Want To Prep But Not Sure Where To Begin?

Sign Up for Our Newsletter and Get Your FREE One Year Urban Survival Plan!

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    13 Grasses You Can Eat If You’re Starving

    This post may contain affiliate links.* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Click here to read our affiliate policy.
    Print Friendly, PDF & Email

    Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

    13 Grasses You Can Eat If You're Starving

    Scavenging for edible plant life is not a new thing; people have been foraging for centuries. However, eating grass in a starvation scenario is something that most likely hasn’t crossed your mind. There are probably quite a few options you’d think of before resorting to eating grass.

    Certain grasses may provide some nutrition, such as barley and wheat. However, our digestive systems are not compatible with most grasses as a long-term food solution when you’re starving.

    There are ways you can prepare certain grasses and their seeds to make them “edible”. Our digestive system isn’t designed to process the cellulose in most grasses but some provide benefits other than filling your stomach.

    Want to save this post for later? Click Here to Pin It On Pinterest!

    Eating Grass If You’re Hungry

    Before you go and start munching on your lawn, it’s important to understand that a lot of edible grasses are known as “cereal grasses”. This includes the wheat, oat, and barley varieties. The majority of varieties in North America can be eaten with no ill effect, but they more than likely won't do anything to curb your appetite unless further processed.

    Nutritional Benefits of Grass

    The nutritional value of consuming grass is limited since it’s meant to provide enough to sustain small mammals. You would have to eat an enormous amount of grass to notice any nutritional impact.

    Additionally, digesting raw grasses is difficult for our bodies. This is because most cellulose cannot be digested in our simple digestive system. Animals, like cows, have multiple stomachs to help break down plant matter.

    There are, however, exceptions to the rule. For example, raw wheatgrass shoots are speculated to be quite laden with antioxidants and other compounds to help your digestion. While wheatgrass won’t provide you with many calories, it helps enhance your immune system.

    Younger grasses tend to not be as harsh on our internal systems when consumed raw. This is mainly because they are made of softer fiber, which is easier on our stomachs.

    Surviving off grass is not feasible for survival in the short term, although additional processing into flour and cereals can help provide the foundation for building calories to keep you healthy for the future.

    13 Grasses That Can Keep You From Starving

    Let’s take a look at the grasses you can consume and how they can benefit you if you’re starving. Identification of these grasses is much simpler than mushrooms, for example, as they all have unique characteristics. Keep an eye out for mold and fungus growing on anything you forage so you don’t get sick.

    1. Wheatgrass

    Wheatgrass

    First on our list of edible grasses is wheatgrass, also known as wheat berries or standard wheat. Wheat berries are planted in the Autumn and then harvested in the spring for their young, green shoots.

    Keep them going until the end of the summer months and you will be able to harvest the grain that the grass produces. This grain is dried, ground up, and turned into the flour we use for baking.

    Wheatgrass grows in temperate climates, generally found in the Midwestern areas of the United States. Wheatgrass is harvested before the heads turn into berries since that is when their nutritional content is highest.

    Raw wheatgrass shoots can be eaten as is, although consuming too much can give you digestive problems. Most people find that juicing the shoots is the easiest way to eat them.

    Additionally, drying and grinding wheatgrass into a powder will allow you to add it to water. This encourages quick absorption from your body. Wheatgrass contains many nutrients and can count towards your daily intake of veggies.

    Here are the nutrients you can find inside wheatgrass shoots:

    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin E
    • Amino Acids
    • Magnesium
    • Iron
    • Chlorophyll
    • Fiber

    Wheatgrass shoots can develop mold around the bottom of the new shoots. If you notice any on the shoot it is best to not consume it. Additionally, people with wheat allergies should stay away from wheatgrass to avoid a reaction

    2. Barley Grass

    Barley Grass

    Barley grass has a rich history where it was used as not only a food but a medicinal ingredient to help treat various maladies. Most people today will associate barley with beer, with brewers using this versatile ingredient in their creative beverages.

    Much like wheatgrass, barley grass grows well in temperate climates with a long, moderate growing season. You can find it growing in cooler climates that have a shorter growing season but the yield will suffer because of it.

    While there is no substantial scientific evidence, anecdotal observations show that barley grass tracks down free radicals using antioxidants to help reduce inflammation around the body. Another supposed benefit is that it will help purify our bodies of heavy metals such as lead.

    The vitamin and mineral profile of barley grass includes:

    • Beta carotene
    • Vitamin B1
    • Vitamin B2
    • Vitamin B12
    • Iron
    • Magnesium
    • Amino acids
    • Antioxidants

    The young barley shoots can be eaten raw. Some people choose to juice them and add them to water. Alternatively, you can dry the grass and turn it into a powder for quick consumption.

    Drying the barley grass seeds and then grinding them into a powder will give you the means of making porridge or unleavened bread. Keep it dry and cool to extend the shelf life of dried barley grass.

    3. Pearl Millet

    Pearl Millet

    There are quite a few edible millet varieties but the two most cultivated and accessible are the pearl and foxtail millet grasses. Pearl millet is the most produced millet variety and can be used as a grain for cereal or other dishes.

    Traditionally grown in Africa, pearl millet is now cultivated throughout India and even North America. They enjoy hot climates, bordering on tropical or arid environments.

    You’ll find eating pearl millet raw will be hard and bitter. Thoroughly drying your pearl millet is the best way to preserve it. The grain can then be reconstituted in water or ground into a powder for baking. Luckily, pearl millet is full of vital nutrients and antioxidants, including:

    • Has most of the vitamin B spectrum
    • Magnesium
    • Calcium
    • Iron
    • Manganese
    • Potassium
    • Phosphorus
    • Zinc
    • Chromium

    Pearl millet has some of the highest concentrations of these nutrients. For example, it is shown that pearl millet has the highest amount of iron and calcium among all of the cereal grasses.

    4. Foxtail Millet

    Foxtail Millet

    Foxtail millet is grown second to pearl millet and produces a seed roughly 2 mm in size. You will find it growing in semi-arid and arid environments. However, it can be found cultivated in North America throughout the hotter regions.

    It is a gluten-free grass that is commonly used as a dried cereal that is thoroughly cooked. However, you don't want to mix it with milk as there is a potential for indigestion and other gastrointestinal problems.

    If you’re looking to eat foxtail grass grains raw then expect them to be hard and somewhat bitter. The top is what you’re looking to harvest, it’s easy to see since it is long and hairy. You can boil the raw grains to soften them and decrease the amount of bitterness.

    This particular plant is packed with a lot of nutrition, things like:

    • Vitamin B12
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Carbohydrates
    • Fiber
    • Lysine
    • Thiamine
    • Iron
    • Calcium
    • Niacin

    There is a ton of debate on whether millets are better for you than rice or quinoa, and while they have their botanical differences, all of them are viable options if you’re starving.

    5. Crabgrass

    Crab Grass

    Crabgrass is considered a weed in much of North America with gardeners everywhere destroying it anytime it appears. It is found in many parts of Africa where it is a staple grain, much like quinoa. You can cook it with water to make a breakfast porridge meal.

    The crabgrass seeds can be toasted (or popped) and ground up and used as flour for baked goods. It will have a texture similar to semolina or cornmeal.

    Expect to find it in both dry and wet areas, which is why it can pop up unexpectedly in suburban lawns. Harvest the seeds in the fall from the tops, some people even leave them past the first frost but it isn’t necessary. It can quickly take over if not controlled but luckily makes for a good edible plant. It is an annual plant, meaning it won’t grow back in subsequent years.

    6. Rice Grass

    Rice Grass

    Rice grass (also known as wild rice) was a staple amongst a lot of Native American tribes until corn replaced it. Even though it is called rice, it is very much an aquatic grass species. The grain is harvested and cooked much like rice. You’ll find it growing in shallow freshwater areas, specifically in lakes and rivers.

    There is one variety cultivated in Asia, but that one is considered a vegetable. The other varieties are grown in North America, around the Great Lakes area of the United States and Canada.

    Considered high in protein and fiber, it doesn’t have any gluten. There is a variety of nutrition found in rice grass, including:

    • Fiber
    • Vitamin B6
    • Folate
    • Magnesium
    • Phosphorus
    • Zinc
    • Manganese
    • Copper

    Harvesting rice grass is simply a matter of getting a boat and going through a patch growing out of the water. The grains can fall off easily and then be collected into a basket.

    Toasting the grains and then grinding them will yield coarse flour that can be used to make unleavened bread products. Alternatively, you can boil rice grass grain in boiling water to make a porridge.

    Eating the leaves of rice grass won't provide any nutritional benefit and just cause gastrointestinal issues since your body can’t process the cellulose.

    7. Lemongrass

    Lemon Grass
    • You’ll find this tropical plant traditionally grown in Southeast Asia. You can now find it growing in Australia, Africa, and the Americas. It is a versatile ingredient that is used in both medicinal and culinary applications.

    Medicinal properties include antibacterial antifungal and pain relief. This is mainly because it contains citral, a plant compound with anti-inflammatory effects. Even though it has some great nutrition packed into it, don’t expect much in the way of calories.

    If you’re looking to get a lot of calories from this grass, it might be best to look elsewhere. Lemongrass is high in different vitamins and flavonoids such as:

    • Vitamin C
    • Calcium
    • Iron
    • Antioxidants
    • Quercetin (anti-inflammatory)

    Juicing lemongrass is the easiest way to consume it although you can eat it as it is. Simply break the outside of it with something heavy and peel away the outer husk. The inner core is softer with an herbaceous taste.

    8. Oat Grass

    Oat Grass

    Oat grass is much like the other cereal grasses in that it is best to juice or pulverize the young shoots, or wait until the mature plant produces grain and then harvest those.

    This grass loves to grow in temperate climates and can survive in very poor soil. Ryegrass is the only cereal grass that can survive in the harshest soils, with oat grass following closely behind

    From there you can process the oats into numerous dishes, including oatmeal, flour, and other baking needs. Keep in mind that oat flour is not generally used for making bread, but for cookies and starchy puddings instead.

    Oat grass contains a lot of nutrients, minerals, and even protein; however, it lacks substance for your stomach. For example, oat grass includes:

    • Calcium
    • Iron
    • Vitamin B1
    • Niacin
    • Manganese
    • Carotene
    • Beta Carotene
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Carbohydrates

    Oat grass has an antioxidant inside called tricin which has muscle-relaxing characteristics. This is why people don’t experience as much gastrointestinal cramping as they might with other grasses. It’s also another indicator of this being a medicinal plant since it minimizes distress in your digestive system.

    9. Alfalfa

    Alfalfa

    Alfalfa is generally used to feed livestock, but eating sprouts is commonplace today. Aside from the sprouts, juicing the young plants is another way to get all of the health benefits. You can even find alfalfa in powder form to help add some nutrition to your water.

    Alfalfa is a hardy perennial that can be grown at different times depending on the region you’re living in. If you are in a cooler climate then expect to find them growing from springtime into summer. Temperate winter climates offer an alternative growing season from the fall into the next year.

    Eating alfalfa is highly nutritious and filled with micronutrients, expect to find things like:

    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin B1
    • Vitamin B6
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin E
    • Vitamin K
    • Calcium
    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Potassium
    • Protein

    Eating too much alfalfa can prove to have some negative effects on your system. Alfalfa seeds can cause a lupus-like effect where your skin can become very sensitive; Additionally, they can lower your blood sugar levels. It is best to combine alfalfa with other greens to help satiate your appetite.

    10. Bamboo Shoots

    Bamboo Shoots

    Bamboo shoots have been eaten for centuries with the most widespread varieties being eaten for hundreds of years. Traditionally grown in both temperate and tropical climates this plant can be found in a lot of environments across the globe.

    It is common to find bamboo shoots being harvested in most Asian countries at varying times of the year. Bamboo shoots growing in the United States are harvested in the spring only.

    You can find the shoots growing out of the ground and they may look akin to asparagus at first glance. The main difference is that they have a soft white core that you can expose by peeling back the outer layers. Harvesting them is simple, find the stalk and snap it down close to the base of the shoot.

    Eating them cooked is preferred since they have potentially hazardous cyanide glycosides and a somewhat bitter taste. However, cooking bamboo shoots can reduce their nutrient content.

    Speaking of nutrition, bamboo shoots may not have a lot of calories, but they contain a large number of overall nutrients and minerals including:

    • Thiamin
    • Riboflavin
    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Folate
    • Magnesium
    • Sodium
    • Phosphorus
    • Calcium

    The easiest way to cook bamboo shoots is to boil them for about 20 minutes after you split them down the middle. After the first boil, if they are still bitter, replace the water and boil them again. Repeat this until they are not bitter and tender to the tooth.

    11. Sorghum

    Sorghum

    Sorghum is one of those grasses that not a lot of people know about, yet is cultivated all across the world. This cereal grass is amongst the most popular varieties cultivated globally, but you don’t see it in a lot of grocery stores.

    It is native to Africa and can be found cultivated in India, the United States, and even South America. It is considered drought resistant and can tolerate hot environments.

    Eating it raw is not the best way to consume it, but the grain is versatile enough that there are multiple preparations available. Whole-grain sorghum can be prepared like rice or quinoa in that it should be cooked for about an hour.

    You can also pop your sorghum grains on the stove much like popcorn to make a delicious light snack.

    Grinding it into flour is perfect for a gluten-free oat flour replacement for cookies. You can even extract a sweet syrup from the grain through extensive processing and use it as a sugar substitute.

    Nutritionally there is enough variation to be beneficial for humans, but the real treasure is that sorghum provides high amounts of protein and fiber. Also found in high quantities are:

    • Iron
    • Zinc
    • Vitamin B1
    • Vitamin B6
    • Iron
    • Magnesium
    • Copper
    • Potassium
    • Selenium
    • Zinc

    While it is nutrient-dense, it doesn’t provide a lot of fat. If you’re looking to bulk up on your body weight, eating this in conjunction with other foods is your best bet to keep from starving.

    12. Goosegrass

    Goosegrass

    Goosegrass, also called cleavers, is a wild edible grass that creeps along the ground and is commonly eaten by, you guessed it, geese. However, this sticky plant can be eaten while young or harvested for its seeds to make a delicious coffee substitute. This is because goosegrass belongs to the same family of plants that coffee does.

    It doesn’t offer much in terms of calories and should be eaten with other foods, but in a pinch, Goosegrass can provide a quick burst of energy. The nutrient list is small but includes:

    • Vitamin C
    • Citric Acid
    • Phenolic Acid
    • Caffeine

    Goosegrass will grow all year but the best time to harvest the leaves and stems is in the spring, mainly in temperate climates. Ensure you boil the leaves and stems since they are covered in little sticky hooks, much like the burdock plant. Although once cooked, goosegrass makes an excellent leafy vegetable dish that is sweet like peas.

    13. Ryegrass

    Ryegrass

    Ryegrass is a commonly grown crop in Asia, Europe, and North America. The ideal environment for ryegrass to grow is in any soil where other cereal grasses won’t grow. It is extremely tolerant and can grow in cooler places, places where something like winter wheat won’t grow.

    In the United States you can find it growing along large highways and as a perennial, will come back every year. Poor drainage and runoff drainage areas make for excellent ryegrass growing conditions.

    You’ll only want to eat the grains since the raw plant itself isn’t gentle on our digestive system. Eating it raw requires rolling the grain until the husk falls away and you can eat the actual grain inside. You can collect and process a lot of grains to make porridge after boiling them in water.

    Grinding the dried grain will net you some rye flour, perfect for unleavened bread or crispy crackers. You can also ferment the grains to make some beer and rye whiskey.

    Final Thoughts

    A lot of these grasses can be eaten at the earlier stages in their life if you can harvest the tender shoots. The young shoots are full of life-giving nutrients that can help maintain homeostasis to avoid deficiencies.

    If it’s calories you're looking for, finding grasses that produce seeds or grains is your best bet. This opens up a whole slew of edible possibilities including porridge or flour. Preparing them with other foods will give you a better chance of not starving versus eating them on your own.

    Like this post? Don't Forget to Pin It On Pinterest!

    Want To Prep But Not Sure Where To Begin?

    Sign Up for Our Newsletter and Get Your FREE One Year Urban Survival Plan!

      We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Want to Learn How to Live Off Grid? Visit Homestead Survival Site
      Subscribe
      Notify of
      guest
      0 Comments
      Inline Feedbacks
      View all comments