Monday, June 8, 2009

Things to Avoid – Collecting Wild Parsnips for Your Salad

Allow me to introduce the Water Hemlock (cicuta maculate). Although it looks like an attractive, but not altogether interesting wildflower, this is the most poisonous and deadly plant native to North America. This particular wildflower, which grows to 6 feet tall, is found primarily throughout the Great Lakes region, but has been found all over the continent as it thrives along stream banks, in marshy areas, and in low-lying, damp meadows. The Water Hemlock has purple-striped leaves and tall flower stalks topped with clusters of tiny white flowers and strikes a curious resemblance to Water Parsnips.

The problem is this: Water Parsnips are edible. Water Hemlock is not.
The poison contained in the water hemlock is called cicutoxin, and it is present in the entire plant, but is most concentrated in the roots. Anyone who confuses the roots of the plant with parsnips and decides to take a bite faces the onset of rapid illness and a ghastly, violent death.

The cicutoxin contained in the plant causes violent and painful cramps, seizures, nausea, intense vomiting, and muscle tremors. Those who survive the poisoning experience long-term health conditions, such as kidney damage and amnesia.
The Water Hemlock is a highly poisonous plant. It is so toxic that it is recommended that you wash your hands even after handling it. Certainly do not taste any part of it, absolutely no amount of water hemlock root is considered safe to ingest.
So, thank you for offering to garnish the delicious salad you made for me with the wild parsnips you collected yourself this morning! But I think I will just go straight to the entrée.

No comments:

Post a Comment