Thursday, 10 February 2011

Caveat Comestor

Martin Dorey, a chap who lives a few villages down, is currently on the telly in his series One Man and His Campervan. It's a fab early evening series with Martin touring around the country having excellent countryside and culinary adventures. It's presently in iPlayer is you can access it:

One Man and His Campervan - BBC iPlayer

In the first episode he came to my fishing village for the mackerel and then to one of my favourite farm shops for some other supplies. It's always odd recognising places and people I know on TV.

The second was of great interest to me as he headed off to the New Forest some foraging. There were some absolute classics, such as Chick Weed and Wild Thyme and I imagine a few Dandelions and Jack by the Hedge.

Martin and his wild food guide raised the point of ensuring that what you're picking is what you think you're picking. There are so many plant and fungi species that look like each other and some of the confusion species are super deadly. We might like to think that the fungi are the major problem, but there are a good number of plants which are in real "game over" territory; Water Dropwort and Deadly Nightshade (clue's in the name) are particularly nasty. Water Dropwort, and others like it, are the reason I don't teach most white flowered wild plants on courses, because they look too much like many of the edibles and there is far too much paperwork associated with people dying.

The Orachs, which were mentioned on the programme, are a prime example. With around 200 species in the Atriplex genus, there is a massive variety across most habitats. Many of them can be found on the coast and are very succulent compared to their field relatives. The edible orachs are very tasty and I imagine the others are too, but they can be very bad for you with effects ranging from an upset stomach to a trip to hospital, or worse. 

I must admit that I was super jealous of the Chanterelle on toast. I'm compelled to find somewhere local where they grow, but I will be making sure I don't get myself any of the bad ones that look alike. To ensure this is the case, I will be taking a book with me, as I advise you do for any foraging trip.

Take part in an open discussion about this article on Facebook