I'll post it here too, as this is important...
To Experienced foragers, this is nothing new... but to first timers, novice, or someone just getting started, This is rule #1 for gathering wild foods....
Never, and I mean NEVER! consume a plant from the wild if you are not 110% positive of the ID of the plant.
It doesn't matter if your family told you what it was, you grew up "knowing" what this plant was, or if it looks like what you've been told about it... Verify that information... It can be the difference between have a truly great treat or being sick as a dog or worse.
I have lived my whole life in NH, and most of that in rural wooded areas. I am familiar with the woods, and am more comfortable in the deep woods than in any city. I believe in living with the land, and using it's gifts whenever possible (such as finding a wild rose in the back and bringing suckers to use in my front yard... Well adapted, care free, beautiful, free, and free bird food) and various other things like my wild blackberry bushes... Recently while walking the back wooded area, I came across (not really new, I knew they were there, but they stood out more this time) a large area of what I grew up knowing as chokecherry bushes... and they were loaded with fruit, moreso than I've ever seen. I was thinking of Chokecherry jelly, as I've never had it before. That morning I was 99.9% positive that they were indeed chokecherries... but I wasn't 100% positive so I took a sample and brought it back to the house for confirmation....
My initial attempts to verify the ID were inconclusive, but the probability was still very high it was indeed chokecherry. But that little bit of uncertainty still remained... and as tempted as I was to ignore it, I remembered the first rule again, and continued to look... and found that there is a chokecherry lookalike that is very toxic, the buckthorn bush. and again initially that ID was also inconclusive, as both descriptions were very close, the taxonomy of the plant in question wasn't exact match to either... the big problem was the way the berries clustered, and that the leave margins were smooth and not toothed. After a bit more digging, and some help from this site (the plant ID forum) I can with 100% certainty call this plant a variety of the toxic Buckthorn family, and very inedible.
Had I not been so diligent in my verification, making sure I was indeed 110% positive (almost giving in to the temptation that I was reasonably sure I knew what I had). I would have wasted hours picking and processing a jelly, wasted the money on the ingredients to make a jelly, and possibly lost a day or more of work being sick from the jelly. Not to mention, becoming fearful that I might be allergic to chokecherry, and avoiding them, and or worse poisoning others with a toxic jelly...
This goes for many, many plants...
Remember Rule #1 when foraging... it might just save you grief later....
A waring to foragers
I'll post it here too, as this is important...
Oh, and I should add:
make sure you know how to prepare said food... many plants are edible, but only after proper preparation... and some plants while edible have toxic parts.
Example: The Jack in the Pulpit Arisaema triphyllum has a corm that is edible when properly dried then cooked, But when raw has large amounts of calcium oxalate which cause burning and irritation of the mouth and digestive system, with possible fatal results....
This message was edited Aug 30, 2011 3:35 PM
You should always forage with a friend...... and let them eat first
In Alaska they said "you do not need to be able to out-run the bear, just your hunting companion" !
Great information here.
Does anyone have any information on medical emergencys that could happen if you cannot get to medical personel or worse there is no medical personal available for whatever reason. I don't mean first aide. How would you take care of long term medical problems.ie broken limbs,food poisoning,chlorea,infections,animal attacks,diabetis?
"When There IS No Doctor"
Also, start learning herbal medicine... what certain plants provide, how to identify and/or grow them, how to make the medicines from them.
Thanks Darius, Herbal remedys I know. The book should also be helpful.
"Where There is no Doctor" is a great resource.
There are several "Where There is No ..." books. Doctor, Dentist, Vet, Midwife, etc.
As far as the OP. This is a valuable lesson, thanks for posting it. I am very careful about my foraging. It is far to easy to make a mistake. Knowing the correct identification is just the beginning, timing of harvest, what part of the plant to harvest, and how to prepare it are all often critical also.
So right Steve as in Polk Salat. only use the young tender shoots. Later it is tough, poison enough to make you really sick.