming lemongrass, peel off the outer shell and eat the inner core.
Though it’s considered a weed and mostly gotten rid of, crabgrass is actually a nutritious grass that produces up to 150,000 seeds per plant. Crabgrass seeds can be made into couscous, porridge, or made into flour.
It’s also incredibly fast-growing, making it ready to eat in 6-8 weeks from planting.
Can Humans Survive by Eating Grass?
The simple answer to this question is no.
Livestock can survive by eating grass because they have the digestive system to properly break it down. Animals eat grass through a process called rumination, which isn’t something human beings are capable of. (If you read about it, you’ll probably be grateful it’s not something we do.)
Grass does contain a lot of nutrients but it also contains cellulose, which our stomachs can’t digest. That means raw grass will pass through your digestive system and come out pretty much just like it went in, leaving little to no nutrients behind for your body.
Even if you could survive on grass, it would take a very large amount to do it. Animals are eating grass constantly just to have enough to keep them going. Grass doesn’t provide a lot of calories and wouldn’t be enough to keep you from starving.
On top of all that, raw grass would essentially ruin your teeth due to its silica content wearing down your enamel.
How to Prepare Grass to Eat
Most of the “grass” humans consume is after the plant has matured. We regularly eat the seeds and grains of certain kinds of grass by milling them into flour to bake into bread or cooking them into softer porridge or oatmeal.
A popular way to prepare grass for eating is by juicing it.
Juicing grass isn’t the same as juicing other vegetables. It’s too fibrous to go through a normal juicer. Wheatgrass juicers press the grass to squeeze the juice out of them so you can drink it plain or add it to other juices or smoothies.
Wheatgrass powder is another supplement you can add to juice for a boost. Drying and powdering grass also allows you to consume different types of grasses.
While it may sound like a good idea, boiling grass to soften it won’t give you good results. The cellulose in grass won’t break down by boiling, so you’re left pretty much where you started when it was raw.
What Other Wild Plants Can Humans Eat?
While you’re out and about looking for wild-grown veggies, keep an eye out for these other plants to add to your tasting menu. Just make sure to research what they look like so you know you have the right plant before you eat it.
- Dandelions – Every part of the plant is edible and it contains vitamins A, B, and C as well as magnesium and iron.
- Nettle – Young leaves are great in salads but mature leaves should be cooked before eating.
- Wild Asparagus – Thinner than store-bought asparagus. Chock full of vitamin C and potassium.
- Cattails – Most of a cattail plant is edible. Boil the stem, leaves, and rootstalk for food or eat the flower spike like corn on the cob.
- Clovers – Can be eaten raw but taste better after they’re boiled.
- Amaranth – Watch out for spikes on the leaves and boil before eating.
- Bamboo – Eat shoots before they mature and boil to soften.
There are so many more plants growing around you that are safe to eat. Even if they are harder to find than grass that grows everywhere, it’s worth learning to identify the most common edible plants in your area so you don’t have to depend completely on grass.