Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

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radicalreverie
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Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by radicalreverie » Mon May 02, 2016 9:51 pm

(If this needs to be moved then please move it to the appropriate location. I thought of posting it under the Wild Edibles Identification Guide topic but it’s more about Ergotism and it’s important for people to know about in case it rears its ugly head in any PAW. Not to mention, grass is pretty easy to identify.)

From what I’ve read, there are over 400 different types of grass and every single one of them is edible. They’re supposed to be super healthy, so much so, in fact, that some people grow certain types in their homes, like Wheatgrass.

“Wheatgrass, for example, contains most of the vitamins and minerals needed for human health. It's a whole meal and complete protein with about 30 enzymes. It has up to 70% chlorophyll (which builds the blood). It's an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. Wheatgrass cleanses the body (natural raw detoxer) and it eliminates body and breath odors. The natural value of wheatgrass juice is so high that many people don't feel the "cravings" that lead to overeating. It's great for the skin and first and second decree (degree*) burns.” – thebestofrawfoods.com

Supposedly, eating 2lbs of Wheatgrass is equivalent to eating 4lbs of other greens.

As the site says, if you’re not sure if a wild plant (including grass) is safe to eat, just don’t do it!

On that note, there’s something I read that I didn’t see mentioned on any of the sites I’ve looked at and I find it incredibly important when it comes to eating grass: Ergotism. What is that? Wikipedia said it best: it “is the effect of long term ergot poisoning, traditionally due to the ingestion of the alkaloids produced by the Claviceps purpurea fungus that infects rye and other cereals, and more recently by the action of a number of ergoline-based drugs. It is also known as ergotoxicosis, ergot poisoning and Saint Anthony's Fire.

The symptoms can be roughly divided into convulsive symptoms and gangrenous symptoms.

- Convulsive symptoms include painful seizures and spasms, diarrhea, paresthesias, itching, mental effects including mania or psychosis, headaches, nausea and vomiting. Usually the gastrointestinal effects precede central nervous system effects.
- The dry gangrene is a result of vasoconstriction induced by the ergotamine-ergocristine alkaloids of the fungus. It affects the more poorly vascularized distal structures, such as the fingers and toes. Symptoms include desquamation or peeling, weak peripheral pulses, loss of peripheral sensation, edema and ultimately the death and loss of affected tissues. Vasoconstriction is treated with vasodilators.[1]”

How to Identify:

Dark-purple or black grain kernels, known as ergot bodies, can be identifiable in the heads of cereal or grass just before harvest. In most plants the ergot bodies are larger than normal grain kernels, but can be smaller if the grain is a type of wheat. A larger separation between the bodies and the grain kernels show the removal of ergot bodies during grain cleaning.

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How to prevent:

“Removal of ergot bodies is done by placing the yield in a brine solution; the ergot bodies float while the healthy grains sink.[2] Infested fields need to be deep plowed; ergot cannot germinate if buried more than one inch in soil and therefore won't release its spores into the air. Rotating crops using non-susceptible plants helps reduce infestations since ergot spores only live one year. Crop rotation and deep tillage, such as deep moldboard plowing, are important components in managing ergot, as many cereal crops in the 21st Century are sown with a "no-till" practice (new crops are seeded directly into the stubble from the previous crop to reduce soil erosion.)[3] Wild and escaped grasses and pastures can be mowed before they flower to help limit the spread of ergot.” ( source: Wikipedia)


Ergotism doesn’t seem to be a problem in the U.S.A. like it is in some other countries but in the PAW it could easily become one due to lack of regulations and other factors. Remember, ergotism is not just restricted to humans and can be found in cattle, which could be used as an indicator. If you see dead livestock, be cautious.


Basically, the reason I’m sharing this is because it sucks to have survived in a PAW only to be taken out by grass. It seems very simple to prevent. You just have to pay attention when you harvest. I hope this helps people out. I wasn’t sure how much awareness there was for ergotism.

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modustollens
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by modustollens » Mon May 02, 2016 10:50 pm

Good info. The one thing a zombie infested apocalypse does not need is hallucinating half-wits burning the uninfected for witchcraft.

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radicalreverie
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by radicalreverie » Mon May 02, 2016 11:00 pm

Ty, and so true. Knowledge is power and can prevent a lot of hardship, which is one of the many reasons I enjoy this forum so much.
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by Black Beard » Tue May 03, 2016 6:44 am

modustollens wrote:Good info. The one thing a zombie infested apocalypse does not need is hallucinating half-wits burning the uninfected for witchcraft.

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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by Maeklos » Tue May 03, 2016 11:22 am

Thanks for the info! One of the key takeaways I gleaned from the sources seems to be that the best way to fight ergotism is to have a proper crop rotation methodology. This not only helps eliminate any ergot infestation (since the spores only live one year) but is pretty necessary for keeping soil health at its fullest. Otherwise, you'll wind up with fields not suitable for growing much of anything if you grow only one type of crop constantly. With as much effort as folks around here put into researching what crops would be the best/easiest/etc to grow in any kind of PAW or self-reliance situation, as much care and research should be put into figuring out a proper crop rotation of edible/useful crops, too.
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by KYZHunters » Tue May 03, 2016 12:18 pm

modustollens wrote:Good info. The one thing a zombie infested apocalypse does not need is hallucinating half-wits burning the uninfected for witchcraft.

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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by Halfapint » Tue May 03, 2016 8:02 pm

modustollens wrote:hallucinating
Tell me more you've piqued my interest. How strong are said hallucinations?
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by ZMace » Tue May 03, 2016 9:55 pm

Don't get your interest too piqued, ergotism also constricts blood vessels to the point of getting gangrene in the extremities.

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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by Halfapint » Tue May 03, 2016 10:27 pm

ZMace wrote:Don't get your interest too piqued, ergotism also constricts blood vessels to the point of getting gangrene in the extremities.
Still not completely opposed haha. But that is a downside......
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by modustollens » Tue May 03, 2016 11:14 pm

Halfapint wrote: Tell me more you've piqued my interest. How strong are said hallucinations?
Perhaps this is not as well known as I thought, but ergot is considered an important factor in the Salem Witchcraft trials...


Title: Ergot and the Salem Witchcraft Affair
Authors: Matossian, Mary K.
Publication: American Scientist, Volume 70, Issue 4, p.355-357
Publication Date: 07/1982

"In 1976 Linnda Caporael offered the first evidence that the Salem witch trials followed an outbreak of rye ergot. Ergot is a fungus blight that forms hallucinogenic drugs in bread. Its victims can appear bewitched when they're actually stoned. "

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1037.htm

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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by ZombieGranny » Wed May 04, 2016 10:56 am

This is a good page on Ergot of Rye, also mentions other grasses/grains such as wheat.
http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wo ... LECT12.HTM

Ergot replaces grain of rye. Until 1850's the ergot was thought to be part of the plant. The ergot is the over wintering stage and is also the part of the life cycle containing the alkaloids.
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by ratamahatta » Thu May 05, 2016 6:56 pm

Thanks for posting this.
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by LyraJean » Fri May 06, 2016 8:16 am

Halfapint wrote:
modustollens wrote:hallucinating
Tell me more you've piqued my interest. How strong are said hallucinations?
Some Historians believe that Ergot poisoning was one of the causes of the Salem Witch Trials.
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Re: Grass and its Deadly Little Secret

Post by JägerZ » Fri May 06, 2016 3:54 pm

Ergot fungus is the source of the chemical ergotamine from which LSD is derived.
It is still used in medications for the treatment of migraines and to stem post-partum hemorrhaging.
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