Words of Caution

At least some parts of literally thousands of native and naturalized plants, fungi, and algae have been used for food and other purposes by Native Americans. Many were also used by the immigrants who came later from other areas of the world. A representative compilation of wild edible plants and fungi is shown in Table A3.1.

The list of plants and fungi in Table A3.1 has been compiled from a variety of sources; the author has had opportunities to sample only a fraction of these himself and cannot confirm the edibility of all of the organisms listed. The reader is cautioned to be certain of the identity of a plant or fungus before consuming any part of it. Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) and water hemlocks (Cicuta spp.), for example, resemble each other in general appearance, but although cooked roots of cow parsnip have been used for food for perhaps many centuries, those of water hemlocks are very poisonous and have caused many human fatalities.

As indicated in Chapter 21, many species of organisms are now on rare and endangered species lists, and a number of them will become extinct within the next few years. Although the wild edible plants and fungi discussed here may not presently be included in such lists, it might not take much indiscriminate gathering to endanger their existence as well. Because of this, one should exercise the following rule of thumb: Never reduce a population of wild plants by more than 10% when collecting them for any purpose! If the population consists of less than 10 plants, do not disturb it.

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