202 Art of Travel.
roast them with a little grease in an iron dish, like coffee. Even the gnats that swarm on the Shire River are collected by the natives and pressed into cakes.
TT'holeso~ ~e and Poiso;oous Plants.-No certain rule can be
given to distinguish wholesome plants from poisonous ones ; but it has been observed that much the same thing suits the digestion of a bird that suits that of a man ; and, therefore, that a traveller, who otherwise would make trials at haphazard, ought to examine the contents of those birds' crops that he may catch or shoot, to give a clue to his experiments. The rule has notable exceptions, but in the absence of any other guide it is a very useful one.
The only general rules that botany can give are vague. and full of exceptions : they are, that a great many wholesome plants are found among the Cruc1ferce, or those whose petals are arranged like a Maltese cross, and that many poisonous ones are found amongst the Umbellrfe -ce.
Netde and Bern.-There are two moderately nutritious plants-nettle and fern-that are found wild in very many countries : and, therefore, the following extract from Messrs. Hue and Gabet's `Travels in Thibet' may be of service:- When the young stems of ferns are gathered, quite tender, before they are covered with down, and while the first leaves are bent and rolled up in themselves, you have only to boil them in pure water to realise a dish of delicious asparagus. We would also recommend the nettle, which, in our opinion, might be made an advantageous substitute for spinach; indeed more than once we proved this by our own experience. The nettle should be gathered quite young, when the leaves are perfectly tender. The plant should be pulled up whole, with a portion of the root. In order to preserve your hands from the sharp biting liquid which issues from the points, you should wrap them in linen of close texture. when once the nettle is boiled, it is perfectly innocuous ; and this vegetable, so rough in its exterior, becomes a very delicate dish. We were able to enjoy this delightful variety of esculents for more than a month. Then the little tubercles of the fern became hollow and horny, and the stems themselves grew as hard as wood while the nettle, armed with a long white beard,