Alternative Fluid Sources
Plants And Other Alternative Fluid Sources
Since about 60% of our bodies are made up of water, it's imperative that we stay hydrated. Luckily, water isn't the only way we can do that.

There are lots of plant-originating fluids in the produce section in the grocery store. Fruits such as citrus fruits, melons, and berries, and vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes. Fresh fruits and vegetables are about 20% fluid. Considering what happens to a grape or a tomato when it's dried, it's easy to see difference in the fluid content when compared to fresh.

On this page are some fluid-bearing alternatives to fruits and veggies that you'll be glad to know about if you ever need them.

Before you set out after them, remember the test below to stay safe. Note that this test is a general rule of thumb and there are exceptions.

Plants to avoid as a general rule-
  • Ones with milky or discolored sap
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods
  • Ones with bitter or soapy taste
  • Anything with spines, fine hairs, or thorns

Plants That Provide Fluids
Banana or Plantain Trees
Wherever you find banana or plantain trees, you can get water. Cut down the tree, leaving about a one foot high stump and scoop out the center of the stump to create a bowl-shaped hollow. Cover the stump with leaves to keep the bugs out and leave it for a few hours. Water from the roots will immediately start to fill the hollow.  The stump will supply water for up to four days.

Palms can provide water from their flowering stalks. According to which palm you're using, you may need to do some careful climbing to reach them. Take a stalk and bend it so that the tip bends downward. Slice off the tip and it will begin to drip water. Slicing off the tip twice a day will keep it flowing. You'll be able to extract about a half a pint of fluid a day from the palm using this method.

Of course you can drink the milk of the coconut. You'll only want to drink coconut milk from a young coconut since the older ones contain an oil that can act as a laxative. Don't smash the whole thing open with a blunt instrument or you'll lose the milk! Use a pointed rock or knife tip to puncture one of the "eyes" or dots at one end and drink from the hole. Once you've emptied it you can then crack it open and eat the sweet meat.

Green bamboo
Green bamboo thickets are an excellent source of fresh water. Water from green bamboo is clear and odorless. To get the water, bend a green bamboo stalk, tie it down and cut off the top. The water will drip freely during the night. You can also cut or notch the stalks at the base of a joint to drain out the liquid. Old, cracked bamboo may also contain water.

Tropical Vines
Some tropical vines can give you water. With a machete, sever the vine as high up as you can reach, then sever the cut section as close to the ground as you can. Make sure you do these first steps in order, because if you cut the bottom first, the capillary action of the vine will cause it to suck the water higher up making it harder to retrieve. Water will then start to drip from the bottom. Catch it in your mouth or a container. If it stops dripping, cut another small section from the bottom to renew the flow.

In North America you'll find wild grapevines in nearly every forest environment. The shape of the leaves and the curly tendrils make them easy to identify. As with the tropical vines, cut a notch about 5' above the ground first, and then make your lower cut near the ground. Let it drain into a container. Be patient even if there are no immediate results.

Never drink the liquid from vines if it's milky, smells bad or tastes bitter. Vine water should smell fresh and be fairly clear. A similar plant named Menispermum canadense (common moonseed) is poisonous. Grape vine leaves taste like grapes.

Tree Sap
The best time to tap a tree for its sap is in the late winter-early spring when the sap is rising and moving quickly through the tree. You can tap a tree for sap during other times of the year, it's just that the sap will drip much more slowly.

Sap from non-poisonous trees such as the Birch, Maple, Walnut and Sycamore is 100% drinkable and also contains sugar and nutrients from the tree that are good for you! Because of tree sap's water content, it takes 40 gallons of maple sap boiled down to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

Using a knife or improvised tool(if you have no auger or drill handy), break through the layers of bark and make a hole in the tree about a half inch deep. You'll know when you've hit the sap wood because it will start to drip. A hollow piece of reed grass, horsetail or bamboo could act as a good alternative to a spile.

Alternatively you could carve a "V" shaped notch at least a 1/2" into the tree. Add a leaf at the bottom of the V, and finesse it to drip into a container below.

Bull Thistle
Bull thistle is the American Midwest's version of a cactus and it's very common in much of the country. The bull thistle actually holds more water than any other plant in the Midwest! It's thick center stalk is full of water packed cells. Once the prickly outside skin and leaves have been carved away, you can eat the inner part raw or squeeze the water from it like squeezing an apple to make cider. The easiest way to access it is to carve away the leaves and spines while it is still standing, then cut off the stalk, slice off the bitter outer rind, and enjoy the inner pulp.

"Prickly pear" or "nopal" of the Opuntia genus, is a source of fluid(and food!). Currently there are about 150 species in the genus Opuntia sensu stricto with 34 species found throughout North America(Pinkava 2003).

They are readily recognizable cacti growing as ground-hugging plants. The flowers of the prickly pear vary in color from yellow, orange, pink, red, magenta and are sometimes whitish or bi-colored. The fruits(called "tuna" in stores) can be club-shaped or cylindric to ovoid or nearly spherical, spineless to spiny, fleshy or dry, and range in color from green to yellow, red, orange or purple in the fleshy types or tan to gray in the dry ones. The pads of the prickly pear are best eaten when young and tender, and the fruits can be eaten or pressed as an apple is pressed for cider and the liquid is good to drink.

Prickly pear is widely cultivated and commercially used in juices, jellies, candies, teas, and alcoholic drinks.

Meat As A Fluid Source
"Meat is packed with water, and that water is retained in a network of proteins," says Harold McGee, Ph.D., author of "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen." "But when you heat those proteins, they coagulate. That's the equivalent of squeezing a sponge, so you force moisture out of the food." Cooking meat causes it to release about 20 to 30 percent of its original water content.

But because foods like meat, poultry, and fish are inherently rich in water, they still contribute to our overall fluid needs, even when cooked. Consider a juicy sirloin steak. Raw, a four-ounce serving contains 2.5 ounces of water. After broiling, that steak supplies 2.2 ounces of water.

Credit For Content:
Better Homes And Gardens -
University of Kentucky - College of Agriculture
California Cadet Corps
Living Off The Land - Chris Mcnab
The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide - Creek Stewart
Michael Wilson, Drylands Institute (
Copyright 2017-18
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