Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Determine If A Plant Is Edible


Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia) fruit.


I don’t claim to be a fanatical foodie, though I love to cook and eat. But I am fairly serious about food, particularly native plants. My impressive credentials include:

One question that often enters my mind when eating any herb, spice, fruit or vegetable is, “How did someone decide THIS would be a good thing to eat?” Was it tested on "Mikey" first?



Kirsten Rechnitz, Head Instructor at Boulder Outdoor Survival School (Utah) suggests the following test for edibility if you’re in a survival situation where you have to subsist on mice and a few greens.

“The first thing you want to do is take a tiny bit of it and rub it on the inside of your wrist. And then you want to wait a number of hours to see if you have a reaction. If you don’t have a reaction…take the tiniest of bites, put it on your tongue, leave it there for a few seconds and then spit it out, and then rinse with some water. See what happens after a few hours, if you have anything going on. If you don’t, then maybe you want to take a tiny piece, chew on it, actually swallow it, take it down with some water. If you don’t have a reaction within a few hours, go for a small but larger gathering of that plant. Have that, then wait a full day and see what your system actually does. Anything like diarrhea, …itchy throat, ...stomach ache. Maybe that food isn’t actually poisonous, but it’s new to your body and if it’s causing you harm, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.”

That's one way it's done; courage born of starvation. Sylvester Stallone once remarked, “When I was a kid, my mother used to feed me mashed-potato sandwiches, Brussels sprout sandwiches; my brain cells were starving from lack of food. I'll eat anything. I'll eat dirt.”

Or, determining whether something is edible or delicious, even, can be born of an adventurous spirit.

There isn't anything I don't eat, although I'm not too keen on creepy crawly things. Other than that, I'm quite adventurous.  - Cherie Lunghi (Actress)

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

FAQ: How can I tell if my holly is dead?



I transplanted a large Fleming holly in the spring. Soon afterward the leaves turned brown and fell off. I've been watering and fertilizing it, but I believe it's dead. I hate to dig it up unless I'm positively sure. How can I tell if it's truly dead?


With a pocket knife or your fingernail, scratch several places on the stems, starting at the top and working downward. If you see green beneath, it's still alive at that point. If it's brown, cut it off.



Even if the cambium is green, the plant might eventually die. But if you care enough to keep it, continue watering when needed. Don't add fertilizer. Keep an eye out for tiny vegetative buds forming and leaves emerging. It's still possible your holly will survive.

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