I spent a lot more time than I thought I would to create a post for today. But, one thing led to another, and here is where it ended up. This is sort of a game. I've got pictures of three plants to show you. Take a guess whether the plant you are shown is edible. You can also guess what it is, if you don't know. Then you can scroll down just a little to see the answer. The reason it took so long is that I went hunting for real info, not just "stuff people say."
This is just an asparagus plant Asparagus officinalis, gone to seed. Of course we all eat asparagus- in the spring, that is. The fresh spears that break through the soil are SO yummy. But it's not a good idea to eat the berries. They will give you a severe stomach ache, and possibly a skin rash, or even blisters. I couldn't find a really "strong" source for this information.
This is the shaggy mane mushroom Coprinus comatus. It is reputed to be a choice edible, but I've never tried it. I have a friend who has. I'm considering being brave. There aren't any in its family that are poisonous. However, you need to get it quickly, because, like so many plants, timing is everything. If you wait even a day too long the shaggy mane begins a process of self-digestion, and you don't want to eat it then. The patch of these I found today didn't have any in the really weird stage. Maybe I can find one tomorrow. While they are self-digesting, they look like they are dripping ink. But the picture below is one that is pretty well done "eating itself."
Here's a really attractive plant. It's pokeweed, Phytolacca americana. This was the hardest of all to find scientific evidence concerning it's toxicity. For sure, the roots and mature leaves are toxic. Many people eat the early spring shoots before they turn red, by boiling three times, pouring off the water between boilings. The friend mentioned above eats them by the tubfull in the spring. But how about the berries? You can read everything from "deadly poisonous," to "adult humans can eat up to 10 berries with no effect," to "the seeds are poisonous, but extracted juice with discarded seeds is fine."
I found one scientific study which tested the toxicity. They extracted berry juice and tried to kill mice with it. The mice's stomachs were not big enough to hold a lethal dose. After force feeding the mice three stomachs full with an hour between feedings, a few of the mice died. Not exactly definitive. This, extrapolated to an adult human of about 150 pounds, would be a possibly lethal dose at 45 pounds of berries (45 pounds of many things we eat would kill us!). And yet, there are anecdotal stories of children dying from eating a few of these berries. Other reports say that in Europe they add pokeberry juice to some wines.
|See Studies on the Toxicity of Poke Berries Oklahoma Academy of Science, 1962 |
See Can You Eat Asparagus Berries?