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Edible Wild Plants

Edible Wild Plants

SKU: 978-99957-1-972-2
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    A Foraging Guide

    This page is part of an effort by Friends of the Earth Malta (FoEM) to raise awareness and foster a greater appreciation of the wild edible flora present in the Maltese archipelago. The importance of wild plants is regrettably often overlooked with a diverse array of plant life frequently dismissed as just weeds, or ħaxix ħażin.

    In line with our commitment to food sovereignty and ensuring that the food that we eat is healthy and ecologically sound we have prepared this foraging guide to help you on your adventures in finding nutritious new ingredients close to home.

    The following are some of the benefits derived from wild edible plants:

    Wild plants are highly nutritious, a good source of several vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and phytochemicals which protect one’s body from ageing and pollutants.

    Consumption of wild plants is economically sound. Being self-propagating, growing unaided, and fully adapted to our local climate and soils, they do not require expensive irrigation systems, substantial amounts of water, chemical treatments, construction of greenhouses, and long hours of manual labour in order to flourish. The best thing of course is that, unlike the produce sold in supermarkets, they are free.

    Unlike some conventionally grown produce (and unless one picks them from fields where such chemicals are used or from the sides of polluted roads), wild plants are not treated with or exposed to large amounts of chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

    Taking a walk to forage in nature is a therapeutic activity, helping one to de-stress and nurture a spiritual bond with the land and the wildlife that it supports.

    Identifying areas of the countryside with high concentrations of wild edible plants creates an incentive for the legal protection of such areas from development.

    Foraging Rules

    1. Always be sure of the identity of the wild plant you are about to pick.

    If you have got even the slightest doubt regarding the identity of the plant, do not pick it. Remember, there are a few poisonous species of wild plants and other species with poisonous parts. Misidentifying plants may cause you to inadvertently pick something that is potentially harmful. The illustrations in this section are artistic impressions of the plants and are not accurate representations. Refer to the photos at the end of the book, carry out adequate research, and always consult with experts on the subject before consuming a plant that you are not 100% sure you have identified correctly.

    2. Handle and consume with caution.

    If you experience some allergic reaction or other undesirable side-effects while handling/consuming or after having handled/consumed the plant, stop handling/consuming it immediately and seek advice and assistance from a medical professional. While all wild plants listed in this booklet are known to be safe to eat and have been consumed by humans for millennia, and while the author has tried them without suffering any ill-effects, it always pays to err on the side of caution. If you are consuming a certain species for the first time, do not consume large doses of it, especially if you are eating it raw. Just wait and see how your body reacts before consuming it another time.

    3. Wash foraged plants thoroughly.

    Even though one should always pick plants from the least polluted spots, there is still no guarantee that the edible parts are clean. Some wild foods, like the brambleberry, will be very enticing, and it will be hard to resist eating them on the spot, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to wash well anything you plan to consume. This will prevent from inadvertently ingesting dirt and potentially even less pleasant things like excrement from other creatures.

    4. Respect wildlife while foraging:

    – Pick judiciously. While all wild plant species listed in this guide are common and not of concern conservation-wise, please keep in mind that even the most common of species can be negatively impacted by over-picking; once you have located a population of a certain edible species, make sure you leave plenty of it and that those you leave behind greatly outnumber those you have picked. Moreover, there is usually no need to kill any plants while foraging—one may sparingly take some leaves, tender shoots, stalks, seeds, etc. from each individual plant without doing any long-term damage.

    – Never pick rare, threatened, and endangered species.

    – Do not disturb, harm, or kill wild fauna. If you notice the presence of birds’ nests, insect colonies, caterpillars or pupae, etc. among the plant branches/within the immediate vicinity of the plant, keep walking and leave the plant untouched.

    – Do not uproot or dig up underground plant parts. This would disrupt or cut short the life cycle of all flora and fauna within the immediate vicinity of the plant. It is for this reason that wild plants with edible bulbs/tubers/rhizomes/roots were deliberately omitted from this work.

    5. Enjoy foraging in your garden

    One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways of finding wild plants to eat is to stop weeding your garden, or at least parts of your garden. Most of the edible plants listed here could soon emerge spontaneously on your own property if you stop keeping your garden spotlessly neat and tidy. You would then have plenty of wild greens at hand and, best of all, your garden will become a haven for wildlife. Bees, butterflies, intriguing insects and invertebrates will start visiting the garden, even establishing themselves in it, and you will have a mini-nature reserve on your doorstep.


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