Learning what plants in the region of the world you live in are edible is a great way to help prepare for a survival situation. However, if you find yourself surviving in the wild and you aren’t sure what plants are okay to eat, there’s a way you can increase your chances of avoiding severe gastrointestinal distress (or even death) from eating the wrong thing: the Universal Edibility Test.

The process is long, so it’s best to start it well before you’re on the verge of starvation. First, break down the plant in question into its various parts (roots, stem, flowers, leaves) and use the test process for each of them separately. There’s no guarantee that a plant that produces a bud that’s safe to eat also produces a stem you can eat also. Then follow these steps:

  1. Smell the plant. A strong or bad odor is not a good sign for edibility.
  2. Test the plant for contact poisoning by rubbing a small bit of it on the inside of your elbow, forearm, or wrist. If your skin gets irritated, the plant is definitely not edible.
  3. Prepare the plant for eating like you would (probably boiling).
  4. Rub a small bit of the prepared plant on your lips. Wait a few minutes for any itching and burning.
  5. Then put a small piece in your mouth and hold it there for 15 minutes. Wait for any negative indicators.
  6. Swallow a small bite and wait at least 8 hours. If your body doesn’t respond poorly, the plant may be good to eat.

It’s important to remember that this is no guarantee that what you eat is edible — it’s really just a way to hedge your bets. But if you have no alternatives, hedging your bets may be all you can do.