Learn how to identify inedible plants from edible ones with this guide.
Chapter 4: How To Identify Inedible Plants
It is a very lovely sight to witness a garden in blossom, especially during the summer. Whether you visit a garden or cultivate your own, there are bound to be some plants growing that you can safely consume. Why not go ahead and take advantage of this? You are going to wind up discovering plants you love and make great meals out of them once you start foraging. However, you still want to do everything you practice with safety. There will be certain fruits that contain leaves, flowers or even vegetables that might be toxic. You are likely to come across certain plants that only appear to be safe, but can result in allergic reactions with just a simple touch. When you understand this, you will know what plants you can simply admire from a distance without putting yourself in harm’s way. There are a few tips that will explain and help keep you safe on your adventures.
4.1: Learning The Poisonous Plants
- Know your plants – Prior to the time you are ready to harvest a plant to eat it, you initially should learn all you can about them. Discover whether or not they are toxic and how you should properly collect plants to ensure your own safety and those who you choose to share it with. I previously mentioned that you will come across certain plants with like physical characteristics, but some are different and might even be poisonous. You never want to take a chance and be kind of sure that you know what plant you find; you should be certain. If you are not, do not take the chance. If possible, it would help to start out with an expert.
- Wear protective tools – Be smart and do not leave it up to fate when you are exploring in many unknown areas where you are likely to come across a few dangerous plants, such as poison ivy. Gloves, thick ones, will be your best friends when you do come into contact with irritating plants. You also want to make sure you wear long pants too.
- Keep away from plants that grow in soil that was moved to another location – When you are out to venture, you could find some wild edibles that grew from the soil of a different area. I recommend that you do not gather such plants because you are not sure where the soil originated. There is a higher possibility that it is contaminated with bad fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Even though it could be tempting for you to want to pick wild edibles on roadsides or areas, you should never touch them. They may and possibly do get exposed to pollution and chemicals.
- Understand a plant’s water source – Besides the soil the plant grows on, another big factor you want to know is where the water came from. Give special attention to this especially if you want to eat the wild plant in its raw form. There are dozens of plants that can still live off contaminated water and soak in them without sweltering. The heat from cooking can remove a lot of unwanted substances in foods, but chemical pollution and heavy metals are not one of them,
- Collect plants that are healthy –Wild plants that live outside in the environment are normally exposed to fungi, pests and pollution. You will want to gather only the plants that are visibly healthy. That way, you are going to lower your chances of contracting any illnesses, plus you will know you are getting more nutrition out of the foods you consume.
- Be wary what type of wild plants are safe to consume during the changing seasons – There are various kinds of plants out there that are not safe to harvest during certain times of the year. It is beneficial that you understand which wild plants you can pick during certain times of the months. Like the seasons that change, plants change along with them, and some are not tolerable to consume in a certain stage.
- Avoid leaving out packs of seeds – You never want to leave out packs of seeds because some of them are poisonous. Others can be heavily layered with pesticides that are especially harmful to kids. If and when you are finished using them, dispose of them.
There are several species of plants you will come across you will want to know to avoid right off the bat. The level of danger of a plant may be as little as skin irritations or as serious as allergic reactions, especially those that systemically harm your body. You can die in these situations should you have such a reaction.
Jimson weed is known as Datura stramonium, or devil’s snare. It is a tall herbaceous plant that can cause poisoning if its juices are sucked, if someone ingests its seeds or if a tea made from its leaves were consumed. It is a plant often abused by teenagers, especially because the seeds can produce a hallucinogenic effect. This weed can cause major irritation, agitation, a high heart rate, and delirium. It can also affect the bladder and kidneys resulting in an ability to produce urine. If severe enough, it can reach your nervous system and cause convulsions, coma, or death.
Also known as Solanaceae, nightshade has the same level of severity as the Jimson weed. Another effect it has on the body is gastrointestinal upset and a moderate level of toxicity.
The Poison Ivy Group
Poison ivy and its relative, poison oak and poison sumac, terrorize both urban and suburban locations in the masses. These plants are scattered in just about every location in the northern hemisphere. Poison sumac is known to be gathered by some because of its beautiful color and leaf arrangement. Symptoms can occur the moment you touch these plants. Redness, itching, and fluids that are filled with liquids can happen and last a few hours, even up to one month. Thankfully, there are lotions out there you can apply topically to your skin before foraging if there is the possibility of coming into contact with them. When you are finished, you will want to wash thoroughly your clothes and shoes the minute you get home to prevent any symptoms if you managed to return without them. As itching and annoying as poison ivy can be, nobody can die from it.
The Foragers Bible
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