Monthly Archives: September 2010


Carrots are front and center at this Mysore, India market.

In the summer, few wild flowers appear to be more common than Queen Anne’s lace. Small explosions of tiny white blossoms top slender green stalks of these delicate plants named for England’s Anne, who reigned from 1702 to 1714. The name suits the delicate appearance—and certainly sounds better than what the plant really is, which is simply a wild carrot. And not just a wild carrot, but a domestic carrot gone feral, because the Americas had no carrots before English gardeners brought along their cultivated varieties. So these are escapees and aliens. But that means that, while a few seeds snuck out of the garden and reverted to an original wild type, even our domestic carrots are introduced plants.

The carrot as we know it is a native of Afghanistan, where evidence shows it was growing as early as 5,000 years ago. I say, “as we know it,” because these were domesticated carrots—where the first wild carrot arose is not so clear. Wild carrots, with short, skinny, acrid-tasting roots, were fairly widespread long before people were keeping track of what they were trading with their neighbors, appearing in much of West Asia and Europe. Traces of wild carrot seed have been found at prehistoric sites in Switzerland, and wild carrots were listed among the plants grown in the royal gardens of Babylon. But it appears that the wild carrot was grown for its seeds or leaves, which were used as medicines and seasonings. Though domesticating the carrot is relatively easy, with the root getting larger within a few generations, it seems it just didn’t occur to anyone west of Afghanistan to make the attempt. Continue reading


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Thai Cashew Salad

Thailand is in the top 10 of cashew growers worldwide. Cashews appear in a wide variety of applications, from roasted nuts to purees in sauces. This unusual cashew salad from Thailand makes a nice snack, but can also be served as a side dish or appetizer. Enjoy.

Yum Med Mamuang
Thai Cashew Salad

2 shallots
1 scallion (green onion/spring onion)
1 stalk lemongrass
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped Chinese celery leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium-sized jalapeño
1/2 medium-sized sweet red pepper (want about as much red pepper as jalapeño)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 lb. raw large whole cashews
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Cashew Tree

Do you remember reading history or anthropology books that described how indigenous groups had learned how to make poisonous foods edible? Those reports always made me wonder what the learning curve was like and how hungry you’d have to be to try something a second time, after the first try injured, sickened, or killed someone else.

Among the myriad foods that fall into the “who tried it second” category are cashews. Cashews, native to South America (probably northeast Brazil), are related to poison ivy and poison sumac. The nut is encased in an extremely hard shell that contains a toxic, caustic liquid that is sufficiently corrosive that in some cultures it is used for burning off warts. Even today, it is commonly used in industry, to create plastics, or as a pesticide. Continue reading

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