Whether you are planning an adventurous trip requiring wilderness savvy for survival or simply looking for odd trivia material, the knowledge of what tree roots are edible can be life-saving. Even if you do know which tree roots can be eaten, there is still the simple fact that most trees’ roots are not easy to access.
Found in Madagascar, Africa and parts of Australia, the boabab tree has a tender root that is good for eating. This tree grows primarily in savannas. Boabab trees can grow as tall as 60 feet and have a diameter of nearly 30 feet. They can be identified by their white flowers and red, football-shaped fruit which is covered in short, dense hair.
The cuipo tree can be found in mountainous regions of Central American tropical rain forests. The reddish-brown or yellowish-brown roots of these trees are a good water source and the water from them tastes similar to potato water. Look for a tree that stands far above other trees to find the cuipo tree. They generally stand 150 to 200 feet tall with leaves only at the very top. The rings on their reddish or gray bark make them easy to distinguish.
The horseradish tree stands anywhere from 14 to 45 feet tall and is found in India, Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America at the edge of forests or abandoned fields. The leaves of this tree are fern-like and its roots have a pungent odor to them. For a substitute similar to actual horseradish, grind up the roots of this tree.
Banana and Plantain Trees
From the musa species, both the banana and plantain varieties look like trees with several large leaves near the top. However, both are actually considered plants and both have edible roots. Banana and plantain trees are indigenous to tropical, humid areas and grow in open fields or at the margins of forest-like areas. The rootstocks must be cooked before eating.
Kapok or Cotton Tree
The roots of the kapok tree can be eaten to help with constipation, but are otherwise not recommended for digestion. Kapok tree root is also considered good for skin moisturizing, should you choose not to ingest it. These trees are found in Thailand and southern Laos and stand as tall as 150 feet with a unique umbrella-shaped crown.
References and ResourcesWilderness Survival: Edible Plants
Paddle Asia: Thailand Tropical Edible Plants