Monday, 1 March 2010

All Sorts of Compelling Mayhem



While making the tea the other night I idly wondered how much green potato you would have to eat to get solanine poisoning. Potatoes are in the nightshade family (look at the flowers – similar to tomato flowers, above) and I am sure I once read that if they were introduced now they would not be approved as a food plant.

According to a swift web-trawl, the answer is, apparently, not all that much. Solanine develops due to the action of light on potatoes but the green colour that the potato skin becomes is down to chlorophyll rather than the toxic glycoalkaloid. So although the two things are related, the green-ness is no absolute indicator of how much solanine is present. Solanine is part of the plant’s defence against pests and apparently commercial varieties are screened to minimise human consumption. And since the lethal dose is around 5mg for each kg body weight, green potatoes are best avoided as the alternatives can include diarrhoea, vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, paralysis, fever, jaundice and hypothermia. Nice.

The builders doing the loft conversion have discovered what I do for a living (ie what I am paid for rather than random digressions on plant toxins) and are now spending their time coming up with gardening questions to test my knowledge.

Questions include divining the advice given by the man walking past their paved drive*, identifying the plant on a tattoo**, a debate on keeping cats out of the garden*** and whether or not I know Charlie Dimmock****.

But they certainly move quickly and thanks to a new dormer window, the back of my house now looks like Nogbad’s castle (Nogbad the Bad is the wicked uncle of Noggin the Nog, and friend of crows). It is really very exciting. Practically like having turrets. I like a nice turret.

I am also excited because I have organised a gig for pop-ska band Big Hand. According to Music News, they are ‘One of the best live acts in the UK’. According to the press release (written by me) they are “a bit like watching the Chili Peppers have a fight with Madness with Simon and Garfunkle throwing cream buns and Chuck Berry giggling with a bottle in a corner. A gloriously compelling mayhem”.
This is going to be good…!

* sprinkle with salt to get rid of weeds
** a lily
*** they advise orange peel
**** I have met her in passing

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