Food to die for, or not

I don’t consider myself particularly brave, but neither very cowardly. I am generally up for new things, even when they have a clear risk factor involved. At least as long as I can have a personal impact on this risk.

Yesterday I was visiting some friends for a board game evening, and we were all invited to have dinner at their neighbors’ place. Nice and all good, until I heard that my flatmates were discussing one of the main ingredients rather worryingly.

My flatmates told me that he neighbors were about to serve a pesto made from a plant called ramsons (bärlauch in German and ramslök in Swedish). They also told me that the only problem with this plant (which is picked before it flowers can be rather easily confused with two other plants.

One of them is the lily of the valley (German: maiglöckchen; Swedish: liljekonvalj), well known for being poisonous, with pretty painful symptoms. But small amounts are unlikely to kill you.

The second of them is the autumn crocus or naked lady (German: herbstzeitlose; Swedish: tidlösa). This one is also poisonous, but in contrast to the lily of the valley, the autumn crocus kills you even after consuming only very small quantities. Symptoms appear only 2-6 hours after consumption, are very similar to those of cholera, and no antidote is known. Nice!

After having researched this for over an hour together and even sent one of us downstairs to have a look at these plants the neighbors had picked, we were all getting more and more paranoid about this dinner. And especially I, who barely know their neighbors, wasn’t exactly sure how good these guys are at selecting their harvests.

Although we did prepare our own sauce to bring to the dinner, we all ended up trying a bit from the pesto in the end, but I think most of us decided to stay below the four grams that were stated as the deadly dose. Now, about 14 hours later, I still don’t have any cholera-like symptoms, so I suppose it would have been safe to dig in much deeper into that bowl of ramsons pesto—which indeed was very delicious!

But it was an interesting feeling to be truly worried over such a simple thing as food, and to realize that my braveness is rather limited to situations where (I feel like) I have some control.


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