Oxalic acid - you’ve heard the warnings, telling how rhubarb leaves and other plant parts that contain oxalic acid should not be eaten. But that’s not entirely accurate. Let’s learn the truth about oxalic acid in the garden
Oxalic acid in nature
Oxalic acid is found in a surprising number of food plants that we eat every day. The trick is in the concentration. In fact, oxalates can be toxic to plants, too, but plants bind those oxalates up in crystals that they then use as tiny spears to defend themselves against herbivores. These specialized cells are called idioblasts. Oxalic acid is formed when plants burn sugars and carbohydrates as fuel. Oxalates are also used to balance calcium levels within the plant by binding to calcium molecules. This is why some people say eating high levels of oxalic acid can interfere with healthy bones and teeth, but, again, you would have to eat an awful lot, over a long period of time, to cause any real problems. By the way, our bodies produce oxalic acid out of Vitamin C., on purpose. Also, cooking plants that contain oxalic acid has not been shown to reduce oxalate levels.
Finally, armed with this information, I went out to my rhubarb plant and broke off a young leaf and ate it. The flavor was actually pretty nice, something akin to spinach, but lighter. And I lived to tell about it.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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