Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Wild plants people are using

The past six months I have been busy carrying out research on the use of wild plants to make beer and wine in Britain. This has kept me pretty busy racing around the country meeting people and then getting technical analysing results; so not much posting here while I was working on all that. My next research project is a three year one  (PhD) still on beverages but this time teetotal.

However beer and wine making is still ongoing. It would be impossible to compress 6 months of research into one post but as a starter the weighted word cloud above shows the plants that the people I interviewed used.

As the word cloud is weighted by how frequently plants were used by different participants you can see how significant elder (Sambucus nigra) is to home beer and wine makers. While elderberries were only used by wine makers both beer and wine makers used elderflowers.

People talked about wines that they had made. This means that some plants such as cowslip which has declined in abundance due to agricultural changes were not used recently.

One person made beer out of Japanese knotweed when they were given the plant material to use from a source which had not been sprayed. Because Japanese knotweed is invasive and listed on Schedule 9 there are legal restrictions on cultivating it and disposing of it safely and when you see it growing it may have been sprayed with herbicides which would render it unsafe for consumption although it would not necessarily appear unhealthy. So I wouldn't recommend going out and picking Japanese knotweed.

Please note that I am putting up this information for people's interest; it is not a list of plants that are necessarily safe to use. Individuals may also have allergies to specific plants and some plants could in theory be toxic in high doses.

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