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“Can I eat that?”

All Areas > Food & Drink > Wild Food Foraging

Author: Steven Hawley, Posted: Thursday, 24th November 2016, 08:00

“You forage your own food?” A new acquaintance once asked.

“On occasion,” I responded.

“That’s interesting,” she glanced around the pub garden, “Can I eat that?” She asked and pointed to a weed growing out of a flower boarder.

“I have no idea. What is it?”

“Shouldn’t you know?”

I offered a shrug by way of response, took a sip of my beverage and went to investigate.

The problem with having a hobby as diverse as foraging is that everyone automatically assumes you’re an expert on the subject and are keen to test your knowledge to try and catch you out. The mistake to be made is allowing your pride to get the better of you and guess to impress. That’s how you get yourself a quick trip to hospital for a stomach pump – something that happened to me as a child during my first ever forage when I mistook Laburnum pods as a type of runner bean.

But like many foragers, I’m just a student of the land and am constantly learning. Ever since my first accidental poisoning, I never assume I know what something is without fully investigating it first.

“I’m tiddled and might be wrong.”

On this occasion, the plant turned out to be chickweed. I’m never far from my phone so I spent a couple of rounds researching the plant by comparing pictures and descriptions to information found online. The conversation in the group had moved on by the time I had found my answer, and the initial interest shown by others had anticlimactically fizzled out like a cheap sparkler when it was apparent that I was no Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

“Chickweed, eh? Can we eat it?”

“Probably, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m tiddled and might be wrong.”

“You’re rubbish!”

That last comment might be true, but I’m still alive! Don’t just take my word as fact when foraging – always do your own research.

If you’re not 100% sure that what you’re picking is safe for human consumption, don’t pick it. If you’re prone to food allergies, or pregnant, always seek medical advice before consuming anything foraged in the wild.


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