26 January 2012

Nick's Interesting Food

Nick at Brooke Hall likes his food soft and refined; in other words, easy to chew and highly processed. Today's lunch was mainly circles and rectangles of brown and white, quite eye-catching. As we were eating in the Mess Room* we were talking about some pots of hellebores, newly arrived and sitting in a group just outside the shed. The head gardener mentions in passing that they are toxic as is the whole ranunculus family.

'Are buttercups poisonous?' asks Nick. 'I've eaten them. The leaves are quite bitter.'
'Eaten?' we both say.
Nick reveals in his nonchalant way that he has eaten his way around the whole garden at Brooke Hall.
'Why?' we both say.
'I was just curious,' he explains with continued nonchalance. 'I wanted to know what everything tasted like. I were always putting things in my mouth and chewing.'
'Even poisonous plants?'
'Yes, though poisonous plants burn your lips: that's how you know they're poisonous. That's how animals know not to eat them.'
'But you carried on eating them when you knew they were poisonous?'
Spitting out a toxic plant was never an option.

The head gardener suggests that Nick might live to a very old age because of the alchemy involved in his tasting years. I think that the refined, easy-to-chew years may have balanced this out.
'What was the worst thing you ever ate in this garden?' I persist.
'Raw cabbage,' announces Nick. 'Have you ever tried it? Tastes like squashed caterpillars.'

  *A term favoured by gardeners and army personnel.


  1. I once made a very pure vegetarian ill by giving them some of that Swiss roll. I think it's the white goo that did it

    Where did you get your hellebores please and are they named or just a random lucky dip?

    1. Yes, I think a vegan would have declined.

      The hellebores are from Ashwood Nurseries, top hellebore people. They're special but only because they are well bred and expensive. They are, in the end, just Helleborus x hybridus. I think.

    2. Death can be fatalJanuary 28, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Stern warnings from Peter (who cannot add to the comments from his computer right now).

      Do not even as a trial attempt to mimic the foolhardy Nick. Whilst some members of the buttercup family may only give you a blistered mouth, the roots of the hellebores will give you considerably worse heebie-jeebies. Just because one member of a family may be okay (edible mushrooms of many sorts), others can be fatal, and I mean fatal (eg the death cap). Even a small nibble can have horrid effects, as the toxins go for the liver, and it takes many months of hospitalisation to recover. A bit of digitalis strengthens an irregular heart beat, more stops it quite literally dead. Perhaps on reflection it is better to nibble buttercups, and enjoy their reflection in the sunlight.

      PS raw cabbage is nice if eaten really fresh.

  2. What about the aforementioned delicacy of squashed caterpillars?

  3. Thank you, I shall avoid the Digitalis and the Ranunculus and stick to the mini-rolls (he has a strong stomach Nick). I shall have a look at Ashwood nurseries and if I don't think they'll get nicked from the front garden make an investment I think.

    1. Squashed caterpillars need to be really fresh as well.

      Oxslip, it's worth being precious with the seeds and keeping some of them clearly labelled and separate. You'll want to after spending £15 per plant!