Knowing which species are potentially harmful is the obvious starting point in preventing damage from foraging adventures. Get stuck into learning those scientific names as they are the only certain way to know what plants and fungi you actually have.
The following advice is based on an article published by the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
Some general advice
- Even if you know that a particular plant is edible, consider whether it might have been sprayed with weed killer by local authorities. Blackberries are a pest plant in our part of the world and are commonly sprayed by local government workers.
- If you know you have allergies, consider removing plants from your garden that might trigger attacks.
- Avoid foraging at times when allergy triggering plants are blooming as pollen is often the culprit.
- Wear gloves if possible in your foraging adventures to protect yourself from sap contact, not to mention insect and spider bites and getting scratched by twigs, burrs or thorns.
- Store bulbs for the garden well away from where you store onions so there is no confusion.
- Be careful of using gathered wood for fires in enclosed spaces as some plants produce toxic smoke when burnt.
If you have children in your care
- Ensure that they really understand and appreciate the golden rule – if you are not sure what it is, don’t eat it – don’t even touch it.
They may see juicy berries on plants or seeds that look yummy. But if they aren’t sure what is, they should know to ask you first before they come to any harm.
- In play, they might want to make tea with leaves or bark they have found, or use seeds or seed pods for making decorations. Explain to them that even these activities might be harmful if they don’t know what they are doing.
- If possible, take them on garden jaunts and teach them safe habits. There some delightful and delicious species that can be foraged, but they need to know how to take care of themselves first.
If you have pets
- If possible keep on eye on cats and dogs as some of them may nibble on garden or street plants out of curiosity or seeking to supplement their diets with trace elements.
- If planting, take into account which plants are the most likely to be of danger to pets.
- Be careful about what plants you make available to chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, rabbits etc.