So it’s that time again that I’m sure you have all been waiting in anticipation for…plant of the ‘week’ of what week I’m not quite sure, but they are only minor details.

I would like to say this ‘plant’ is completely cool as f**ck, however its pretty much deadly as f**ck and unpleasant as S**t but with some minor adjustments the end product can be pretty damn cool.

The plant we shall be focusing on this week may appear a humble cereal crop but do not be fooled, for it holds a dark and shrouded past marked by witchcraft, mind altering substances and mass deaths. Those munching down right now on a slice of Rye bread and humus may think Rye? How boring! Surely my slice of bread couldn’t tell me a story of witch trials, prosecution and drug synthesize…..if you listen closely enough though it just might. However for those of you hard of hearing I shall divulge this twisted tale about a fungus which has been known to infect cereal crops and wild grass species which wreaks havoc to he who succumbs to its deathly grip.

Ergot of Rye is caused by the fungus so jovially called Claviceps purpurea. In the middle ages this fungus infected crops so readily that its deathly dark purple fingers were perceived to be a natural part of the plants structure and confused with grain. This lead to ergot being ground down and milled into flour which was then baked into bread and quickly found its place on unsuspecting tables round the globe. This brings us back to our good old faithful….alkaloids! HIYA! It is the ergoline alkaloids found in the fungus that have historically wreaked havoc on the human body and mind, and still are in some areas of the world.

Due to the prevalence of this fungus it quickly found its way into food stores everywhere, with disastrous consequences. Those who were unfortunate enough to ingest ergot infected grain experienced terrifying hallucinations, convulsions, muscle contractions, ringing in the ears, vomiting and last but not least crawling sensations beneath the skin. Victims would experience crawling and burning beneath the skin causing them to lose all sense of themselves and rip all their clothes off and dance in the streets, kind of like spring break but without the fun and searing pain in its place. Due to such symptoms and eventual gangrenous dropping off of limbs, the ailment was known as the holy fire, which was expected to be a punishment from god. Trust god to have an explanation for everything….Then later Saint Anthony’s fire due to the monks of St Anthony apparently being completely awesome at curing such an ailment.

I will not stop there however as our journey into the dark depths of history has just beguneth! For ergotism has also been believed to be a catalyst that led to the infamous witch trials of Salem and many other witch hunts of that period due to occurrences of unnatural and suspicious behavior such as convulsions, hallucinations and crawling sensations under the skin. All of such symptoms recorded during this period…..what other explanation could people have come up with in a time of little scientific explanation related to the subject. I would like to add that this is not all cold hard fact, but what is life without a little bit of uncertainty?

However it’s not all doom and gloom no, for plant of the week must always end on a ‘high’. In this case excuse the pun, for in the 1930s Albert Hoffman became interested in Lysergic acid derived from ergot, the compound which was the culprit for terrifying hallucinations experienced by the victims of ergotism. However with a few switcheroos and additions Lysergic acid Diethylamide was synthesized. However it wasn’t until the 1950’s and after many repeated trials (mainly on himself) did LSD arrive into popular culture, hitting it’s peak in the 60’s, leading to the creation of some of the best songs ever written..

“Picture yourself on a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skys….”

 

ergot

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