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D. Logan
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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Not everyone knows certain details about very familiar plants. It seems to me that a lot of things get taken for granted. Some of these things are changing as certain plants become more popular, but others remain utterly in the dark to beginners. I remember years ago when I first had strawberry rhubarb pie, that it wasn't common knowledge unless you were already well familiar with the plant that rhubarb leaves were dangerous.

Similarly, it wasn't until a few years ago that I realized you could eat salsify leaves. After all, the plant is grown for its root and there are plants such as potato that you can't eat anything but the underground portions. Potatoes themselves bring another to light in that potato eyes or any green part is toxic. Some people are unaware of this.

Thus, this thread. I would love for everyone who does anything with plants to put forth the little facts they they know about plants but which someone else might not find readily listed anywhere. If you know of an unusual use for a plant or some dangerous aspect that isn't listed in the average seed catalog, put it here for all to see and learn. It seems like a great tool. I am sure there all sorts of things that are getting taken for granted that are incredibly obscure to the average new gardener.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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I love this kind of stuff
I'm certainly not saying don't be careful, but green potatoes taste pretty bad, as do rhubarb leaves (unless you're a chicken, in which case, they're utterly delicious!)
You'd have to plough your way through quite a bit to get much in the way of affects
and I've never heard of anyone getting sick from green potatoes or eating rhubarb leaves as
This comment only relates to potatoes and rhubarb. While very few garden plants have really toxic parts, there's bound to be some...
While we're on toxic though: Soy beans must be processed to deal with Trypsin inhibitors
And watch out for oleander; that stuff's bad news!

The tips of broad beans, aka fava beans are delicious sauteed, as are pea shoots.
Radish seed pods are really yummy, especially big ones like daikon.
Tomatoes will fully colour-up if they're picked full size, but green. They don't need sun, they can go in a drawer if you like!
They'll never taste as good as sun-ripened, but when winter's coming...


 
D. Logan
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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I knew some radish seeds could be used for oil, but never realized they could be cooked up on their own and be any good. Already I am learning something from this thread! Thanks for the information!

I thought of a few more that might not be known by everyone.

The seeds of apples, pears, peaches, apricots, mangoes, etc. have amygdalin which converts into hydrogen cyanide in the body. If I am not mistaken, almonds have this in small amounts too, though only bitter almond has it in concentrations enough to pay attention to. While a small amount is fine (say the seeds from one apple per day), too much of it can cause health problems.

Red Kidney beans are unhealthy to eat raw due to lectins. This is also why it is best to change water several times while cooking them.

Yucca should be processed (Dried, soaked and then cooked properly) to avoid health risks. I don't have personal experience with this, but have read it somewhere and imagine it goes a long way to explaining why it gets processed so complexly.

Corn is full of great stuff, but it isn't unlocked unless properly processed. While that isn't a huge issue for people normally, those who use corn as a major part of their diet or as their exclusive grain can suffer malnutrition. Unlocking the nutrition is as simple as a soak in an alkaline such as lye (origin of hominy and other corn products).
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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One thing I learned while living in Asia (Bangladesh) and have pursued since is how many different plants produce edible greens, even though these might not be their "conventional" yield.
Chief among these are radishes and sweet potatoes. Radish greens cook up like turnip or mustard greens, only they grow significantly faster. Sweet potato greens cook up mild and mushy, much like spinach, and produce all through a hot Southern summer. Pinching out the tips for the pot is a good way to keep roaming vines under control, and moderate harvest of greens doesn't seem to diminish the eventual yield of potatoes.
Any brassica produces edible greens. Outer leaves of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, if cooked up like collards or kale, are scarcely distinguishable. I have more than once sold cauliflower greens as collards! These can provide a significant additional yield once the head is harvested, since cauliflower will not resprout.
Most cucurbit "tips"....young growing points with small leaves....are also good cooked up. Young bottle gourds, and luffas can be used like zucchini.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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D. Logan wrote:
The seeds of apples, pears, peaches, apricots, mangoes, etc. have amygdalin which converts into hydrogen cyanide in the body. If I am not mistaken, almonds have this in small amounts too, though only bitter almond has it in concentrations enough to pay attention to. While a small amount is fine (say the seeds from one apple per day), too much of it can cause health problems.


I'm very familiar with this, as apricots are the main fruit that grows here, and grows in abundance. If the apricot kernels taste good and are not bitter, then they don't have the amygdalin or cyanide and they are edible like almonds; Ladakh has two varieties of apricots with sweet edible seeds and excellent fruit. If the kernels are bitter, you can eat a few but probably shouldn't eat a big handful. People here grind the bitter ones and express oil. The amygdalin is not oil soluble, so the oil is actually edible, but here people don't eat it, they burn it in little lamps as Buddhist offerings. The oilcake is highly toxic of course, if ingested in large mouthfuls -- my inlaws had two cows die inside the house (a problem to get the bodies out!) because they'd gotten into the corridor where a sack of oilcake was, and each died with some of it in her throat and stomach. Both the oil and residue smell like amaretto, a very delicious almondy smell. However, since cyanide is not a cumulative poison, and because biomass and feed are in very short supply in this desert, people traditionally mix a small handful of dried oilcake into the daily cow slops, as a tonic they say is healthy in small doses.

This is the interesting part: the amygdalin evaporates with heat. So you can take ground bitter apricot nuts, mix them with water, and boil off the bitter and toxic part. Do this outdoors or in a very well ventilated room, because if the room fills up with that steam you can start feeling a bit weird. It boils off faster the more you stir or scramble it up, and in fact people here sometimes get it boiling hot, then run it through the tea churn a minute or two to quickly reduce it. Once the bitterness seems gone, boil it a while more to be extra sure; but once it isn't bitter it's safe. Traditionally, people fry up some onions and garlic with it to make sauce for a sort of lumpy pasta; it's like peanut sauce, and very tasty. Me, I like to add some sugar and pinch of salt, for a lovely almond flavored pudding. Yum! But people here think I'm weird for doing that.

I've done this many times, and we have served it at parties for 60 people.

Since amygdalin and/or cyanide are not cumulative toxins, it's really no harm if you eat a few fruit seeds once in a while.
 
D. Logan
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Rebecca Norman wrote: However, since cyanide is not a cumulative poison, and because biomass and feed are in very short supply in this desert, people traditionally mix a small handful of dried oilcake into the daily cow slops, as a tonic they say is healthy in small doses...Since amygdalin and/or cyanide are not cumulative toxins, it's really no harm if you eat a few fruit seeds once in a while.


Lots of great information in your post Rebecca! Thanks for all of that information. I especially love the loads of information on the ways to safely process an untapped food source for many people.

The two segments I quote above brought something to mind that I hadn't mentioned. I have been led to understand that there may be a major health benefit to small doses of these toxins in your system. In small doses, they don't have a major impact on healthy cells, but apparently cancer sells are highly impacted by the toxins and are much more likely to be destroyed with low levels in your system. If this is true, a few apple seeds, some occasional bitter almond, etc. might just be a very healthy choice in your diet as long as you recognize the need to avoid eating it in great amounts.
 
Cj Sloane
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Leila Rich wrote:...I've never heard of anyone getting sick from green potatoes or eating rhubarb leaves...


I have read that sheep/lambs will die if you let them into your garden to "clean up" and they eat rhubarb.
 
D. Logan
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I was remembering a few herbs my wife was advised to avoid while pregnant and decided to go digging again. I found a list of the ones to avoid entirely as well as those to avoid in any real quantity. Since I already had this post for lesser known aspects of plant lore, I figured I would add it here for anyone interested. Just follow the link above.
 
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