Can I eat it? Will it harm me? These are the two basic questions the forager needs to answer when looking at any potentially edible plant. Once we decide to view the wild herbs, trees, mushrooms, seaweed and seafood of this country as a possible source of food, we enter a world, not only brimming with exquisite and unusual flavors, textures and aromas, but also pitted with numerous hazards and even the vague possibility of a hideous death! Is it all worth it just for a plate of food…if approached sensibly then the answer if definitely yes. Approach this topic with too casual an attitude and the results may be very unpleasant. So, that’s the melodrama out of the way, now down to the simple bit….Foraging is easy if you learn how to answer the two opening questions and the easiest way to do this is to Divide and Conquer (though not in the traditional sense). Dividing plants into their separate families ie the mint family, cabbage family, carrot family, allows us to learn group characteristics (square or round stems, number and color of petals, different leaf shapes, common smells, habitats etc etc) and this in turn allows us to “half way” identify numerous plants very quickly, at least to be able to put them in the right family. This is a very good start on the road to correctly ID’ing a plant and lets us know how we can proceed, depending on whether we have entered a family full of potential dangers or one with very few. Imagine walking into you local pub, hopefully it contains your friends, some people who like you and maybe a few who don’t, but at least you know the protocol and can feel relatively at ease…this is the mint family. Now lets go to that dodgy looking bar on the other side of town. This is the carrot family, full of dangers, full of delights and possible excitement but whatever comes along it’s the sort of place where we really need to tread carefully. In the same way, once we can positively identify the plant family we are looking at, we can adapt our behaviour accordingly. Here’s a few of the most common plant families that our wild foods come from and a suggestion of how we should treat each one.