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Australian Bushfood and Native Medicine Forum • View topic - Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

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Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

Identifying, growing and propagating edible Aussie plants

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Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

Postby PeterHardwick » Mon Mar 15, 2010 2:24 am

As the poisonous plant mistakes in the Koa Windsong DVDs are now out in the open, for public safety I think it's very important to post this follow-up critique of his DVDs which has also been published in a local newspaper in our area, as forum readers may have the widely distributed DVDs or know people with the DVDs who need to be warned:

********************

TOXIC DVDS STILL BEING SOLD

There's been requests for a follow-up critique of the wild food plant safety on DVDs featuring Koa Windsong.

Koa admitted publicly (The Northern Rivers Echo 12/11/09) that he had made a mistake by saying that billy goat weed and tobacco bush were "safe" to eat - but months later the DVD Walking Softly with Koa -Part 2 is still being sold in which billy goat weed is clearly shown by Koa as an example of a plant that he considers safe to eat.

In the DVD Koa justifies billy goat weeds safety based on what is obviously a seriously flawed "edibility test", and bizarrely Koa also says in the DVD that he didn't know the name of the plant (billy goat weed) but still considered it safe.

The cardinal rule is: if you don't know what it is - don't eat it. There is no such thing as a reliable "universal edibility test" for unknown plants - it's a particularly erroneous and dangerous concept because some plant toxins wont show-up harmful effects in the short term - with the billy goat weed an overt case in point.

People have eaten billy goat weed on a regular basis because of these DVDs - with the risk of necrotic damage to internal organs as a consequence.

There are several other toxicity mistakes on the Walking Softly with Koa DVD series, including black nightshade, thickhead, and wandering jew. In a survival situation, or on a regular basis, these poisonous weeds are not safe to eat. For public safety, it's about time this series was withdrawn from sale. As Koa acknowledges, children are heavily influenced by these DVDs - but this is a major worry, as children's lower body weight makes them more vulnerable to poisoning.

Fortunately, the very problematic DVD Bush Tucker with Koa has been withdrawn from sale. It targeted children specifically - encouraging them to eat poisonous plants like tobacco bush, billy goat weed, Grevillea, grasses and wandering jew. The producers should refund returned copies, as the mistakes are potentially fatal and the DVD should not be in circulation.

A summary of significant toxicity mistakes in Koa Windsong's DVDs include:

-Tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum) - berry.
Contains high levels of neurotoxic glycoalkaloids in the ripe and unripe berries. Fatalities have been recorded. DVD: BT with Koa.

- Billy goat weed (Ageratum houstonianum, A. conyzoides) - flowers.
Contains a suite of toxins, including coumarins, triterpenes and pyrollizidine alkaloids. Causes necrosis of internal organs. Cases of liver damage linked to mass poisoning. DVDs: BT with Koa, Koa 2.

- Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum, S. americanum) - berry.
Contains variable and sometimes very toxic levels of glycoalkaloids in the ripe and unripe berries. Also, a high risk with unknown toxicity levels in the native black nightshades. DVD: Koa 1.

- Grevillea (Grevillea spp.) - nectar (flower).
Many garden varieties are highly allergenic because of a very similar toxin to what is in "poison ivy" - risk of throat closure and anaphylaxis. Flowers also contain hydrogen cyanide. DVD: BT with Koa.

- Wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) - tips.
Contains an unknown but very allergenic compound. Risk of throat closure and anaphylaxis for sensitive people. Confuses toxic wandering jew with edible scurvy weed. DVDs: BT with Koa, Koa 1.

- Thickhead (Crassocephalum crepidioides) - leaf.
Contains the liver toxin, jacobine, and shouldn't be eaten regularly. DVD: Koa 3.

- Grasses (Poaceae family) - seed and leaf.
Some grass species contain potentially fatal toxins. DVD: BT with Koa.

- "Universal edibility test"
Faulty and dangerous - many plant toxins will not show-up in self-administered field tests. Potent neurotoxins are not always skin irritant, and some toxins have delayed poisoning effects. DVD: Koa 2, Koa 3.

NB The dust-jacket on Koa 1 has a disclaimer about over-generalizations on wild food plants - but it's not clear which plants are being referred to. Dust jacket disclaimers are inadequate because the reality is that DVDs get copied and separated from dust-jackets.
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Postby RedP » Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:58 am

Thanks Peter - it's good to see this warning being more widely publicised.

Did you see that Gardening Australia had a few segments on bushfoods recently? The presenter even talked about eating black beans - he did mention leaving them in the creek to wash out the toxins, but it was pretty casual.

I wonder if your toxicity warning (perhaps in more general terms) could be communicated to the programme, and presented as part of a future feature?

Cheers, Richard
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Postby ozziekid » Tue Mar 16, 2010 3:54 pm

Thanks Peter, you seem to know a lot about toxicity. We wonder if you would know of people experimenting with chewing eucalyptus/lemon myrtle leaves to combat infections/viruses. This is for people who are allergic to antibiotics/ garlic. Any knowledge/ideas/advice shared is appreciated. Just thinking how toxic, if at all, these leaves would be, just chewing one here and there throughout the day.
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Postby ozziekid » Tue Mar 16, 2010 4:18 pm

PS if any one can tell me how to change the text beneath the line .. that would be great. Sorry about the replication.
Love to share tucker.
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Postby PeterHardwick » Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:25 pm

That's an interesting comment Richard. That's a real worry if there wasn't an adequate warning with the black bean. It's just vital that safety information is given out when discussing these sort of bushfoods.

Plants like black bean and cycad I just avoid altogether in general public talks. They are not the type of bushfoods that are suitable for the skills of most people. And better to avoid them when there are many safe bushfoods.

Ozziekid, as far as chewing straight eucalyptus/lemon myrtle leaf, I wouldn't do it. Better to have it in other things, such as a herb tea.

Take lemon myrtle for example, the reason why you wouldn't chew it straight is because of the high citral (the major flavouring component) content in the lemon myrtle leaf, which means that the leaf can be mucous membrane irritant if chewed by itself. Lemon myrtle is up to 3% essential oil in the fresh leaf (higher in dried leaf), and the maximum allowable level in a topical skin product (for example) is about 1% of the essential oil because of skin irritancy. The amount used for flavouring would be even less.

So in other words, chewing straight lemon myrtle leaf gives a burning sensation in the mouth because it's so high in citral, and probably not good for your esophagus as well.

No big deal, it's just that with this type of spice - that contains a high essential oil content like lemon myrtle - they are meant to be diluted back with other ingredients when used internally, as a medicine or a flavouring agent. The same would apply to cinnamon, for example, because of similar skin irritancy issues.

Most medicinal Eucalyptus contain cineole which is also skin irritant and the same thing would also apply. Also, just make sure you use the right species and chemotype of Eucalyptus for herb teas, such as the cineole chemotype of Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus). Not all species and chemical variants of Eucalyptus are safe to use as herb teas, and proper plant ID is essential.

It might be less fun, but if you are unsure if you have the right Eucalyptus type, buy an existing tea product that contains the Eucalyptus leaf which has already been worked out to be safe.
Last edited by PeterHardwick on Fri Apr 02, 2010 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ozziekid » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:48 pm

Thank you Peter, that's phenomenal that you know all that stuff. How would a more ignorant person go about proper plant ID when in the bush. It's ok in a nursery and even there staff doesn't always know but out in the backyard and bush how are we to identify? Or is this a stupid question?
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Postby PeterHardwick » Fri Mar 19, 2010 10:57 pm

Ozziekid, it's just a matter getting into studying plant ID. I studied horticulture to learn the basics on plant ID. Native plant ID books are essential and can be borrowed from most libraries, and also descriptions of many plant species are available online, like on Plantnet via the Royal Botanic Gardens website, and try wiki for species profiles. Botanical gardens are also good places to see labelled specimens. Also, older plant people are a good source of knowledge. Hope this is of some help.
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Postby roughbarked » Sat Mar 20, 2010 6:31 pm

I thought that the Gardening Australia bush food commentator was just skimming dangerous topics too.

I think they should leave the issue alone unless they treat it properly.

Bush food can be good but it can also be bad. Preparation is everything. Being aware of nearby antidote type plants is also useful.
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Postby Thomas B » Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:17 pm

Roughbarked, most antidote type plants are likely to be more dangerous than not taking anything at all.

A couple of examples, both of which are dangerous

For stinging tree envenomation by contact, it is suggested by the Bush Tucker man, Les Hiddins, that Cunjevoi: Alocasia macrorhizzos be applied topically, I don't need to state the risks associated with this and there is no mechanism that the treatment can actually work by.

The antidote to muscarine poisoning (from the Fly agaric) is atropine, which is itself a powerful toxin, found in Datura and other Solanaceae. Because of the variations in concentration between specimens, there is a huge risk at trying to treat poisoning in the field, likely to be larger than actually from the poisoning itself. This is actually biochemically shown to work, but injections of controlled levels should be used instead.
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Postby roughbarked » Wed Mar 24, 2010 3:43 pm

I'm not going to disagree ThomasB.

I didn't advocate use of any plants without knowledge.
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Re: Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

Postby koa windsong » Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:47 pm

[quote="PeterHardwick"]As the poisonous plant mistakes in the Koa Windsong DVDs are now out in the open, for public safety I think it's very important to post this follow-up critique of his DVDs which has also been published in a local newspaper in our area, as forum readers may have the widely distributed DVDs or know people with the DVDs who need to be warned:

********************

TOXIC DVDS STILL BEING SOLD

There's been requests for a follow-up critique of the wild food plant safety on DVDs featuring Koa Windsong.

Koa admitted publicly (The Northern Rivers Echo 12/11/09) that he had made a mistake by saying that billy goat weed and tobacco bush were "safe" to eat - but months later the DVD Walking Softly with Koa -Part 2 is still being sold in which billy goat weed is clearly shown by Koa as an example of a plant that he considers safe to eat.

In the DVD Koa justifies billy goat weeds safety based on what is obviously a seriously flawed "edibility test", and bizarrely Koa also says in the DVD that he didn't know the name of the plant (billy goat weed) but still considered it safe.

The cardinal rule is: if you don't know what it is - don't eat it. There is no such thing as a reliable "universal edibility test" for unknown plants - it's a particularly erroneous and dangerous concept because some plant toxins wont show-up harmful effects in the short term - with the billy goat weed an overt case in point.

People have eaten billy goat weed on a regular basis because of these DVDs - with the risk of necrotic damage to internal organs as a consequence.

There are several other toxicity mistakes on the Walking Softly with Koa DVD series, including black nightshade, thickhead, and wandering jew. In a survival situation, or on a regular basis, these poisonous weeds are not safe to eat. For public safety, it's about time this series was withdrawn from sale. As Koa acknowledges, children are heavily influenced by these DVDs - but this is a major worry, as children's lower body weight makes them more vulnerable to poisoning.

Fortunately, the very problematic DVD Bush Tucker with Koa has been withdrawn from sale. It targeted children specifically - encouraging them to eat poisonous plants like tobacco bush, billy goat weed, Grevillea, grasses and wandering jew. The producers should refund returned copies, as the mistakes are potentially fatal and the DVD should not be in circulation.

A summary of significant toxicity mistakes in Koa Windsong's DVDs include:

-Tobacco bush (Solanum mauritianum) - berry.
Contains high levels of neurotoxic glycoalkaloids in the ripe and unripe berries. Fatalities have been recorded. DVD: BT with Koa.

- Billy goat weed (Ageratum houstonianum, A. conyzoides) - flowers.
Contains a suite of toxins, including coumarins, triterpenes and pyrollizidine alkaloids. Causes necrosis of internal organs. Cases of liver damage linked to mass poisoning. DVDs: BT with Koa, Koa 2.

- Black nightshade (Solanum nigrum, S. americanum) - berry.
Contains variable and sometimes very toxic levels of glycoalkaloids in the ripe and unripe berries. Also, a high risk with unknown toxicity levels in the native black nightshades. DVD: Koa 1.

- Grevillea (Grevillea spp.) - nectar (flower).
Many garden varieties are highly allergenic because of a very similar toxin to what is in "poison ivy" - risk of throat closure and anaphylaxis. Flowers also contain hydrogen cyanide. DVD: BT with Koa.

- Wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) - tips.
Contains an unknown but very allergenic compound. Risk of throat closure and anaphylaxis for sensitive people. Confuses toxic wandering jew with edible scurvy weed. DVDs: BT with Koa, Koa 1.

- Thickhead (Crassocephalum crepidioides) - leaf.
Contains the liver toxin, jacobine, and shouldn't be eaten regularly. DVD: Koa 3.

- Grasses (Poaceae family) - seed and leaf.
Some grass species contain potentially fatal toxins. DVD: BT with Koa.

in response to peter hardwick first my dvds are about survival situations ,next there are numerous documentations on the medicinal use of ageratum conyzoides or billy goat weed both internally and externally.check tropical plant data base. next no child will eat heaps of something that does not taste nice.grevilla flowers are targeted intensley in documentation of aboriginal foods with heaps of pictures with children sucking the nectar.if a child decided to eat the flower he or she would spit it out immediatley because it taste horrible!!!!!!!!! thick head is in tim lowes book eatable weeds of new zealand and austraila nomention of a build up toxin.as is wandering jew2 native to austraila .i do not sell the chi9ldrens dvd and have personally chucked into the bin some 12thousand dollars worth of thatndvd.if someone is still selling it i will buy back copies. however again there is no chance of anychild eating those mistakes because they taste horrible.i am deeply sorry for those earlyon mistakes and am tryi9ng to re3ctify them and not repeat any mistakes.mynew film is not eatable plants but my philosophy.i do not intend to make any more on id. of plants that are eatablech
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Postby koa windsong » Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:59 pm

in tim lows book wild foods of austraila , pg.189 he states wild tobacco berries were eaten by the first settlers but are usually to bitter to eat.which is why no child will ever poison themselves with this plant. grevilla nectar was a very important food for aboriginals and there are heaps of pictures of children sucking the nectar.if a child bit into it they would spit it out it taste horrible.and again tim mentions grevilla flowers on pg.143 and states that any speciesb of grevilla flower that feels wet when squeezed is worth harvesting. in the second to last chapter bush survival pg.205 he suggest an eatability test.the sas teach it and it is in their survival guide. biily goat weed or ageratum conyzoides read the data base file from tropical plant data base ,acute and chronic toxicity studies were conducted in brazil with rats it was non toxic at all doses tested.someone would have to eat buckets full every dayto be in danger.these people peter talked about thatn ate heaps are void of common sense.no food that taste me3dicinal should be consumed on a regular bases and in large amounts.children know that instincually!!!!!!i do not think peter harwick is actually helping by scaring people with words like fatal etc. i have been doing neverything in my power to bring my work to a higher level and to warn people of the controversy surrounding the plants peter mentioned .i do not show these plants in hands on teaching anymore .okey i welcome all responses koa
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Postby PeterHardwick » Sun Jul 25, 2010 4:37 pm

Koa, in a survival situation or everyday food use - eating toxic plants is not safe!

Regardless what you might think Koa, I know several people who claim that you gave the impression that it was safe to eat toxic weeds, like billy goat weed, tobacco bush and wandering jew - on a regular basis....and some of those people have done exactly that, despite some of these toxic weeds having bitter flavours.

It's an ongoing situation, for example I am currently having to follow-up a report that somebody was feeding toxic weeds to children at a school fete.

Yes, Tim Low, as much as he has written some good stuff...he also made some mistakes on plant safety. To be fair, he wrote those books twenty years ago, and we now know a lot more about wildfood safety.

But citing Tim Low as the reason for your mistakes on wildfood safety is not acknowledging your own responsibility for promoting eating wildfoods in the public arena. When you publicly promote wildfoods the buck stops with you ultimately.

The difference in public risk between you and Tim, is in how you went about it. You amplified previous mistakes in such a way to make those mistakes particularly dangerous ....and you added extra mistakes, like billy goat weed. Tim's mistakes are mostly buried in out-of-print books.

But when you put those mistakes onto DVDs targeting children, you took it to whole another level of poisoning risk. You amplified and directed those mistakes to the most vulnerable people.

Also, Koa to be honest, it's apparent that you didn't have the skills to be able to handle toxicological issues and interpret the degree of risk to public safety.

When I say "fatal" I am reflecting the facts. There have been overseas reports of a fatal poisoning from eating tobacco bush berries. That's what is at risk here.

Tobacco bush, Solanum mauritianum, contains very high levels of toxic solasodine, and other glycoalkaloids, which shutdown breathing.
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proc ... 4-152.html

And when I criticize your dangerous advice on Ageratum conyzoides I am basing that on real events:

Due to the on-going drought in that area the weed Ageratum conyzoides (Boraginaceae), containing the pyrrolizidine alkaloids lycopsamine and echinatine, has become widespread and may be responsible for hepatic enlargement and ascites seen in both animals and humans. Preliminary analysis of grain samples from Ethiopia has demonstrated the presence of lycopsamine and acetyl lycopsamine in many of the samples.
http://aoacpacnw.com/?page_id=38

That's just from contamination - not even direct consumption. And that's just one of many references to toxicity for billy goat weed. ...and I know somebody who ate Ageratum conyzoides flowers ever day, and fed it to their child as well....on the basis of your workshops and DVDs. They don't know if they have caused permanent damage to their child's and their own health.

And I find it baffling that you are still using the spurious argument that because it has a tradition of medicinal use...therefore it's safe as a food. How can you say that?! Many plants used as medicines are not safe as food. It once again shows that you don't understand how plant toxicology applies to wildfoods.

Also, the other species, Ageratum houstonianum, you fed to children in BT with Koa is possibly more seriously toxic:

The intoxicated cattle did not show the characteristic toxic dermatitis reported for A. houstonianum acute toxicosis; but post-mortem examination revealed bloody serous fluid in coccyx-femoral joints and hemorrhages in the large muscle tissues, while liver, kidney and heart also had hemorrhages.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15303392

Koa, you were feeding that to children and calling it "bush tucker"!

Yes, Grevillea flower nectar is recommended in several books. And yes, Aboriginal people did drink Grevillea nectar...but it's a dangerous mistake to say that all Grevillea flowers are therefore safe. Aboriginal people traditionally drunk the nectar from specific Grevillea. The reality is that many of the cultivated Grevillea contain highly allergenic compounds.

Koa, would you encourage children to drink nectar from 'poison ivy'? I'm sure your answer would be 'no'. But that's what you are basically doing when you encourage children to drink nectar from common garden varieties of Grevillea! They contain similar toxins to poison ivy.

The allergen in Toxicodendron, 3 pentadecylcatechol, is closely linked in chemical structure to 5-penladecylresorcinol. present in Grevillea banksii and tridecylresorcinol in Grevillea robusta. Patch letting in patients sensitive to Grevillea'Robyn Gordon'with tridecylresorcinol produced positive reactions, thus implicating the sensitizing role of long chain alkyl resorcinols in Grevillea'Robyn Gordon'allergy. There is a likelihood that this sensitizing potential extends to other plants of the Grevillea genus, e.g. Grevillea robusta.
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/jour ... 1&SRETRY=0

If a child's throat swells up from an allergic reaction to these compounds they could die.

And then there is cyanide in some Grevillea flowers as well!

The introduced wandering jew is another allergenic plant that could cause a similar effect. And yes, Tim Low put 'wandering jew' as a 2nd common name for native Commelina cyanea - which usually goes under the common name of 'scurvy weed'....and 'wandering jew' is usually the common name for the introduced Tradescantia fluminensis. And it confused you because you told people to eat the wandering jew. Big mistake, because Tradescantia fluminensis is seriously allergenic and dangerous.

I actually have a friend who gets a rash like reaction to Tradescantia fluminensis. What do you think would happen to her if she ate this? Apparently allergic reactions to wandering jew are not uncommon. That's why it's not safe as a wildfood.

In Tim Low's book he does give this generalised test for wildfood safety - which is a mistake. But it's buried in the text. But, you took it a lot further Koa, you highlighted it as an 'Edibility Test'. It's a big mistake. You see how it failed on billy goat weed for example.

But also you amplified that mistake by using the edibility test as a major guide to work out the safety of plants as food for other people. Big mistake! There's many flaws with that edibility test, especially with regards to chronic toxins.

Koa, can I suggest that you publicly warn people about your DVDs, and contact as many people as possible who you know that you have sold copies to, and tell them about the specific mistakes that I've listed. It's time to take responsibility and rectify the situation before someone gets seriously ill or worse, because I'm still hearing of cases of people eating poisonous weeds because of your DVDs.
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Re: Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

Postby koa windsong » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:14 am

peter its like you have not read what i wrote.you miss the point that no child will eat a horrible tasting anything.and common sense not to eat anything on a regular basis that taste medicinal. also i have stated that i do not sell the childrens dvd i devote a whole chapter in walksfly 3 on the mistakes. my latest film also has a segment on the mistakes.and what about you telling people that its okey to take a bite of a unidentified mushroom and par boiling renders it safe.that from my perspective is far worse than the mistakes i have made.mushrooms poison more people than any other plant on earth.i also said i am doing what im can to let people know about the controverys surrounding these plant. and like i said you would be better off looking at the chemicals in the foods you eat and feed your child. i have web site that i have a whole segment on the mistakes.one fatality by tobacco bush i would like to see the details on that was it a famine was it a mentally deranged person who ate anything bitter or horrible tasting. ethiopia they use the word may be sso the jouries still out and they would have been eating heaps. anyway i do not agree with most of what you have said about my work but at the same time doing what i can to alert anyone that has the dvds.what more can i do?i will not make any more films on eatable plants because you are right i do not have the qualifications to properlly look at each plant.koa
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Re: Warning on toxicity issues regarding Koa Windsong DVDs.

Postby roughbarked » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:10 pm

koa windsong wrote:peter its like you have not read what i wrote.you miss the point that no child will eat a horrible tasting anything.and common sense not to eat anything on a regular basis that taste medicinal. also i have stated that i do not sell the childrens dvd i devote a whole chapter in walksfly 3 on the mistakes. my latest film also has a segment on the mistakes.and what about you telling people that its okey to take a bite of a unidentified mushroom and par boiling renders it safe.that from my perspective is far worse than the mistakes i have made.mushrooms poison more people than any other plant on earth.i also said i am doing what im can to let people know about the controverys surrounding these plant. and like i said you would be better off looking at the chemicals in the foods you eat and feed your child. i have web site that i have a whole segment on the mistakes.one fatality by tobacco bush i would like to see the details on that was it a famine was it a mentally deranged person who ate anything bitter or horrible tasting. ethiopia they use the word may be sso the jouries still out and they would have been eating heaps. anyway i do not agree with most of what you have said about my work but at the same time doing what i can to alert anyone that has the dvds.what more can i do?i will not make any more films on eatable plants because you are right i do not have the qualifications to properlly look at each plant.koa


Children will eat many bitter and nasty tasting things no adult would eat. Age of the children and awareness may be factors.

Mushrooms are not plants.

Tobacco isn't edible.
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