Is this killer lurking in your garden?
I love growing my own vegetables. I’m like a kid in a candy store when my garden starts to sprout. For me there are few sights more welcome than vines heavy with little red cherry tomatoes and the tops of carrots and parsnips standing tall out of the soil.
It turns out, though, that a villain could be lurking in the garden. A villain that could easily be mistaken for those carrots or parsnips. Or anise or parsley.
One that, if eaten, can, in a matter of just a few minutes, send you straight to the emergency room…or worse.
Hemlock is the very thing that did Socrates in after he was convicted of corrupting youth in ancient Athens. And it could do you in too if you’re not careful.
Poison hemlock is a fern-like plant that could easily be mistaken for several garden-variety plants. In fact, it was by a 35-year old man just this year.
The gardner wasn’t sure what it was, but he figured it was okay since it was in his garden. It just didn’t occur to him that something toxic could be growing among those veggies and fruits.
So he prepared it with some other vegetables and ate it. Ten minutes later, he felt tremors through his entire body. His muscles seemed delayed, and his eyes weren’t tracking. He ended up in the emergency room for four hours.
This is only one of five cases of hemlock poisoning this year. Other people have mistaken it for exotic lettuces because it showed up among some lettuce starts. How could such a thing happen? It’s easy–hemlock seeds can sometimes end up in soil mixtures used at nurseries for plant starts. Water, birds, and rodents can also spread the seeds.
Poison hemlock can grow in almost any climate, so it’s critical that you know how to identify it. It’s actually a member of the carrot family. It grows 4 to 6 feet tall and has white flowers and fern-like leaves. All parts of the plant are dangerous.
Early symptoms of hemlock poisoning include confusion, muscle paralysis, and a burning sensation in the mouth. The poisoning soon leads to respiratory failure and death.
If you find poison hemlock in your garden, put on gloves and pull it up. Put it in a bag and seal it up before disposing of it.
This fact sheet offers information about poison hemlock, including photos.
P.S. Could your mental prowess depend on niacin? Keep reading.
“Garden Visitor Can Be Deadly If Eaten,” Food Safety News (foodsafetynews.com)