Safe Foraging: Pesticides, Poisons, And Allergies

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Foraging for wild edible plants, bugs and fungus can and should be an enjoyable experience for all.  But there are some guidelines to follow for safe foraging.  There are 3 primary cautions associated with foraging for anything and these are:

1) Accidentally eating a poisonous organism, or one that is contaminated with a harmful bacteria or virus

2) Eating an organism contaminated with man made poisons, like pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.

3) Having an allergic reaction to an otherwise perfectly edible organism.

Some steps to avoid these dangers are:

1) Always cook all invertebrates before consuming, and cook anything that was collected from water.

2) Be 100% sure of the identification of the organism you are about to eat, if there is any doubt then find further means of confirming the identification before eating.

3) If it is a plant or fungus touch the item to your lips and tongue but do not ingest. Then wait 1 day.

4) If you have done step 3 the next step is to ingest a very, very small amount(about the size of a grain of rice) of the item then wait 1 day.  If there is a strong disagreeable taste then do not continue to eat.

5) After you have followed all these steps you may eat a little more the following day, and so on, until you are comfortable with the wild edible. During this testing period limit it to one item to test, and do not eat any other food that you typically don’t eat.

Poisonous Plants, Animals, And Fungus

Organic poisons can be found in plants, animals and fungus. There are some steps to take in addition to the ones mentioned above to minimize your exposure because some of these poisons can be deadly even in small amounts. These steps are:

1) Learn as many look-a-likes as you can to the item you are planning to eat, so you know the differences.

2) Do not try anything new until you have thoroughly researched and correctly identified it.

Pesticides, Herbicides, And Fungicides

It’s a sad reality that our landscapes are filled with man made poisons. Not only is this bad for wild organisms but it’s also bad for people who supplement their diet with foraging.  Food should be free and unadulterated but this is not the case in many places today.  This is an often invisible poison that can cause sickness, and death. It is difficult to be sure that we are not ingesting man made poisons because they can be on or in any type of organism, but there are some steps we can take:

1) Do not harvest from roadsides or other areas were gasoline, oil and other chemicals could collect.

2) Do not harvest from pristine manicured landscapes, often pesticides and herbicides are used there.

3) Find a trusted farm or forest that you can rely on to inform you where chemicals are and are not used, and do most of you’re harvesting there.

Food Allergies

Allergies to food and other things are becoming more common today.  People have all sorts of allergies and some may have yet to manifest or get triggered so take caution even if you believe you have no allergies.  Allergic reactions can affect our bodies in any number of ways, common allergic reactions include: hives, redness, swelling, itchiness, and in severe cases anaphylactic shock which can lead to death if not treated immediately.  Itchy throat is a common food allergy symptom and should be taken note of, often it is harmless but if severe you’re breathing could be affected.  Following the steps mentioned in the introduction will help to avoid allergic reactions and once you find that an item does not bother you it would be rare to develop an allergy to it.

You Are Responsible for What You Eat

Eat The Planet does thorough research to bring you the most accurate and useful information on the topic of wild edibles.  Ultimately you are responsible for making sure that what you eat is safe, read our disclaimer HERE

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