Worrall Thompson's salad bane

Celebrity chef's credit-crunch-beating salad suggestion included a relative of deadly nightshade

Henbane. Do not be tempted to include this in a salad. Photograph: Eric Hosking/Corbis

There something about Antony Worrall Thompson that speaks to me. Maybe it's the hobbit-like demeanour or the voice like an indignant squirrel that says, 'here is a man in touch with nature, at one with the lore of the trees, a man you could trust in a forest'.

Which could, it transpires, be an extremely dangerous assumption since yesterday when AWT, rubicund darling of the menopause set and culinary Shrek, gleefully leapt onto a passing local/seasonal/foraging/save-money-in-a-credit-crunch bandwagon and suggested we should put henbane in our salads.

Now I'm guessing, from Ant's nicely rounded vowels that he benefited from at least a very good education, if not an excellent one so it is intriguing to speculate which part of 'henbane' he didn't get. Fair enough, the name isn't quite as much a giveaway as that of its close relative Deadly Nightshade but anyone with an interest in food or ingredients could, surely take a fair guess that anything that was a bane to poultry was unlikely to make a human spring like a flea.

Damage control at the AWT nerve centre has, predictably swung into action with a comprehensive, good-humoured apology on national media - apparently Wozza mispoke and was actually referring to 'fat hen weed' - and an almost unbelievably quick update to the Wikipedia entries on both herb and cook. I suppose we should expect this, such is the nature of modern celebrity, but part of me is incensed. How dare they try to shut this down before we've finished gloating?

Fortunately, as we all know, though everybody watches sleb chefs on the telly, buys their books and hangs upon their every word, precisely nobody can be arsed to get off the sofa to cook their recipes let alone forage in a nearby forest for obscure ingredients. Though this would ordinarily be cause for lament, on this occasion it means nobody has actually perished following yer man's assertion that hyoscyamus niger, aka stinking nightshade, Dr Crippen's prescription and Juliet's terminal tipple is in fact a "tasty addition to salads".


Tim Hayward

The GuardianTramp

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