Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, February 27, 2021

MVNews this week:  Page 12

12 Mountain View News Saturday, February 27, 2021 12 Mountain View News Saturday, February 27, 2021 

An Exploration of Entirely Safe Botanical Families 

Christopher Nyerges [Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” “Foraging California,” 
“Foraging Edible Wild Plants of North America,” and nearly 20 other books. More 
information at] 

I was visiting a friend’s place, and a few others were there for lunch. The 

friend – let’s just call him John -- had been learning about edible wild plants. 

He explained to the half-dozen guests that their lunch would be embellished with some of the 

wild spring edibles growing on the open area surrounding his place. Wonderful, I thou ght. 

Since I had visited the place before, I already knew most of the wild edibles that grew there, 
plants like chickweed, London rocket, mallow, purslane, lamb’s quarter, nopales, sow thistle, 
New Zealand spinach, and many others. 

He served some highly aromatic soup. It was a miso base with some dried seaweed and thin 
slices of mallow added. It was delicious. There were a few other dishes that he brought out, 
and then he served each of us a salad. I froze, and stared into my salad. 

“What’s that?” I asked John, with a bit of alarm in my voice. I already knew what it was, but I 
wanted to hear John’s response. 

“Sprouts!” he responded gleefully. 

“Yes,” I responded blandly. “But, what is it?” 

“I said, those are sprouts. Sprouts in the salad. Everyone knows sprouts are good for you,” he 

“Ah,” I said slowly, picking a few of the “sprouts” out of the salad bowl, and then setting the 
salad bowl beyond my reach. 

“Yes,” I again replied. “Sprouts. But sprouts of what? Every plant produces seed, and the 
seeds of any plant can produce a sprout.” 

John looked more closely. “Well,” he finally responded, trying to remain upbeat, “sprouts are 
good for you.” 

He was very enthusiastic, and I hated to be the bearer of bad news. “Those are not just any 
sprouts,” I said, as others put down their salad bowls. Those are the sprouts of the castor bean 
plants. Yeah, they look awesome, but I thought when I saw them in my dish that I had done 
something to you and you were trying to get even by killing me.” 

John was silent, and picked up a castor sprout to examine. Clearly, I was the damper on what 
was intended as an enthusiastic and fun lunch. Everyone began eating more slowly, and 
ignored the salad. At least one person present carefully picked every castor sprout out of his 

“Sprouts are not a generic group, like grasses, or seaweeds, or acorns,” I explained to John 
while everyone listened. I don’t think he got my point at first. I had to pretend to enjoy the 
rest of my lunch, while attempting to provide a quick botany lesson that would save everyone’s 

Certain botanical families are nearly entirely edible, often with a few considerations. This 
includes groups like grasses, seaweeds, mustards, acorns, onions, and many others. But every 
plant, poisonous or edible, that produces seeds can produce sprouts. The sprout is nothing 
more than the young seed, sprouting forth to produce a new plant. The fact that many edible 
seeds produce highly nutritious sprouts does not mean that ALL seeds from ALL plants 
will have edible sprouts. Without sounding like I was talking down to John – who after all 
was trying to impress me with how much he knew about wild edible – I explained that all 
flowering plants have roots, and many are edible, but some roots will kill you. Just because 
you find a root doesn’t mean you can eat it. And all plants have leaves, what we call greens. 
Just because you found some pretty looking greens does not guarantee that you can eat them. 

I think he got the point. Enthusiasm can kill you, or can kill your lunch guests. 

Never eat any wild plant unless you have positively identified it as an edible plant, or belonging 
to an edible plant family. 

plant, you must identify the plant as an edible species. IF you cannot identify the plant because 
it is a baby, then DO NOT EAT IT! 

In my very first book, “Guide to Wild Foods,” my mentor Dr. Leonid Enari worked me with 
to list many of the botanical families that are entirely safe to eat. I have since organized all 
my books by botanical family to provide a moment to describe the family to which the plants 
have been classified. You can find my books on Amazon, or at the store at www.SchoolofSelfReliance.


Beautiful and sweet,
Winnie is a mix of 
tortoiseshell and 
tabby, known as a“torbie”. Only about

1.5 yrs old, she’s a 
precious soul who 
was abandoned byher owners when 
they left the country at the start of covid. She wasnot spayed and had 2 litters of kittens while she wasfending for herself on the streets. Kind neighbors were 
able to rescue her and her kitten (we don’t know what 
happened to her other kittens). The neighbors got 
them fixed and vaccinated. One of the neighbors kept the kitten, and the other neighbor isnow fostering Winnie, but she needs to find a home very soon, as the foster mom is facingsurgery and a long rehab. Winnie is very sweet and has a soft meow. She is not a fan of beingheld, but she likes to be petted. Winnie had to grow up fast and deal with lots of difficulties, soshe does not know how to play. She would likely do best being the only pet in a home whereshe can bask in all the attention and learn how to be playful and cuddly. Won’t someoneplease give this deserving girl a second chance? Apply at

Pet of the Week

 Six-year-old former stray cat Taffy is ready to live acomfortable life in a home! Taffy is a gorgeous tabby catwho has been learning all about humans and how nicepetting is. Although she’s needed a little time to get used 
to her new environment at the shelter, she’s started purringand seeking attention from our staff. If you approach herkennel, she’ll probably take a second to size you up, butwith a little time to get to know you, she can be a wonderfulwork-from-home coworker or Saturday night movie buddy.

 The adoption fee for cats is $100. All cat adoptions includespay or neuter, microchip, and age-appropriate vaccines.

 New adopters will receive a complimentary health-andwellness 
exam from VCA Animal Hospitals, as well as a 
goody bag filled with information about how to care for 
your pet.

 View photos of adoptable pets and schedule a virtualadoption appointment at Adoptionsare by appointment only, and new adoption appointments are available every Sunday at

10:00 a.m. for the following week. Pets may not be available for adoption and cannot be heldfor potential adopters by phone calls or email. 
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