Why You Shouldn’t Eat The Weeds In Your Neighbor’s Front Garden

Around 6 p.m. I received a text from my next door neighbor, “I put some lemon basil by your door.”

I checked the space between the two front doors and saw a single, large, pristine green leaf. That’s odd, I thought. But assumed maybe some had blown away or maybe this was an herb so special and hard to grow that one could only spare a single leaf. Maybe this lemon basil stuff packs a full punch.

I was preparing a salad of wild greens from my CSA anyway so I thought I’d just throw this into the mix. It all just tasted like lettuce. And then I checked my phone again.

“Sorry my iPhone edited my text. I meant to say we will leave you some tomorrow.”

What the hell did I just eat?

We all had a good laugh and my husband pointed out my dire stupidity. “Did you really think they wouldn’t put it in a bag or something?” Good point.

Another text. “Our 4-year-old stuck a leaf from our front garden by your door earlier today. She said it was furry like a pillow.”

Again, what the hell did I just eat?

So I’m a bit curious and do a Google search for what that might be. After all, I’m reading The Urban Homestead which has an entire chapter on foraging. Perhaps it was something edible and useful, and I’m actually very clever for having consumed it.

Ahhh, it looks like Mullein, entirely and useful for ailments like asthma and congestion. Aren’t I the modern forager?

Reading on, “Take note that Mullein is often mistaken for Foxglove, an extremely poisonous plant. Several fatalities have been reported by accidental ingestion.” A botanist once committed suicide by eating two leaves. It wasn’t until 24 hours later that he died a slow painful death.


This is Foxglove. By (c) 2005 Zubro [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)
This is Mullein. Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), large rosette of wooly, gray-green leaves with drops of dew. Duke Forest Korstian Division, Durham, North Carolina USA.


These are some weeds I ate from my neighbor’s front garden


So I called Poison Control. “Um, I think I may have eaten Foxglove. Can you help me identify it?”

“No, I can not identify anything over the phone and you may not text me a picture. You need to go to the ER to get activated charcoal and be monitored.”

“Do I really have to go to the ER? I feel OK right now and I have a young son and…”


Then I called my doctor who told me I didn’t have to go to the ER unless I started to feel weird. Well I already felt pretty weird considering I was having an anxiety attack. He told me to just walk around the block to see if my heartbeat elevated. So I did, and it didn’t, so I remained at home.

“I don’t need a doctor, I need a botanist!” And maybe it was the effects of the plant that clouded my thinking for four hours before I remembered that one of my best friends has a degree in herbal medicine.

“That is not foxglove,” she texted. “I don’t think it’s mullein either. I don’t know what it is but it’s probably not poisonous.”

Feeling assured I went to sleep. And then I woke up. And then my neighbor came by with some lemon basil and it looked like this:


This is lemon basil


Honest mistake, right?

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