Foraging is an extremely exciting and risky activity. In fact, nature wants that for every edible herb there is a similar but poisonous specimen. This is the case with mandrake plant which, indeed, boasts similarities with much more edible species: wild chard, spinach, lettuce and even borage. Here we will investigate the difference between mandrake and chardtrying to understand how to distinguish them to prevent possible cases of food poisoning, even serious ones.
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The mandrake, a plant similar to chard, but poisonous
Mandrake is a poisonous plant extremely common in Europe. She has distinctive marks that make her recognizable but hers resemblance to other wild species certainly makes it fearsome. In the past it was also used as a medicinal plant for its powerful sedative action, a practice which later became prohibited due to thehigh toxicity of each of its components.
The difference between mandrake and chard
One of the most important characteristics to understand the difference between mandrake and chard is thepetiole analysis, that is the structure that allows the anchoring of the leaf to the stem of the plant. In chard it is very long, even four/five times longer than the leaf blade. That of the mandrake, on the other hand, is decidedly shorter.
How to distinguish them by analyzing the leaves
Another distinctive trait are leaves of the two plants e the way the leaf blade joins the petiole. In the case of the mandrake, these are typically narrow and elongated, ending in a point. The margins of the leaf, from the tip, tend to run progressively up to the base of the petiole. Furthermore, the mandrake leaf is rippled, has a rough surface and pronounced blisters. Sometimes it has spines, but this is more an exception than a distinctive trait.
In chard, on the other hand, the leaves are very similar to those of the cultivated plant. They are turgid, very shiny and lumpy, diamond-shaped, similar to that of a spear. The leaf blade is suddenly truncated and runs on the petiole with a small tooth.
Mandragora and chard, the organoleptic differences
Dulcis in fundo, the organoleptic characteristics of the two plants. While mandrake has an unpleasant smellchard has a naturally sweet taste (it is a close relative of beetroot and it is enough to think that sugar is extracted from the root of the latter) and vaguely ferrous, characteristics it shares with spinach, belonging to the same family.
In the matter of wild herbs, however, the same rule always applies: if you are not completely sure of what you have harvested, do not eat it.