Thursday, June 18, 2009

Deadly Differences


This is a Death Camas. Do not eat it.


Wild onion or garlic. These you can eat. I apologize for not knowing which one it is. I did not sniff or taste it.


Onions grow wild here, so do chives, and so does garlic. I've had wild garlic on some escargot done on a campfire. It set them off nicely.

Death Camas and White Camas also grow here and they look eerily like the garlic and onions. It's easy to get confused and throw a few in the stew.
I would not take a chance on harvesting any of them myself. I let my botanist husband do it.
If he says they're edible, then we eat them.
The most efficient way to tell the difference is to rub a bit of the leaf and sniff it. White and Death Camas do not have the distinctive onion or garlic odor.
If you're not sure or you nose isn't working, then go ahead and assume it is a killer and discard it.
In a related matter, there's an unrelated plant called Blue Camas that grows here and is edible.

15 comments:

the Bag Lady said...

I think I'll stick to the garlic and onions in my garden, just to be safe!

They do look very similar, don't they? Thanks for pointing this out!

Leah J. Utas said...

My pleasure, dfBag Lady. I've given White Camas a sniff in the past just to find out for myself. They were growing in a row along a gravel road and I would have sworn they were onions.

Frank Baron said...

I've recently picked up a couple of field guides on Canada's edible flowers, plants and trees. I'll be sure to remember now, to test those leaves if I "think" I've got some wild onions or garlic at hand. Merci Madame. :)

Leah J. Utas said...

You're more than welcome, Frank. I'm happy to pass along what I've learned.

Reb said...

Good information, I hope if I ever have to put it to the test, I will remember.

Leah J. Utas said...

I hope so, too, Reb. If you screw up you only get the one shot at it.

Lois Karlin said...

Interestingly, my husband (who got his PhD in plant ecology at U. of Edmonton!) says that on the East coast of the US the Death Camas grows in bogs and wetlands, not in dry meadows as Wikipedia mentions (must be a different, western species). Besides the distinctive odor, other differences include the flowers in Death Camas, which grow individually along the stem, whereas in the onion/garlic they occur in a cluster at the top of the stem (like an umbrella); and in Death Camas the leaves are flat like grass leaves, while in the onion the leaves tend to be rounded like scallions.

Leah J. Utas said...

Lois, that's interesting about the killer camas in the wetlands. They may be two different species although I don't know and my husband(botany degree)isn't home to ask.
You're right about the flowers as I recall Mike mentioning something about it when we collected the wild garlic. Said garlic had flowered which made it that much more recognizable.
I've learned to recognize a few plants here and there, but nothing I would eat if I were on my own.
I'm curious and nosey. How long did you live in Edmonton, and why did your husband choose the U of A?

Crabby McSlacker said...

Accck! Will be very wary of picking wild things that look edible. How handy that you have your own personal botanist to advise!

Hilary said...

Oh oh.. Frank's cooking dinner for me tonight... MIKE!!!!!!!!!

Leah J. Utas said...

Crabby, yes, please do. There's something (name escapes me) that looks like yarrow, but is poisonous. Water parsley maybe?
And it is wonderful having a botanist with me.

Hilary, LOL!!

Lover of Life said...

Hmmm maybe I'd better stick to the ones at the grocery - just my luck I'd choose the wrong one!

Leah J. Utas said...

Lover of Life, I'm right there with you. If there's no one around to test it on I'd stick with store bought.

Barbara Martin said...

Many people are looking at edible plants in local rural areas, and this is an excellent post for a reminder to be careful.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thank you, Barbara. Too many people think that if it's in nature, then it can't hurt them.
Nature kills.