NOTES - A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes - Wolf D. Storl

A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes - Wolf D. Storl (2016)



1. Tacitus’s biased observation should be taken with a grain of salt, given that the Romans weren’t enthused about hard work in gardens either. As in many other highly organized civilizations, it was slaves who did such manual labor.

2. Archeological discoveries in Danish moors and swamps uncovered perfectly conserved corpses that were two thousand year old. The intestinal contents of these bodies, which had been sacrificed to the god Odin, revealed their last meal: barley porridge with linseeds (flax seeds) and hemp seeds, as well as knotweed, burdock, wild asparagus, lamb’s quarters, violets, and hemp nettle (Glob 1969, 30).

3. From Sanskrit, etymologically related to the Latin divus = godly; old Latin deivos = God; Celtic devos = a god. A deva is, thus, a heavenly being of light.


1. Curare is a mixture of various plant juices that kills monkeys and other tree dwellers without making the meat toxic. It is a muscle relaxant that loosens the animals’ grip, after which they can be easily overtaken.

2. Several commonly cultivated types of beans may cause poisoning, including the French bean, pole bean, Kentucky wonder pole bean, bush bean, and the common kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and its associated varieties. The raw beans and bean pods of such beans can contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides, which once eaten break down to produce cyanide. Cooking destroys the glycoside molecule, making the food safe to eat. However, eating large amounts of raw beans can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pains. Similar symptoms can arise from eating the raw bean pods of the scarlet runner bean (P. coccineus), which is grown both as an annual ornamental vine and for its edible seeds. (Levy 1984, 60).


1. A special Indian condiment made of conserved chilies is called “achar” in Hindi. Linguists assume that the word came originally from “ají,” the Arawak/Taino Indian term for the chili pepper. The word “achar” (which is also used for other conserved foods, such as green mangos) came with the red pepper when it was imported in the sixteenth century.


1. The first descriptions and illustrations of the orange colored garden carrot were from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 1546 Hieronymus Bock wrote about “geel” (yellow) turnips, and in 1586 Joachim Camerarius was the first to mention “carota.” Though some assert the orange carrot was bred in honor of the Dutch Royal House of Orange, there is no evidence to back up this claim. (The World Carrot Museum. “Carrots: The Road to Domestication.” Accessed 6 February 2016.

2. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) reports that carrots are the third most widely produced agriculture product, with a worldwide annual production of six million tons.

3. I knew a smoker who ate a carrot each time she wanted to smoke a cigarette. She ate so many carrots that her skin took on an orange tinge.


1. “Si la femme savait ce que le céleri fait à l’homme, elle irait en chercher de Paris jusqu’à Rome.” “Si l’homme savait l’effet du celery, il en remplirait son courtil.”


1. “O Wegwart an des Pfades Rand / Es pflückt um Glück dich meine Hand / Schenk mir den Liebsten Wegwart // Auf den Du hast umsonst geharrt!”

2. “Gott grüß Euch, ihr lieben Wegwarten allzumal, die ihr hint’ und vor mir seid. Stillt Blut und heilt Wunden und alles insgesamt und behaltet Eure Kraft, die Euch Gott und die heilige Maria gegeben hat!”


1. In the early sixteenth century, southern Europeans began preparing cornmeal as their daily fare in the same manner as they had always prepared wheat meal—that is, without adding ashes; thereafter, they began to suffer from vitamin deficiency. Especially pellagra became a problem, with symptoms such as headache, intestinal infections, disorientation, agitation, rough skin, and blotches on the neck, hands, and feet.

2. In the beginning of the eighteenth century, planter John Brickell reported how an Indian medicine man saved his gangrenous leg: “The Indian doctor ground the dry, rotten corn kernels to a powder and dried the abscess with it” (Vogel 1970, 79, 145).

3. Due to the new field crop, the population in Italy in the eighteenth century rose from eleven million to eighteen million; in Spain and Turkey, the population doubled (Farb/Armelagos 1983, 76).

4. According to newer systems, it is assigned to Pluto.


1. The exact date each year is the sixth day of the second fortnight in the lunar month of Bhadrapada—which corresponds to our late August/early September.

2. The Greeks learned about cucumbers from the Egyptians. They called the plant “ágourus,” from áoros, (unripe) because the fruits are harvested before they are ripe. The Slavic names derive from this word because cultivated cucumber gardens came to the western Slavs from Greece in the early Middle Ages.


1. The Sanskrit name for eggplant is “vrintaka.


1. This is the case, for example, with the plant hemp, which is used for its fiber and oil. In order to prevent illegal use—hemp and marijuana come from the same cannabis species—in the process of breeding hemp the THC content was drastically reduced, to less than 1 percent, rendering it nonpsychoactive. Unfortunately, this manipulation made the plant more susceptible to mold and pests.


1. The sweet potato belongs to a completely different family, namely that of the morning glory family.

2. Chinese water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis), or “Pi tsi,” the sprouting tuber of a swamp rush, is a tasty, crispy vegetable used in Chinese cooking. It is often mistaken for water nut (Trapa bicornis), which is also often called “water chestnut.” Water nut used to be eaten raw or cooked as a delicacy in northern Europe, but now it’s a protected species. In Asia one can buy the seeds, which are rich in starches. Water nut is a water plant with a floating leaf rosette that can be easily grown in a swamp or pond.

3. This prominent anthropological sourcebook was published in German in 1576 with the title: True History: An Account of Cannibal Captivity in Brazil (Wahrhaftige Historie und Beschreibung einer Landschaft der Wilden Grimmigen Menschenfresser).


1. Even into the Middle Ages, Hildegard von Bingen spoke of viriditas (greenness, fecundity)—“There is a power of eternity and this power is green”—a statement that was still very much in accordance with the old folk spirit of the region.


1. The seeds of closely related abelmosk (Abelmoschus moschatus) are indeed cultivated for use for incense and fragrance. This variety of okra is also used as a vegetable and fiber plant.

2. Literature about Africanisms in the New World: William E. Grimé, ed., Ethno-Botany of the Black Americans (Algonac, MI: PUB, 1979); Melville Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past: The Classic Work on African Heritage in the New World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958); Wolf D. Storl, “Afrikanism im Amerkinischen Großstadtghettos,” in Wiener Ethnohistorische Blätter, 2, Vienna, 1971.


1. Interestingly, in modern Western countries nursing mothers usually avoid eating onions because it causes flatulence for the babies.


1. Indeed, potatoes produce 7,500,000 kilocalories per hectare, whereas grains produce only some 4,200,000 kilocalories. Potatoes also require less agricultural time and energy than do grains.

2. The word “potato” comes from the Spanish batata, which in turn derived from the Caribbean Taino Indians term for the sweet potato: “Ipomea batatas.


1. Large radishes and small garden radishes are the result of hybridization with the common wild radish, jointed charlock (Raphanus raphanistrum), a common field weed.


1. Inulin is a storage carbohydrate that is typical of the composite family. It is made of fructose instead of starch.


1. Since then agribusiness’s manipulation of the tomato, including genetic standardization, has taken on vast dimensions. The “Flavr Savr tomato” (also known as CGN-89564-2) was genetically modified to have a longer shelf life. With such unnaturally grown plants, one cannot expect the same kind of healing strength that naturally, organically grown tomatoes possess. See Wolf D. Storl, Culture and Horticulture, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2013.

2. Ketchup, originally “tomato catsup,” was developed in the middle of the nineteenth century. The word comes from the Chinese, and originally meant a spicy seasoning made of salted fish, mussels, and spicy herbs. In 1876 the German American H. J. Heinz debuted ketchup as one of America’s first packaged foods.


1. Burdock oil is easy to make: Fill a glass jar with scrubbed, finely chopped roots and pour good-quality oil (olive oil, wheat germ oil) over them until completely covered. Let stand in a warm, dark place for three weeks and pour through a sieve.


1. The plant is known in many languages as Good King Henry: Dutch: Goede Hendrik, Danish: Goder Henrik, Swedish: God Hindrich, French: Bon Henri, Italian: Bono Enrico, Polish: Dobry Henryczek, Finnish: Hyvaen Heiken savikka, etc.

2. Schmotzenheiner, “dirty Henry,” refers to the fact that the leaves look and feel dusty. Elves and other magical beings who follow in the retinue of the great goddess Holle (Hulda) were also often connected to plants of the goosefoot family in the entire northern European area. The goose is a symbol of the magical flight that brings a being close to or into the “other world,” to which the kobolds and dwarves also belong.


1. The viceroy in Lima, the Marquis of Cañete, is supposed to have said: “Why do these dirty Indian women continue to bear healthy and robust children even though we hit them on their bellies and heads?” The priests finally solved the riddle. They discovered that the natives ate a “sacred” plant that they cultivated on small, hidden mountain fields.


1. “Livingstone potatoes” (Plectranthus esculentus) (Africaans: aartappel, Zulu: umbondive) from South Africa are similar to knotroot and belong to the same family. This productive vegetable grows in just about any climate zone.


1. The Dutch botanist and protestant humanist, Carolus Clusius (Charles de l’Écluse) made a name for himself by introducing to Vienna the potato, the tulip, the crown imperial, and the buckeye.

2. Though chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is also an umbellifer, it belongs to the Anthriscus genus. Chervil is good for seasoning meat and fish, and chervil soup is a delicacy. It should not be mistaken for cow parsley, or wild chervil, which has practically no essential oils.

3. Water hemlock (Cicuta virosa), which can be deadly poisonous, grows, just as parsnip chervil, in moist areas, on riverbanks and meadows that are occasionally flooded. This plant also has a bulbous tuber. One must be very careful while looking for the plant growing wild and be sure one has it correctly identified.


1. The water chestnut (Trapa natens), a water plant with edible fruits, used to grow in Europe; it is one of the best “forgotten” vegetables. It is also a wild plant in the northeastern United States.

2. Clinical tests by Western researchers have shown that feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium) has a similar effect with migraines and giddy spells.


1. Doctors in those days did not see the heart as a circulatory pump as we do, but more as “the seat of the soul,” the source of courage and cordiality.


1. A Jewish tailor named Levi Strauss, who had emigrated from Bavaria, planned to earn some money by sewing canvas for tents and covered wagons and selling them to the Gold Rush hopefuls. But when he noticed that they needed sturdy pants even more he decided to sew his heavy-duty cloth into more rugged gear worthy of the back-breaking work of panning for gold. Once he dyed them blue, the first jeans were born.


1. Addicting alkaloids isolated from poppies include: morphine, which kills pain and induces sleep; codeine, which calms coughing and eases pain; papervine, which relaxes intestinal and urinary tract cramps; as well as thebaine (paramorphine), rhoeadine (rheadine), and others.

2. I was told this personally by Viennese anthropologist Graf Hans Manndorff, director of the Museum of Ethnology (Vienna), who did several years of fieldwork with the Miao tribes.

3. The first pressing of the seeds provides an excellent cooking oil. The second pressing results in a drier oil that can be used for soaps or paints.


1. Named after a duke’s daughter who was forced to hide in the Ardennes Forest and had to eat wild roots in order to survive.

2. Today we know that embryos, needing certain substances for their development, indeed guide the strange cravings of their pregnant mothers (Farb/Armelagos 1983, 88).

3. Red flowering corn cockle (Agrostemma githago) used to be a common weed in grain fields; it has unfortunately become rare in our time.


1. Capillary Dynamolysis is a method developed by anthroposophic researcher Dr. Lili Kolisko. It claims to make visible the formative forces working in, for example, plants. The plant juice—or whatever is being examined—is put in a petri dish; blotter paper is placed upright in the dish so that the paper absorbs the fluid. When the paper is dry, the process is repeated with a metal-salt solution. From this forms and patterns appear on the paper that make visible the formative forces involved (Kolisko 1939).