Poison Pie (Black Bryony)

Um… What should we write about today?

I am a firm believer that those who would destroy nature should in turn be destroyed by nature. With this in mind I have made numerous planning applications to my local council for a pit full of dangerous animals. Regardless of the animal that I choose the application is always turned down on the grounds that there are not enough politicians and scientists in the area to make my plans sustainable. A male Lion eats a councillor every four days and Crocodiles are about the same, Gorillas don’t even eat people and snakes would get squashed by the falling politicians.  Whilst I appreciate their concern for the animals I still find the whole process frustrating.

So I applied to join The Toxic Jam Makers Society only to learn that there is no such thing and that really annoyed me because I had spent a lot of time designing a “Dodgy Jammers” logo that I had hoped would be adopted by the society once I was a full member.

Poison Pie it is then…

For this recipe you will need to find some Black Bryony, Dioscorea communis. Other berries would work but Black Bryony has an abundance of fruit and it is highly toxic.

Black BryonyBlack Bryony is a vine that scrambles though the hedgerow. It grows happily through Hawthorn, Rowan and Rose hips  and so, if you were not a murderer, if you were a forager for instance then you would be well advised to get to know this one, so that you don’t pick it by mistake. Not all of the red berries are good berries.

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black BryonyThose tell tale leaves will soon wither and fall off, leaving just the berries, nestling amongst your Hawthorn. This one was nestling amongst Bramble and the berries don’t look much like Blackberries so no danger there then.

Black BryonyBlack Bryony is a member of the Dioscoreaceae family, known as the Yam Family this is the only native “Yam” that we have in the UK.

Two things that I don’t want to talk about…

Firstly the flowers (I haven’t got the pictures yet). Back Bryony is a dioecious plant, meaning that there are separate male and female plants, with different flowers. Both flowers are small and green, it is just the way that they cluster that is really different. I missed the flowers but I will get them next year.

The other thing is that there is another unrelated vine with red berries that looks superficially similar called White Bryony and again I don’t have pictures yet. The biggest difference is that White Bryony has tendrils to help it to climb and Black Bryony doesn’t.

Black BryonyEvery part of the plant is poisonous. Leaves, stem and root. It contains the same poisons (Saponins)  as you find in  Wild Arum (Lords and Ladies, Cuckoo-pint) and has a similar painful blistering effect so beware and take care.

Black Bryony

Black Bryony

Black BryonySo on to the recipe bit. This is from my book, “Cooking tips for solitary Gentlemen.”

“Making pies is very hard so what I suggest is go to the shop and buy a pie, then scoop out the bits that you don’t want and put your things in it.”

It is a good idea to buy some ready made pastry and cut out the shape of a little Badger. Put that on top of your new pie and cut the words, “Hugs and Kisses” into the surrounding pastry.

That ought to do it. Check your local paper to see when the Inhumane Society are holding their next Summer Fayre and take your pie along and Bob’s your Uncle.

Disclaimer: You can get in trouble for doing this.

This is Black (Hearted) Bryony.

Black BryonyLearn it, know it.


17 thoughts on “Poison Pie (Black Bryony)”

    1. Thanks Clare 🙂 I love it, that there are such plants in our hedgerows and this one does have a lot of berries. However such plants do give foraging an edge, especially when they are just small green leaves growing in amongst the leaves that we want to pick 🙂


    1. Thanks Emily 🙂 I don’t have figures for this one. I have read of the similar Wild Arum that a single berry could kill a child but there have been no fatalities that I am aware of. Once in the mouth it is very hard to swallow, it immediately hurts. Having said that wild arum is one of the biggest causes of plant poisoning recorded at A and E departments. Plants can be very dangerous and whilst everybody knows that mushrooms can kill you, I think that there is very little awareness of just how dangerous flowers can be.


    1. Thanks Karen 🙂 I think that it is your own skin that has to be broken to feel any ill effect. In this case it was a very dry old stem. Strangely though (and I do not recommend this) I have had some of my very best butterfly encounters after handling the similar wild arum. Wild arum emits a scent to attract insects and I think that it works in the opposite way to an insect repellent. Don’t try this though it is just a theory that I am playing with. 🙂 The worst fruit that I know of is the chilli that I use in my kitchen. I love it but I am constantly burning my eyes after handling it.


  1. love this – and it reminded of a time when my husband was overseas, and we had prowlers at night. My children dug a bear-pit in the back yard and covered it with branches. We never caught the prowler but Rod did fall in when got home. Luckily they hadn’t put in sharpened branches…


  2. A most informative and useful essay. I will duck into town tomorrow and purchase some empty pie casings . Could you ship a quarter pond of berries, C.O.D to Tony Abbott PM Australia.


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