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Universally Accepted Test for Edibility of Plants
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There are more than 950 species of plants in Eurasia and North America alone that contain poisons known to affect humans, but only a handful of these have been linked to fatalities in adults. Plants, however, are second only to medicines in causing serious poisoning in children under the age of five. An increasing interest in herbal cures and remedies is responsible for the poisoning of many amateur herbalists and those experimenting with hallucinogenic substances.
There is no way to tell by looking at a plant if it is poisonous. Some plants, such as the yew, are almost entirely toxic – needles, bark, seeds, and berries. In other plants only certain parts of the plant are poisonous. The bulb of the hyacinth and daffodil are toxic, but the flowers are not; while the flowers of the jasmine plant are the poisonous part. Moreover, some plants are confusing, because portions of them are eaten as food while other parts are poisonous. For example, the fleshy stem (tuber) of the potato plant is nutritious; however, its roots, sprouts and vines are poisonous. The leaves of tomatoes are poisonous, while the fruit is not. Rhubarb stalks are good to eat, but the leaves are poisonous. Apricot, peach and cherry kernels, apple and orange seeds, cassava (also known as yuca or manioc), and bamboo shoots all produce edible fruit, but their seeds are all poisonous.
If you suspect you have eaten a poisonous plant
Death is rare from eating poisonous plants, but in an extreme survival situation, especially in a weakened state, any effects are going to be more severe and potentially fatal. If you eat a poisonous plant and cannot get medical assistance, force yourself to vomit by sticking your fingers down your throat (unless specifically stated in the plant description below not to induce vomiting). Drink water and force yourself to vomit again and repeat this several times. If you have diarrhoea and/or vomiting, do not eat for 24–hours and drink small amounts of lukewarm, boiled water every hour to re–hydrate. Start eating small amounts of the most nourishing food available and rest to give yourself time to rebuild your energy.
Universally Accepted Test for Edibility of Florae (Plants)
If you are unsure whether specific flora is edible and there is a good supply of a particular species, follow this procedure:
CAUTION: Test all parts for edibility as some florae have both edible and inedible parts. Do not assume that a part proved edible when cooked is also edible when raw. Test a raw sample to ensure edibility before eating it raw.
Before testing florae for edibility, make sure there are enough of the species to make the testing worth your time and effort. Each part of a plant, for example, requires 24½ hours of testing. Do not waste time testing flora that is not relatively abundant in the area you are travelling through or in which you are staying.
Remember, eating large portions on an empty stomach may cause diarrhoea, nausea or stomach cramps. Even after testing a specific flora and finding it safe, eat it in moderation until your digestive system is used to it.
You can see from the steps and time involved in testing for edibility just how important it is to be able to identify edible florae correctly. The universally accepted edibility test for florae is a tried and tested method used by armed services and exploratory expeditions the world over. Many different groups of people have used and teach this test. No one varies it. Take heed!
Do not skip any parts of the test: The test has evolved over many years by trained experts and is the only safe method of testing plant food in a survival situation. Do not experiment with your own techniques as some plants are fatal in tiny doses if ingested and can lead to a slow and sometimes agonising, death.