Edible Wild Plants-Risk vs. Reward

This time of year the questions start to trickle in about edible wild plants. Many are interested in identifying and collecting edibles, but this is a hobby that should be pursued with extreme caution. I have been asked multiple times to host an edible wild plant workshop, but the risk of accidental consumption of a harmful plant following an event like that is too great. Therefore, I have yet to get a workshop going and my most responsible overall advice is simply, don’t do it. Unless you are stranded in the wilderness and need to survive on wild edibles, the risk vs. reward odds are not worth testing.

Collecting wild edibles is an endeavor that could start out with good intentions and end in the hospital, or worse. Before you eat any plant or fungus you find in the wild, check, check, and check again to verify it is what you think. Many edibles seem perfectly safe just by looking at them, but don’t forget that there are other factors like pathogens or parasites that could make you ill that are unable to be seen, so eat at your own risk.  If you determine it is “safe” to eat, only consume a tiny bit at a time, just in case something goes haywire. Also, keep an unaltered sample of what you have consumed, so that medical personnel could implement the appropriate treatment in an emergency. Also, remember that some wild edibles, like ginseng, are illegal to collect from state lands in OH. Permits can be acquired in some areas during the designated season for harvest. Don’t forget that in some wildlife areas removal of any vegetation is illegal.

Controlled cultivation is a safer bet. Many people successfully propagate their own mushrooms, herbs, and more. There is quite a bit of information about how to accomplish this task through OSU Extension and other sources. In fact, on Saturday, April 8 there will be a Growing Shiitake Mushrooms Workshop at the Noble County Soil and Water Conservation District Office. Anyone is welcome to attend this free event which will run from 10 a.m. to Noon featuring our local service forester-Adam Komar of ODNR as the guest speaker. Please call 740-732-4318 to RSVP.

Ohio State has a resource handbook about mushrooms that many have found helpful. Find it here: Mushroom Handbook

Looking for a list of edibles in the Mid-West Region? Click here: Edibles List

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