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Foraging near roads

 
Posts: 19
Location: East of England
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Apologies for putting this on the 'wilderness' forum but it seemed the best place. Feel free to correct me as I'm new here!

I know that in general foraging near roads is inadvisable for good reasons, in the case of leafy plants whose leaves gather particulates, or through plants/fungi that can (hyper-)accumulate toxins distributed by cars*. However I am wondering to what extent this applies when I am considering parts of the plant that are more internal to the plant.

In particular, there is a healthy mallow plant (probably Malva sylvestris, although I haven't looked closely yet) I pass regularly. It's growing approximately 3m away from a somewhat busy road. If I were to harvest it for its mucilage content, either to use internally or externally, would I be running the same risks as if I were picking leaves from a roadside plant?

Obviously I can do without that one mallow plant, and although I would harvest it if I could, this is more just a situation that has got me thinking more generally...


*This was frustrating a few years ago as I saw some shaggy ink caps on someone's lawn, but couldn't pick as they were near a road and they hyperaccumulate things like lead I believe!
 
pollinator
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I wouldn't risk it personally.

But if you time it right, you could harvest seed heads and add that diversity to your property or a pot.
 
Al William
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J Davis wrote:I wouldn't risk it personally.

But if you time it right, you could harvest seed heads and add that diversity to your property or a pot.



Thanks, I'll go with that. I like the point about gathering seed - in this case it's not necessary as there is plenty of mallow around at other times of year, and tree mallow (Lavatera maritima) growing at home. This wild mallow was more notable for the fact it's survived into mid-winter with a decent amount of vegetation.
 
pollinator
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For what it's worth, UC Berkeley did a study about urban foraging and after picking leafy greens at various places around the city they found that even leaves from right near very busy roads could be washed with water and safely consumed. Their main advice was to avoid roots and fungi because of accumulation of soil toxins but leaves seemed to only have surface contamination that could be washed off with water

Here's a story about the study with links

https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2018/09/edible-urban-weeds-found-to-be-safe-healthful-abundant-and-theyre-free/
 
Al William
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s. lowe wrote:For what it's worth, UC Berkeley did a study about urban foraging and after picking leafy greens at various places around the city they found that even leaves from right near very busy roads could be washed with water and safely consumed. Their main advice was to avoid roots and fungi because of accumulation of soil toxins but leaves seemed to only have surface contamination that could be washed off with water

Here's a story about the study with links

https://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2018/09/edible-urban-weeds-found-to-be-safe-healthful-abundant-and-theyre-free/



That's really interesting, thanks for posting. So in fact the leaves could be the safest bit after all, and I wonder if the parts with the mucilage content would have any concentration of toxins in them.
 
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I would also have to wonder, "Which road?"

My point being is that I would have less concern regarding a seldom used rural dirt road.
 
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John F Dean wrote:I would also have to wonder, "Which road?"

My point being is that I would have less concern regarding a seldom used rural dirt road.



Agreed.  location location location.  It's the best tool to have.  Near the state line, we have many natural forest preserves.  The back roads are the least traveled.  Thus, road foraging brings in buck loads of blackberries, boysenberries, blue berries, mulberries, various mint, rhubarb, sunflowers, etc.  The harvest is very plentiful that several regular sized canning jars will fill up fast.  

With this all said, there are issues.  Mainly snakes, possums and coons that would pop out and give you a startle.  So, wear your muck boots on these endeavors.  

Other road gatherings to know about are what a white oak looks like.  The leaves are not pointed, but rounded.  The acorns have the least tannins.  Gathering will fill containers abundantly.  One can just store the nuts or process them for storage.  Acorn flour is a neat thing to have when everything else isn't available or on hand.  Grind the nuts into a flour, spread over a few small trays and place into the food dehydrator.  The flour stores for a really long time when all the moisture is removed. Acorns are also great for livestock at a 20-30% mix with outer items for the long winters.  

Now, the really sad thing when on the back roads is findings old tires and other junk that people will toss into the country.  
 
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I don't have advice for your mallow question, but I am an avid forager, especially of capers, that grow wild around where I live. The most abundant, convenient place I've found is between two roads, one being a fairly busy rural highway. The plants catch a lot of garbage. So I mostly collect only seeds from this area and spread them in a much cleaner, more secluded area that is also very convenient to my location.
 
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