Health and safety with wild foods

Great, your’e about to start shovelling handfuls of luscious wild greens (and reds, purples, yellows and browns) into your foraging basket.  But wheres the best place to start?  It might not always be where you think.

Busy roads dust nearby plants with heavy metals and fumes, so stick to quiet country lanes, which you would probably rather do anyway!  Canals and rivers are good bets as chemical spraying of weedkillers is banned on the banks of watercourses, as is disturbed ground near allotment sites (but if in a garden or on an allotment, check they havent been sprayed with weedkiller!)

Surprisingly, the best [places are often thin strips of land in cities and towns, municipal planters that have been left to rack and ruin gracefully with the fronds of tender juicy chickweed (Stellaria media),  the grounds of abandonned buildings, and graveyards.  These useful plants need us to disturb the soil so they can root, spread their seeds in the treads of our shoes, and fertilize the soils they need to grow with our waste so they can then feed us in return.  If you do have a habit of fence-jumping to pick tempting samples from abandonned building sites, its worth checking the history of the site to ensure what happened there before wont have an effect on what youre eating.  I found the tastiest cherries with hearts of burgundy fire on the site of an aniline dye factory, for example…

So the country fields must be chock a block with wild food, right?  Well yes, but fields are often sprayed too. though im not sure what difference it makes as often we are then eating the bought commercial crop that has been sprayed too!

Tree and bush fruit and nuts is generally safer than annual/perennial plants, the most risky part being the root as its in close contact with the soil.

And remember to get a good ID guide so you know the difference between your Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley) and your Conium maculatum!(Hemlock)

Hemlock is shown below.  Dont get it wrong!


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