Foraging Safety Guidelines for Eating Wild Edible Plants

Today I’m going to be covering wild food safety and a simple “Tolerance Test” to make sure that your body doesn’t react adversely after you eat wild food plants.

As my old mentor used to say: “Assume Nothing, Test Everything”.

Even though you might have identified a plant with 150% certainty, until you eat a small sample of it, you do not know how your body will react.

This isn’t scare mongering. It’s just a fact that some people have very negative reactions to certain food stuffs due to an allergy or some such.

You won’t know if you have an allergy to a plant until you try it. Even if you have no history of food allergies or sensitivities. This is why you must not start out consuming large amounts of a specific plant until you know how your body reacts.

WARNING! Do not eat ANY wild plant unless you are 150% certain of its identification.

Too often people talk about wild food plants using their English names. This is fine if the participants all understand exactly which plant is being talked about, however many times English names are used when it would be far better to make certain that the plant being discussed is referred to by its Botanical/Scientific name (Latin).

What is referred by one English name in Devon may differ in another part of the country, and due to the global nature of the Internet English names become confusing once you start communicating cross-borders.

Rule 1: Always make certain when talking about wild food, that you are clear on the Botanical name, that way there is very little room for doubt. For example the English name for Taraxacum officinale is Dandelion, and the Botanical name for Dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. Well I did want to make that clear 😉

Rule 2: Make absolutely certain that you have made a 150% positive identification before ever trying out wild food.

Rule 3: If you are in the slightest bit of doubt about a plants identification, do not try it. There are too many other plants you can try out. As the adage goes “If in doubt, leave it out”.

Rule 4: Assuming you are 150% certain you have the right edible plant in front of you, proceed with the “Tolerance Test”…

  • Take a small piece of the raw edible part of the plant (e.g. the tip of a Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) leaf. Put it in the front of your mouth and bite on it a few times, then spit it out. Wait for 60 minutes. If you experience no bad reaction, proceed… SOME PLANTS YOU SHOULD NEVER EAT RAW. DO YOUR RESEARCH! E.g. Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), Lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) etc. I will at some point draw up a list the plants to not eat raw, but this isn’t the place.
  • Now try a larger piece of the plant (edible part only!). In our example of Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), try boiling the leaf and eating and swallowing a quarter of it. Wait for 60 minutes and see how you feel. If you don’t experience any negative reaction, proceed…
  • Try a tablespoon amount mixed into a suitable recipe. If you do not experience any negative reaction after 60 minutes, you’re body should be OK consuming that specific wild edible plant in larger quantities. But go slowly.

IMPORTANT! The “Tolerance Test” is only to be tried on wild edible plants that you are 100% certain you have identified correctly. It is not to be used to test unknown, unidentified plants, that you are attempting to discover whether they are edible.

Only ever eat wild edible plants that you have 150% identified correctly, and never, ever, eat large quantities of wild edible plants that you have not performed the ‘Tolerance Test” on.

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