Don’t Get Yourself Together If You Don’t Know What You’re Doing, Fool
We’ve all heard stories about travelers who survived on berries or other wildlife , getting lost in the forest . While learning about local food is a great subject to study, there are many unpleasant and even deadly things for the overconfident.
In truth, knowing what you are eating is not a matter of memorizing infographics or rhymes. You really need to know how to identify specific products that you may come across, and you need to know what else might look similar around. Real plants and mushrooms often look different from their photographs in travel guides, so even a good book cannot be reliable. If you want to learn how to collect food, you need education, but also experience.
Some things are easier than others. For example, I eat wild raspberries on a hike because I have seen them a million times and I know there are no dangerous duplicates. But I will never touch a wild mushroom, even if I am sure I know what it is. I’m just not very good at my mushrooms, and mistakes with mushrooms can be deadly.
The plant in the photo is a bulbous plant, which I recognized immediately because I saw a lot of it in my backyard. I know what little sprouts look like when they appear among my lettuce seedlings. I know how tall the plant grows, how its berries change color as they ripen, and which birds love to eat them. I don’t blame the original poster for wondering if it’s edible; I also thought about it at first, so I looked. Pokeweed is poisonous. It’s technically edible, but only if the young shoots are harvested and the daylight is boiled out. This is what you eat in early spring when you have no other food to eat. It is edible as a survival food and can be used as a medicine ; it is not something to add to a salad for extra color or flavor. Just buy a bag of spinach.
Other subreddit posts included one post requesting confirmation of the mushroom identification when the mushrooms had already been sliced and photographed on a cutting board. Some of these have been flagged by commentators as misidentified and potentially fatal.
Give credit to experienced foragers. Learning what is and isn’t in the forest is a skill that develops over time, experience and education. Bottom line: If you have to ask what a plant is, you shouldn’t eat it.