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Saturday, 11 July 2015

Foragers diary: easy mistake to make 3

Today's foragers diary post is all about 'umbelifers', the word umbelifer or umbelliferae is a little misleading as it sounds like it should be part of these plants scientific names but actually they are normally grouped under the genus Apiaciea; that is the celery and carrot family. 

What the word umbelifer refers to is the umbrela shaped sprays of flowers which are indicative of this genus; I will also show a few species which might look like part of this group but actually aren't.

There is a good reason to be familiar with the umbelifers; some are delicious while others are deadly

Lets start with the look alikes;

Elder (Sambucus nigra) not one of the umbelifers but is does have that distinctive umbrella shaped spray of white flowers. 


Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) another one with those distinctive umbrells but not of the same family. 


Now on to the real deal;
Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) also called gout weed, it's called ground elder purely because it's leaves are somewhat similar to the leaves of true elder (below). But have a look at it's distinctive triangular stem (above) and there will be no doubt. Use the leaves before it flowers as a spinach type vegetable 

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One of the Umbelifers to beware of  the ubiquitous hemlock (Conium maculatum) is a deadly poisonous plant very similar to cow parsley in it's general appearance the hairless stem with purple markings give it away though. See the picture below for hemlock foliage. 


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The reason for the 'umbellifer' name; these are the flowers of common hogweed. See the post from a few weeks ago on the differences between common and giant hogweed.
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Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) another edible umbellifer, it's leaves are present all year and I have used them in some really delicious recipes, it has featured in a post in the foragers diary previously

This of course is not an exhaustive list of this group of plants but should give you a fairly good introduction, Be careful with them but I would highly recommend becoming familiar with them as there are some really delicious options for a lot of them and from a survival perspective they are also very common, and commonly available plants are the ones you need in a situation where you are desperate for food, it's all well and good knowing that ladies smock is edible but when it is tiny, and fairely scarce is it really going to help? On the other hand hogweed grows everywhere. 

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