Foraging Wild Fruits Blog

My first (so-far my only) mistake

8/21/20 - Aww!!! Look how cute my wife and I are at the Minnesota renaissance festival! Little did I know that among the turkey legs, jousting, beer, and artisanal wares, I would make my first foraging mistake.

Take a look at the vine-covered building below:

If we zoom in on the leaves, we see:

These are grape leaves. One would be hard-pressed (pun intended) to find much else in the photo. Even more, we can find

Grapes! Yes that's right! The bunch in that photo is grapes! I've eaten wild grapes before, I know what they look like.

But wait! There seems to be TWO kinds of grape bunches in that photo. There's a densely-bunched, green-stemmed variety, and a loosely-bunched, red-stemmed variety. Some of you might be starting to think "Hey...those loose-bunched red stemmed grapes look funny." That's because they ARE funny. Those aren't grapes at all! They are five-leafed ivy (Virginia creeper) berries!

So guess which ones I accidentally ate!?!

If given the chance to identify the difference, I could do so in a heartbeat. I was simply too comfortable with my identification of the grapes that I didn't even consider the presence of something else. Five-leafed ivy berries contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can tear up anything soft they come into contact with (like microscopic sandpaper). Needless to say, my mouth was a bit stinging and sore for a few hours. I DID go back and grab grapes later, though, just with more caution. They were delicious!

Moral of the story: just because you've successfully identified a wild edible, doesn't mean the entire patch is the same edible.