Feed on

My mom used to tell me,”Only believe half of what you see, and no matter what you hear.” It was a good adage in the age preceding the Internet. Today, a caveat should be added -“And very little of everything you read”

Ironically, many of North America’s edible wild plants actually were harvested in Europe: dandelion, horseradish, hawthorne and so forth. But lots of the promises of edibility or wellness benefit for other wild harvests must be treated sceptically, if not suspiciously.

Several decades ago, I bought a book on edible wild plants of Canada, and put out to sample as many of those culinary delights as possible. Yet, I needed to expand my arsenal of edibles. The author of this book claimed to be a power on harvesting plants from the wild.

I should have been alerted to the possibility of mistake with the very first trial. He maintained that cattail roots were superbly tasty, and had a root like a little potato plante. I don’t know where he grew potatoes, but it has to have been high tech soil, indeed! These are first- and – second-year roots. Yes, some are the size of new potatoes, but you need to sift through the sands for ages to find these diamonds.

The next misstep by this writer came with his promise of the ease by which we can harvest thistle roots. “Simply wash, peel and boil these roots for fifteen to twenty minutes,” he said. I cleaned, I peeled, I scraped, I boiled, and that I boiled, and I boiled. For over two weeks, all these easy-to-cook roots simmered and bubbled. At no time in the cooking procedure did they become tender. I have chewed on milder birch bark than those roots offered.

Obviously, a very simple statement that one needs to pick first-year roots would have been adequate. Since that experience, I’ve eaten thistle root often. I have moved out of boiled root ( a somewhat sour, yet bland experience) into a sautéed root, peeled and spice together with lavender or wild sage.

Though the misinformation in this publication might be somewhat funny, relying on the misinformation on the internet can be dangerous at worst, perplexing at best. Within my own realm, for instance, I’ve personally tested all those plants about which I have written, and researched toxicity. However, my response to consumption is subjective. I eat copious amounts of morels in the spring, without any unpleasant response, Yet, others may become sick with a single small morel. My own experience is not sufficient to stand at the place of scientific authority, however.

After publishing my various articles, I have searched the Net, just to find my bits re-published by other people, under their own name, claiming personal experience and knowledge. How frequently are the stories we read based on mere plagiarism, and with no validity or substance?

The best safeguard is to study at least three rival articles on each and every plant, and then follow up by checking more reliable government on toxicity, for example college sites and reputable clinics around the world. This procedure provides good comfort as to poisonous or toxic elements in almost any wild plant. The dependability of the culinary value, though, will supply you with more than adequate experience, as you discover a few of the bizarre menu ideas on the Web. Fantastic eating!

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