Very infrequently we get requests from users to identify whether a plant is a specific edible plant. Most recently, this question:

I would like to see what the opinions are in the community regarding this type of question, which could be arguably on-topic here and on Gardening.SE.

As a note:

I would specifically exclude from this the slightly similar questions where the user knows what the plant is but is asking for assistance with understanding the parts of the plant like this question about lime leaves: Does "1 lime leaf" mean a pair of leaves, or half a pair?

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    The voting is quite clear, 15:0 to not have it in scope.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


I believe these questions should be considered off-topic if the gist of the plant identification question is "is this edible?".

Because we're food specialists and not necessarily plant specialists, it's completely possible for us to miss-identify something as "edible" that is not.

As in the question, it's possible that it's a perfectly edible peppermint... but it's also possible that it's poisonous... and, honestly, even a plant specialist would probably be hesitant to attempt to identify which exact species of mint a plant is from an image.

We already have a policy of "when in doubt, throw it out" and we don't generally answer specific "is this safe to eat" questions, instead opting to close them as duplicates of the master question I linked here.

I feel that this type of "is this edible" question could fall into a related category where our policy is to either

  • Create a master question that discourages consumption of plants that are of unknown species and to close new questions as a duplicate of this master question.

  • Migrate the questions to the more knowledgeable plant experts over at Gardening.SE who can, hopefully, tell them the likelihood of it being safe to eat.

That being said, if the person purchased or was given the item as food, as in this question (Help Identifying a pale green, spherical squash-y like vegetable) which came from a farmer's market, this isn't a safety issue, it's more generally an attempt to figure out what they have so they can find out how best to prepare it.

I found an older Meta question with a different initial question but a similar conclusion:

Questions about foraging

Questions strictly about identifying wild foods, like this one, are more than likely off-topic because they usually can't be narrowly answered.

However, not all questions about wild foods are the same. For example this question about when to pick blueberries could be considered a "foraging question," but assuming the food item has already been properly identified, the subsequent answer ensures that the ingredients used are in their proper state before cooking.
Ben McCormack

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    Thanks for posting. I pretty much agree: if you know something is food and need information, come here; if you don't even know if it's food go to gardening. You'll get better answers that way. You can always come back here for culinary information if you find out that it is. So I think migrating seems fine.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 14:18
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    I agree too. We should give this Meta question a chance to gather answers from other points of view too. But if it spends some time without conflicting answers and this one has a positive score, I'd say we can start seeing it as a rule and migrate.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 19:33
  • I agree with this. A couple months ago I wrote an answer about buckeyes, which would fall in the foraging category. (Given the similarity between edible and inedible chestnuts, it could potentially be dangerous if misidentified.)
    – Erica
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 1:08
  • I'm unsure how to apply this to the pomegranate question - on the one hand, it looks like what we've just declared off-topic, but on the other hand, if they'd found that exact thing in a fruit basket we'd have said it was okay here?
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:02
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    @Jefromi But the last sentence on the question was "is this edible"... which is exactly what the point of the answer is. If it had come in a fruit basket, he would know it's edible. I don't think being "easy to answer" should be an exception... that makes the whole thing sort of pointless.
    – Catija
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 16:04

I order boxes of vegetables from a local farm, and they often include asian greens and other vegetables that I have a hard time identifying, so I think identification questions of plants known to be edible should be allowed.

  • 2
    That is already covered in the existing answer.
    – Catija
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 19:44

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