Gathering edibility / palatability / taste data (other than for fungi)... aromas, too


is anyone aware of anyone on iNaturalist systematically and actively gathering edibility / palatability / taste data other than for fungi? whenever i’m out with others, especially kids, and the others see something new, one of the top 5 questions has to be “can you eat it?”. so i’m just wondering if anyone has been gathering such data as they make observations. i see various edible and taste observation fields, but none of them seem to be actively used other than taste for fungi ID purposes.

i’m mostly just trying to find out if there are any best practices for collecting and structuring that kind of data (including reasons not to collect that data).

while i’m thinking about it, nobody seems to be actively gathering aroma data either (other than for fungi). (there is an aromatic? crushed leaves observation field, but that’s attached to a project. so i can’t tell if people are actually filling that out based on actually smelling stuff or not.) i make notes in the description field about smells, but i’m thinking it would be better if structured that stuff in a more systematic way.

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I teach wild edible plants and I have some concerns about this.

Namely, some plants (and mushrooms) are both toxic and edible.

For example: American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana is edible, IF: the right parts are picked at the right time and prepared properly.

If it were just a tag (edible = yes), then you are going to get people making jam out of the berries and getting sick. There are some mushrooms have similar issues (can’t have alcohol with some, etc.)

I guess I’m concerned that important information would be glossed over unless it were done carefully and consistently (maybe only curators can edit that? edibility specialists?)

All that being said: Often, in the “about” section that uses wikipedia, there is an edibility/toxicity section for the ones that fall into either camp.



To say nothing of the risks in misidentification. There are plain white mushrooms which are perfectly safe and other plain white mushrooms that have fatality rates of 70 percent or higher if consumed.

Too many folks are prone to assuming the first thing they find on the site that looks similar is what they found.

Aroma is one thing but I would be very leery about tracking edibility.



In addition to the issues with a mistake possibly poisoning somebody… ther eis also the issue of collecting not always being sustainable. For instance, collecting wild ramps or fiddleheads on ones on property in Vermont, using sustainable methods very carefully, is likely to have little or no impoact but collecting the same from a suburb of Boston or Chicago where there is heavy collection pressure and habitat fragmentation could extirpate the species. on some sorts of public land (or on private land without permission) collecting can also be illegal.

I think there’s a time and a place for it, but I don’t think iNat is the best format to educate people on how best to do it, and if we can’t do that, we shouldn’t be telling people they can eat things.

In terms of aroma there is the proposal to create a wiki-like place to comment on characteristics of species, and aroma could fit there if that is implemented at some point.



And even if it is a species that doesn’t produce anything toxic for humans to eat, it might still contain toxins it absorbed from the environment. That’s why I ain’t eating any Lactuca serriola I find growing in the city even though I can easily ID it, because who knows what kind of pollutants it picked up.