A British celebrity chef says he's sorry for mistakenly recommending a deadly plant as a tasty salad ingredient.
Anthony Worrall Thompson says he meant to suggest using the weed fat hen, a member of the spinach family whose leaves are edible. He instead told Healthy and Organic Living magazine for its July edition that henbane could be used in salads.
Henbane, whose name means "killer of hens," is a toxic plant that can cause hallucinations, drowsiness and disorientation if ingested. Large doses can kill.
The magazine issued a correction Monday on its Web site. Worrall Thompson told reporters he's sorry for the mix-up, which he called "a bit embarrassing."
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), also known as stinking nightshade, is a plant of the family Solanaceae that originated in Eurasia, though it is now globally distributed.
It was historically used in combination with other plants, such as mandrake, deadly nightshade, and datura as an anaesthetic potion, as well as for its psychoactive properties in "magic brews." These psychoactive properties include visual hallucinations and a sensation of flight. Its usage was originally in continental Europe and Asia, though it did spread to England sometime during the Middle Ages. The use of Henbane by the ancient Greeks was documented by Pliny. The plant, recorded as Herba Apollinaris, was used to yield oracles by the priestesses of Apollo.
Henbane can be toxic in low doses. Its name came from Anglo-Saxon hennbana = "killer of hens". Hyoscyamine, scopolamine, and other tropane alkaloids have been found in the foliage and seeds of the plant.
Common effects of henbane use in humans include hallucinations, dilated pupils, restlessness, and flushed skin. Less common symptoms such as tachycardia, convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, hyperpyrexia and ataxia have all been noted. Despite this it is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Cabbage Moth.
It was traditionally used in German beers as a flavouring, until the Bavarian Purity Law was passed in 1516 and outlawed the use of Henbane and allowed only the use of hops.