Image: Wikimedia Commons.
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The bibulous botanist

Plants – they’ll get you drunk! But they’ll also help cure your hangover!

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Phytology’s very own alcohol aficionado, Amy Stewart, has lots to write (and say!) about the role of plants in the history of alcoholic beverages in her latest book, The Drunken Botanist, which tells the tales of ‘the plants that create the world’s great drinks’. It’s a great read, and a brilliant chaser to her previous publication, Wicked Plants, which features ‘the weed that killed Lincoln’s mother and other botanical atrocities’. Both tomes will provide excellent plant-based items to enliven your botanical lectures (what better way to ‘get down wiv da kids’?) and are a great way for your students to imbibe essential plant-based knowledge. But you don’t need me to publicise these literary works – Amy Stewart is more than adept at doing that herself via her Twitter account and blog and is currently touring, talking (and maybe even tippling…?) her way around the USA to promote The Drunken Botanist as I write/you read. Cheers!

And if you should over-indulge in alcoholic potions (which is neither advised nor condoned by Mr P. Cuttings or his various bosses), then you might have need of a cure for the consequent hangover. One that is plant-based was allegedly developed by the Americans fighting in the Korean War and contains beef, pork chops and boiled eggs. Eh, where’s the plants? Oops, sorry, it also features … noodles (‘a type of staple food made from some type of unleavened dough…’). Known as ‘old sober’ (or Ya-Ka-Mein), this ‘medicine’ apparently works(!), as soberingly discussed at the 245th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in their ‘Chemistry of the Bar’ symposium. However, whether that will be enough to treat the global headache currently caused by North Korea’s nuclear-sabre-rattling only time will tell. And, if it doesn’t, anybody for alcohol-fuelled Armageddon? [Or, we may all be on our way to hell in a hand-cart, but as long as we leave some room for the booze, WTF! – and that’s the World Taekwando Federation, whose skills we may yet need if it all goes pear-shaped – or … gulp! … mushroom-shaped…].

[And for some more drink-based, academic insight, may I recommend Brendan Oberlin et al.’s ‘Beer flavor provokes striatal dopamine release in male drinkers: mediation by family history of alcoholism’, whose take-home message according to Sabrina Richards is that ‘beer tastes intoxicating’? Who’d have thought it? Bottom sup! (yes, sic…) – 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 phytological organ for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I also continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Botany One. 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. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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