Anyone that has met me will know that I like to try something new – and that includes flowers, veg and fruit. And such is my desire to try new things that I will often give marks for novelty even when the plant in question is slightly deficient in other ways. So if a red lettuce is slightly less tasty than a green one I may give the red lettuce the benefit of the doubt because it is new/pretty/ rare.
So it pains me to say that an unusual veg that has pride of place in the greenhouse, and a lot more lesser places outside, has let me down.
The plant in question is Acmella oleracea, otherwise known as electric daisy or toothache plant or paracress – it used to be called spilanthes. I have grown it before (though only as an ornamental) and you sometimes see plants for sale and it is a moderately attractive, creeping plant with composite flowers without ray florets – rather like a daisy with the white ‘petals’ pulled off. Often the plants have a bronze tinge and the flowers are red and yellow too, leading to the other common name of eyeball plant.
Now, according to the web this plant has many uses because of the strange taste which numbs the tongue and I can certainly believe that the numbing effect could be useful in toothache. It can also be used as a ‘natural’ Botox and it has anti-bacterial effects too. The taste is said to be similar to putting your tongue on a battery – the kind with two terminals on one end. And I mean the 6volt sort – not a car battery! The taste, when I ate a small leaf of a young plant was certainly odd. It had no real taste, it just made my tongue numb and my mouth produce loads of saliva.
But today I thought I would go for the ‘full fat’ version and eat a flower. This may seem a little foolhardy but the plant is often sold as a way to zing up salads or as an ingredient in cocktails. Well. I would only recommend it to individuals such as Frankenstein’s monster or Margaret Thatcher or other loosely human people who get a kick out of having electrodes implanted to rejuvenate them. The taste – and again I use the term loosely because there is not much real flavour – was vile. Within a minute the numbing was intense and I was actually worried I would go into shock. It was not quite pain but not far off and I am sure it numbed my throat as it went down. The effects lasted for about 30 minutes but I did drink some milk to try to calm it. I did get someone else to try it and they, sensibly, spat it out, declaring it the most awful thing they had ever eaten. Obviously, being English and used to bad food I am not so sure, but I won’t be adding it to any food in a hurry.
The late, great Geoff Amos always said that Jerusalem artichokes were the only vegetable not fit for human consumption. Sorry Geoff, I have found another one!
6/10 – easy to grow and odd looking