It was a good adage in the age preceding the Internet. Today, a caveat should be added -“And very little of what you read” This is very true in regards to claims of health and nutrition benefits for wild plants.
However, many of the promises of edibility or health advantage for additional wild harvests should be treated sceptically, if not suspiciously.
Several years back, I bought a book on edible wild plants of Canada, and set out to sample as many of these culinary delights as possible. I had been raised eating wild foods, such as pigweed and dandelion, and relying on medicinal advantages of Seneca root, common plantain, white willow and spruce needles. Yet, I needed to expand my arsenal of edibles. The writer of the book claimed to be an authority on harvesting plants from the wild.
I should have been alerted to the potential for error with the very first trial. He claimed that cattail roots were delightfully tasty, and had a root like a small potato plante des champs. I don’t know where he grew potatoes, but it has to have been meagre soil, indeed! The huge majority of cattail roots are minuscule bulbs, about half the size of an egg. These are first- and second-year roots. Yes, some are the dimensions of new potatoes, but you have to sift through the sands for ages to discover these diamonds.
The next misstep by this author came with his promise of the ease by which we could harvest thistle roots. “Simply wash, peel and boil the following roots for fifteen to twenty minutes,” he said. I washed, I peeled, I scraped, I boiled, and I boiled, and that I boiled. For over two weeks, all these easy-to-cook roots simmered and bubbled. When I put them in front of my son and myself, the only benefit they provided was that they left us excited to devour the rest of the meal. At no time in the cooking procedure did they become tender. I’ve chewed on milder birch bark compared to these roots provided.
Of course, a very simple statement that one needs to select first-year roots could have been decent. Since that experience, I have eaten thistle root often. I have moved from boiled root ( a somewhat bitter, yet bland experience) into some sautéed root, peeled and spice with thyme or wild sage.
While the misinformation in this publication might be somewhat amusing, relying on the misinformation on the Web can be harmful at worst, confusing at best. In my realm, for example, I’ve personally tested each of those plants about which I’ve written, and researched toxicity. Yet, my reaction to consumption is subjective. I consume copious amounts of morels in the spring, without any unpleasant reaction, Nevertheless, others might become sick with a single little morel. My own experience is not sufficient to stand at the place of scientific authority, though.
After publishing my various articles, I have searched the Net, only to find my bits re-published by others, under their own name, promising personal experience and comprehension. How frequently are the stories we read predicated on mere plagiarism, and without substance or validity?
The best safeguard is to research at least three rival articles on each and every plant, and follow up by assessing more reliable government on toxicity, such as university websites and reputable clinics around the globe. This method offers good comfort as to poisonous or toxic elements in almost any wild plant. The dependability of the culinary price, however, will supply you with more than sufficient adventure, as you discover some of the bizarre menu ideas online. Good eating!