ADVICE ON FORAGING
At the medieval castle in the old town I met Līga Eglīte. Līga looks after a kitchen garden, which contains only plants grown in this area during the Middle Ages (as confirmed by researchers). She explained how one would use the herbs back then as medicine or in everyday cooking. Some of these plants still grow in the wild. Later, Līga showed us her favourite plants that we could find on the banks of the river Gauja in early spring.
First, study the poisonous plants, so that you know what they look like before picking.
Only pick the species you know that are common in the area. Look out for places where people use pesticides or there is evidence of other human contamination.
It is certainly important to find out which part of the plant you can pick and when. Some plants develop toxic substances as they grow. Other species are best picked after a night of frost. Take care to forage without destroying the plant and ruining its opportunity to reproduce.
Only pick what you need for your own use. Do not pick everything in one place or from a single plant. Leave enough for nature, so you don't disturb the ecosystem.
Leave no trace of your visit.
Wash all plants thoroughly to remove any parasites. When cooking the plants in temperatures over 60 degrees, any unwanted parasite eggs also die.
Be sure to check how to prepare the wild plants to know how to “defuse” any dangerous substances.
Many wild herbs and flowers could indeed be poisonous, containing unexpected human contamination or parasites. It's important to avoid this. Although let's not forget that many vegetables and fruit we buy are also sprayed with pesticides. There are some drinks and types of food which might be more dangerous for the body and soul than a small amount of certain poisonous plants.
Some interesting books and websites
Plantes aromatique et culinaires by Jan Kybal
Das Grosse Handbuch der Kräuter und Heilpflanzen various authors
Wild plukken by Leoniek Bontje and Yvet Noordermeer
Naturalmanak by Claus Meyer
Welche essbare wildpflanze ist das? Kosmos - Naturfuhrer