Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Carrots (Daucus carota ssp. sativus)

The cultivated carrot is a biennial umbellifer from the Apiaceae family and was domesticated from the wild carrot (Daucus carota). Wild carrots are found in temperate regions of the world and are quite common in the British Isles. However, carrots are thought to have originated in Persia which is the region now known as Iran and Afghanistan. Nowadays cultivars come in many different colours including black, purple, red, white and yellow.

Carrots (Daucus carota ssp. sativus)

According to Eurostat the EU-28 produced an estimated 5.1 million tonnes of carrots in 2015. Poland and the UK accounted for over a quarter of EU-28 output. Overall, China are by far the largest carrot producers in the world.

How to grow carrots

Carrots grow best in a sunny position with a light fertile soil. Try to avoid heavy clay soils or soils with a lot of stones which can 'fork' the roots. Grow the blocky short carrots in heavy or stony soils and the long slender varieties in deep loose soil. Carrots can also be grown in containers, greenhouses or polytunnels.

Seeds are generally sown from March until July although early and late varieties are available. Sow seeds thinly 1cm (1/2") deep and 30cm (12") apart. Water the bed after sowing and keep the bed from drying out during the growing season. Thin out seedlings as they grow to allow enough space for the roots to develop. Harvest when ready. Baby (or young) carrots can be harvested early or the roots left to mature. Lift late carrots by October and store over the winter.

One of the main problems with growing carrots is carrot root fly, the larvae of which burrows deep into the carrot ruining it. Carrot root fly is a tricky customer to avoid. Sow seeds thinly so you don't have to thin them out thereby alerting the fly with the scent of newly thinned foliage. Thin in the evenings when the fly is less active and water afterwards. Grow under cover. Surround beds with a fleece or mesh around 60cm high.

Raw edible parts

The roots and carrot tops (ferny green top foliage) are edible raw. The tops are probably best eaten young in salads as they have a strong flavour and can get a little bitter. Older leaves can be juiced or blended with other vegetables. Carrot roots can be grated in salads or juiced for a beneficial drink. The grated root can be used to make an excellent raw carrot cake. An edible oil can be obtained from the seed and leaves. The aromatic seed can be used as a spice.

Other uses

The whole plant has long been used in herbal medicine for various ailments including kidney and bladder conditions. The root can be made into a wine. The roasted ground root can be made into a coffee substitute. An orange dye can be obtained from the root.


The foliage, in particular the sap, is very nutritious but can sometimes cause an allergic skin reaction in sensitive people.


Raw sauerkraut recipe using carrots

400g white cabbage
1 medium sized carrot
2 tsp sea salt
0.5 litre Kilner or Le Parfait jar with rubber seal and clip-on lid

Finely chop the cabbage and carrot. Layer the cabbage, carrot and sea salt in the jar. Press down firmly and seal the jar. Leave for 3-7 days to ferment. Check it regularly and when it tastes tangy it will be ready to eat. Bloom may appear on the surface, simply skim it off and discard. Store in a cool dark place, adding water to ensure the vegetables are fully covered if needs be, and it should last for months. Juice from the original batch can be poured over a new batch to help the fermentation process.

This is a really useful way of preserving vegetables with a minimal amount of work. Sauerkraut can also be made in a crock pot or other container. However, do ensure it is covered with a plate or clean cloth. Other vegetables that work well in sauerkraut include red cabbage, cucumbers, garlic, guerkin, onions and turnip. However, most vegetables can be used but they must be raw and uncooked. Sauerkraut is full of probiotics and very beneficial to health.

Friday, 31 March 2017


Kindle Countdown Deals are running on the following three books at the beginning of April. Get your copy now!

Raw Edible Wild Plants for the British Isles (and other places too)
Countdown Deal: 1 - 8 April 2017 only.

Kindle Countdown Deal for Raw Edible Wild Plants

Edible Plants for Preppers
Countdown Deal: 1 - 8 April 2017 only

Kindle Countdown Deal for Edible Plants for Preppers

Raw Edible Flowers and Leaves
Countdown Deal: 1 - 7 April 2017 only

Kindle Countdown deal for Raw Edible Flowers and Leaves

Sunday, 19 March 2017

INEDIBLE plant list - WARNING! Do not eat!

As a point of interest, here are a list of some of the more common plants that are mildly or extremely toxic. It would probably be unwise to eat them raw or at all. Other species in the same family as these plants may also have similar toxic properties

Some of these plants can be ingested after processing. For example, Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) has toxins that can be eliminated by heating or drying. Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) can be eaten once the bitter saponins are removed although even then it is probably wise to consume in moderation or better still use them to make soap. Possibly the young leaves and flower buds of the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) can be eaten raw but the whole plant contains toxic glycosides. Higher quantities are contained in older plants and toxins can be destroyed with heat.

It isn't, therefore, always black and white when considering the edibility of plants. Indeed, there are uses for all plants, even the ones we consider extremely poisonous. For the average bod, simply interested in the edibility of a plant and basic home remedies, it might be best to stick to more safer plants.

A selection of common plants which are TOXIC to varying degrees (this is not an exhaustive list):


A - Anemone (Anemone species), Azalia (Rhododendron species)

B - Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens), Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

C - Celadine (Chelidonoin majus), Christmas Rose (Helleborus species), Clematis (Clematis species), Crocus (Colchicum species), Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)

D - Daffodil (Narcissus species), Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

F - Foxglove (Digitalis species)

G - Globeflower (Trollius europaeus)

H - Hemlock (Conium maculatum), Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

L - Laburnham (Laburnum anagyroides), Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria keiskei, Convallaria majalis), Lupin (Lupinus species)

M - Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris), Monkshood (Aconitum uncinatum)

P - Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), Periwinkle (Vinca major, Vinca minor), Pheasants Eye (Adonis vernalis), Potato leaves (Solanum tuberosum)

R - Rhubarb leaves (Rheum rhaponticum), Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)

T - Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium), Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana tabacum), Tomato leaves (Solanum lycopersicum), Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea) 

W - Wild Spurge (Euphorbia corollata) and Yew (Taxus baccata).

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Edible Plants for Preppers: Lichen (Chpt 15)

 Plants for Preppers by Amanda Rofe. £2.50 Amazon Kindle.

In light of the uncertainty facing the world these days, we have decided to publish a series of chapters from Edible Plants for Preppers. Available from Amazon Kindle for £2.50, it provides a lot of useful information for UK preppers on a vegan or plant-based diet. Please note, while it encourages food to be eaten uncooked, and in its natural state, it is not a raw food book.

Links to other chapters


There are around 20,000 species of lichen and they grow everywhere on the planet. Lichen are unusual and plant-like but are actually composed of an alga and a fungus living in a symbiotic relationship. Lichen are often the very first life form to grow in a barren place. They don't really need soil and can grow in very harsh sterile rocky areas. They grow spectacularly well in Arctic regions. As lichens grow on rocks they release organic acids and slowly etch away at the rock. Very slowly lichen will initiate soil formation setting the stage for something called primary succession. In time, when soil has been formed, other plants can move in.

Lichens are also an important food source for some animals. Caribou and reindeer use it as a food in harsh climates. Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina), also known as caribou moss or reindeer lichen, is almost their sole source of nutrition during long winter months. Cladonia species is one of the most common lichen with the least amount of acid and prized by human and animals for a long time. It is clumpy and spongy like cummulus cloud and a greyish blue colour.

Humans have also used lichen for food and it has been eaten by many different cultures throughout the world. It has been used as a delicacy, as a staple food and as a survival food when food was scarce. In fact it was used in recent history during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992-1995). The most used lichens were oak lichen (Evernia prunastri) and old man's beard (Usnea species) which were made into a porridge and a flour.

In Norway during the early 19th century, dried Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica) was made into a flour by soaking it in lye for 24 hours and then drying it. It was then blended with grain before being ground down into a flour. Unfermented flat breads or porridge were usually made from the flour.

The ancient Egyptians also used a lichen called oak moss (Evernia prunastri) in bread. This lichen is found widely in mountainous regions of the Northern Hemisphere growing primarily on trees.

In the British Isles one type of lichen which is edible is Icelandic moss (Cetraria islandica). The leaves are the edible parts and must be soaked and, possibly also boiled, to remove the bitterness. Historically, Icelandic moss has been used for herbal medicinal purposes and is strongly antibiotic. It has also been used as a cough and cancer remedy.

Most lichen will need some processing before it can be eaten due to the bitter flavour. The bitterness is due to large amounts of vulpinic and usnic acids. Some with a very high acid content such as wolf lichen (Letharia vulpina) can be toxic and shouldn't be eaten at all. This lichen is one of only two that are known to be inedible. The other one is powder sunshine lichen (Vulpicida pinastri). These two species are fairly easily identified because of their yellow colouring. Although they are toxic for internal use, they can be used externally and are particularly good for sores or wounds.

Lichen is very difficult to identify but most are pretty safe to eat. However, best to avoid the yellow ones and ensure they are prepared correctly. It is also important to remember that lichen can live for centuries so foraging must take place from pristine areas where no pollution has occurred at all. This probably doesn't apply to anywhere in the British Isles!

To prepare lichen it is generally necessary to soak it in numerous changes of water, usually with hardwood ash or bicarbonate of soda, to remove the acids. It is likely that the lichen will need to be boiled too, also with several changes of water. If lichen tastes like aspirin, then it hasn't been prepared correctly and shouldn't be eaten.

One method of preparing lichen (Cladonia and Alectoria species) that the aboriginal people in the Boreal region of North America used was to soften in hot water and then mix with other foods. Some lichen was actually eaten fresh straight from the trees and was said to be quite sweet. Other methods they used to prepare lichen included boiling, drying, fermenting and baking.

Lichens can also be difficult to digest because of the complex polysaccharides content. Local people who are well used to eating lichen are actually better at digesting it and there is evidence that the human body will adapt. However eating most lichen in its raw state will probably taste quite bad as well as inducing a bad stomach ache.