Image: Steve Bennett/Wikimedia Commons.

Extend beyond the staples…

100 exotic plants ‘to try before you die’!

Image: Steve Bennett/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Steve Bennett/Wikimedia Commons.

My esteemed colleague Darrel (one ‘l’) Watts maintains that all plants are edible, but some only once(!). So, why not take a gamble and try a few more of nature’s botanical bounty? After all, that is what ‘scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, west London’ would have us do.

The cunning culinarists of Kew have produced a list of 100 ‘exotic’ (rather depends on where in the world you are from as to what is exotic…) plants ‘to try before you die’(!). The A–Z goes from ‘abiu’ (Pouteria caimito, Sapotaceae) to ‘wintergreen’ (Gaultheria spp.?). But, surely we could have had a zebra-contaminated fruit, to extend the alphabetical list to Z, and in ‘tribute’ to the recent/continuing ‘horsemeat-in-burger’ scandal that has rocked Europe just in time for the BBQ season? Mind you, the list does include ‘custard apple’, which is apparently also known as ‘ox-heart’ – perhaps that contains some bovine bits? Yes, I know, that’s probably bullocks! Anyway, try as I might, I couldn’t find a link to the official list from the Kew site (but I did find an interesting article on edible aroids). Why not? Why is it hidden? What are they hiding? Until it is made available, botanists – and others! – have to rely on the accuracy of Richard Gray’s (Science Correspondent) newspaper article – and my guesses as to what the common names listed therein mean, rather than the er… unimpeachable source of Kew Gardens itself. Well, life – as they say – is too short to stuff a mushroom. But is it? Perhaps we should all be stuffing the odd mushroom – along with those exotic plants – down our throats, while we still can..?

[Maybe in honour of this list, the Kew site has had a bit of a make-over and been converted into a giant fruit salad (see Oliver Wainwright). However, rather than having a pineapple as the crowning glory, I think a giant durian on the top would have made a much more memorable ‘full sensory’ experience… – Ed.]!

Nigel Chaffey

I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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