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Amy Stewart sent her new book to me a while back.  Halloween is upon us.  What better book to read for a chill than:

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Chef Linda visited today.  I showed her the attractive little book, Wicked Plants, which holds some of the deep, dark secrets of poisons in our everyday world.  As she thumbed through the book, Linda stopped to read about elderberries (both her mother and mine made elderberry jelly) and then again about red kidney beans.  (If you make chili in a crock-pot, you might want to read this entry.)

Forget about those things that go bump in the night.  Amy Stewart reminds us of the malicious evil masquerading as beauty in our gardens, in our homes, in our kitchens, and sometimes even in our medicine cabinets.  I was surprised to learn who the drug company was that first introduced Heroin as a cough syrup in 1898.

In the pages of her book, Stewart tells of unpleasant consequences if we fail to know what is lurking inside those fuzzy leaves or succulent looking berries or even in some of the most beautiful garden flowers.

These botanical evildoers are real although some are only mildly unpleasant and others need to meet a person susceptible to their particular poison.  Some of us are immune to the less harmful side effects, like skin reactions; others of us break out just getting a little too close to a hairy or sappy plant. 

Some plants are so toxic that they shouldnÕt be grown where children might touch them, let alone sample their leaves or fruits.  Grownups should know not to taste anything without being acquainted with the plant.  This little book will introduce you to the harmful.

It isn't necessary to go into the garden to find misfortune.  Houseplants are some of the nastiest vegetation we can meet. 

You needn't be a gardener to appreciate the information.  Chefs and everyday cooks will learn a thing or three from the "Dinner" pages.  There is even an intoxicating section for those who like to imbibe, called "The Devil's Bartender".

Be respectful of the natural world.  Just remember, do not expect a bogeyman inside every pretty flower.  Some of them are just pretty - but they are not in this book.  This book is a great gift for gardeners, cooks, trivia pursuers, history enthusiasts, and anyone with a "need to know".

Find it on

Algonquin Books

ISBN-13: 978-1-56512-683-1

Amy StewartÕs website:

---Posted October 30, 2009---

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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