Scary story out of Connecticut where a woman who foraged mushrooms in her backyard sent her entire family to the hospital because those mushrooms happened to be highly toxic. Please remember folks: Make sure you know what you’re dealing with before you eat anything from the wild. As the article states, even mycologists aren’t right 100% of the time. Mushrooms are devilish little buggers to ID. ~AR
“Can you eat any of the plants in this picture? Really? How do you know?” — Amy Stewart, Garden Rant
So, there’s apparently a trend riding the foodie wave that inspires people to pick wild-grown plants for the purpose of flavoring their alcohol. It would be a flat-out lie if I said I never thought to stuff a bunch of brain-scalding chili peppers in a bottle of vodka and let it steep, but this “wildcrafted” booze is another undertaking entirely. And a potentially dangerous one, at that.
The oft-insightful Amy Stewart points out that, while it may be tempting to go crawling around in a field, snatching up exotic/inspiring/medieval ingredients for long-forgotten or newly-inspired alcoholic infusions, there are some warnings to heed.
For one thing, arbitrarily picking wild plants could result in depleting threatened populations. Overshadowing that is the fact that alcohol is a great medium for leeching poisons from plants, and most folks don’t have the botanical background to identify a friendly green from its deadly cousins. There aren’t many degrees of separation between a carrot and a casket, so your best course of action is to stick to the produce aisle or greenmarket. —MN
We occasionally call on field foraging expert and botanist of many talents Daniel Atha to provide insight into the seldom-explored world of edible weeds. There’s so much culinary potential growing right in front of us, it’s completely baffling that so few have picked up on it. Worse yet, that so many pick and toss the good stuff.
The New York Times recently threw up a handy primer on unknown edibles in the form of a slideshow. From Jersey, of all places. Just know before you hit up the ditch on the side of the turnpike that foraging only works out when you know what you’re eating. And when it’s done intelligently and legally, for that matter. —MN
I really like this post about stinging nettles. I like stinging nettles, I don’t even mind being stung by them, especially because—like Lynn—I think they are delicious. But what I like most about this post is Lynn’s meditation on the wildness of nature versus the planned beauty of a garden. What she says is smart, and I think it’s one of the reasons working at the Garden resonates so strongly with me; you get both here. There’s the incredible planned beauty of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, and when that’s too much, there’s the sublime natural beauty of the Forest, the largest remnant of the primeval woods that once covered all of New York City. Oh, and there are nettles, too, but I can’t tell you where! ~AR
When visiting the city’s parks (which includes the Garden), please don’t pick the daisies, or blueberries, or American ginger, or mountain mint, etc., etc., etc.
A great look at foraging in the wilds of the urban landscape. But what is possibly even more important is the sidebar on the damage that “ramp-mania” is doing to wild ramp populations. Ramps are a wild member of the onion family (Allium tricoccum) and have in recent years become fetishized as one of the first edible harbingers of spring. The problem is that ramps grow very slowly. By digging up the bulbs, foragers are damaging future production by the plants. The solution is to harvest only the leaves of the plants, thus allowing the bulbs to multiple slowly underground.
What do you think? Do you fetishize the ramp? Do you forage for wild greens in the spring?