Urban & Rural Food Foraging #1: Yew Berries

Posted: February 25, 2015 in Backyard Farming, Fruit Bushes & Trees etc., urban farm
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In this series of posts I will be bringing you information on edible plants which are found in public or in rural areas, Today’s highlight is on the Yew Tree and it’s delicious Red Berries.

Most people with some knowledge of plants and trees will say you are Mad for attempting to eat Yew, saying it is highly poisonous / toxic. True, but everything else on the tree is definitely toxic Including the seed however, the flesh surrounding the seed is edible and quite sweet but a bit slimy and that’s why some people don’t like it!

Thick Yew Tree Berries (Flesh is edible but seed stone is Toxic!)

As with All foraging and trying any wild food’s you may be new to, it is Always Recommended that you first try very little amounts to Distinguish Your Tolerance to the food.
What I did the first time was just squeese the flesh until the transparent liquid came out, I sucked it (one berry), then the next day did the same with Two berries. Finally,you just follow the same method on day three, eat one then the next day eat two … if by day four you are still okay, then you can eat whatever you like, proceed with caution though, too much could cause problems (as it always is with too much of one thing).

Yew Foliage and Fruits

Yew Foliage and Fruits

A little bit of facts and history about the Yew Tree (Taxus baccata):

  • Yew is extraordinarily long-lived and slow-growing, with some trees estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
  • The Romans believed yew grew in hell, the Norse and Celt peoples thought it protected against bewitchment and death and it’s often seen in churchyards as Christians believed its poison protected the dead.
  • Yew is native to area stretching from central Europe to the Caucasus. It can grow in a wide range of conditions: it is extremely tolerant of temperature, humidity and extremes of acid or alkaline soil; however, it does not grow well in soil that has been compacted by vehicles.
  • One of the world’s oldest wooden artifacts is made from yew: a spearhead found in Essex, UK, dated at 450,000 years old. Yew wood is extremely hard-wearing and was used in the Middle Ages to make the traditional English longbow: a weapon that helped the English win famous battles against the French, such as Agincourt in 1415. More recently a chemical found in yew, called taxol, has been found to have anti-cancer effects. They have since been synthesised and are now being used in the treatment of breast, ovarian and lung cancers.

    English yew (Taxus baccata) is reasonably common in the UK and other countries in Western Europe, but the North American Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) is now rated ‘near threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Its high taxol content has led to over-harvesting for use in anti-cancer treatments.

    The seeds are dispersed by birds, which are attracted by the bright red, sweet and juicy aril. The seed has a tough coat, which needs the digestive system of birds to weaken it to enable the seed to sprout.

    The majority of this tree is highly poisonous, even the dead and dried leaves, so farmers need to ensure that their livestock does not graze too close to yews.

    Source: edenproject.com

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