Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Site of these beautiful, luscious looking nuts greeted me as I came into the kitchen yesterday. I was mesmerized by their fullness and the complexity of their texture. The name escaped me for a little while, then Park popped up like a puppet in a show and announced that he found a lot of these chestnuts in Don Castro park where he usually goes for his constitutional. Chestnuts! They were huge, though! Of course, the only chestnuts I've seen were on a grill in front of a store in Rome. I briefly posed then on a rainy street to look at a picture that reminded me of Hans Christian Andersen's tales. All the other chestnuts that I saw were already shelled, in a package that Hanah, my daughter, loved to buy from Japanese stores.
When Taka came from work, Park proudly presented the nuts to him. Taka smiled noncommittally, glanced at the nuts once more and went to the bedroom. He couldn't escape Park's exuberance over the chestnuts while he was eating dinner, though. I happened to look at him then, and he mouthed to me: "I don't think they are chestnuts!" Uh-uh!
It happens all the time. Park brings something from the garden or from his walks in the park and announces that those things are some, amazingly good for us, plants. Then my skeptical (thank God for it) husband looks it up on the internet-the-all-knowing and shows me some picture with a caption that sometimes says "poisonous" or "dangerous".
A few months ago I was woken up from a nap by Taka's moans. No, he was not poisoned by Park. He was almost crying over the Alfalfa that he painstakingly nurtured and raised in our garden. Park decided that he needed a place for a berry bush with, allegedly, miraculous healing powers. Never mind that we didn't plant it: there were quite a few of them in our yard, probably, brought by the deer who come to graze here sometimes. Park found Taka's Alfalfa patch, pulled out all of the Alfalfa (that he thought to be just weeds!) and planted another one of those bushes.
Upon checking that bush out, Taka discovered that it was the American Nightshade, a relative of the Deadly Nightshade! It's berries are not poisonous, but can be if eaten green!
Internet-the-all-knowing didn't let us down. Taka pulled my laptop toward him, searched the web and then let me see the results. The edible chestnuts all have little points on them. The nuts on our table didn't have them.
They are, in fact, horse chestnuts. And yes, the caption under their picture said: "slightly poisonous"!
Concerned that he will not only hurt himself but also - a more physically vulnerable Roberta, today I showed Park all the information pertinent to the "nutty" discussion. He thanked me for it through clenched teeth and proceeded to take the nuts to the backyard for drying. He told me later that, although the Nightshade is a little poisonous, it just "killed other toxins in his body", so he will not worry about the horse chestnuts: they might not be as harmful as the articles claim. Good luck, Dr. Park!