There was a lot I didn’t cover in my last blog about some of the goodies in Amy Stewart’s book “Wicked Plants.” It’s chucked full of interesting stories and invaluable information. There is a whole chapter about some of the potential dangers in common foods we eat. For example, corn can be very bad if eaten as the only food for a long period of time. A strict corn diet can produce pellagra from niacin deficiency and result in death. Corn is great if eaten with other foods. I don’t know who likes rhubarbs but just don’t eat the leaves or coma and death may result.
There was some interesting information about potatoes. I always wondered why farmers put potatoes under the house or in the cellar or other dark places for storage. A potato contains a poison called solanine which is destroyed by cooking but will increase if the potato is exposed to sunlight. After a potato is in the sun for a prolonged period the skin begins to turn green which means that there is a build up of solanine. If this potato is eaten raw then you die.
The chapter on mushrooms was great. Mushrooms are a tasty morsel but there are a number of poisonous varieties and it’s best to buy them in a grocery story rather than running the risk of eating those picked in the wild. Ergot is an interesting fungus that may contaminate rye bread. Ingestion of this rye bread may produce bizarre behavior and historians now believe this is what caused the girls in Salem to act like witches. They of course died by execution.
The book didn’t say anything about most of the deadly stuff I eat like fried chicken, and Mexican food. The closest it came to Mexican food was about peppers. The Habanero is the hottest and most deadly chili and it makes the jalapeno look like an antiacid. If you are ever on fire from the taste of a Habanero don’t bother with water, reach for a mouth full of butter or a drink of whiskey and it will quickly extinguish the fire.
I loved the chapter on curare. It’s the stuff that South American natives dip their arrows in to deliver poison to the game they kill or to someone whose head they want to shrink. Curare paralyzes the victim and doesn’t contaminant the meat so that it can be safely eaten. I’m thinking about taking a trip to South America for a short course from the natives on the use of blowguns and poison arrow tips. This might be great for my deer problem and the neighbors wouldn’t suspect anything as I sit innocently on the porch with my blowgun.