A salad to die for – UK chef makes embarrassing blunder

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 6th August 2008

UK celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson has made an embarrassing mistake with the recommendation in a magazine that Henbane would make a great addition to a summertime meal. The only problem is that Henbane can potentially be deadly.

There was plenty of the product locally, it would be a “tasty addition to salads”, and it was used by the ancient Greeks as an anaesthetic, Mr Worrall Thompson reported. Unfortunately, he had confused the plant with another of a similar name, as Henbane is toxic and can lead to hallucinations, vomiting and, in extreme circumstances, death. Although, like many poisons, in very small doses it can serve medicinal purposes.

Henbane has not been immune from the public spotlight over the centuries, with infamous criminal Dr Crippen reportedly using an extract of the plant to kill his wife in 1910, while in Shakespeare’s revered play Hamlet, Claudius uses a potion containing the drug to kill the King. The popular opinion is that the “juice of cursed hebenon”, as outlined by Shakespeare, is in fact Henbane.

The magazine, Healthy & Organic Living, and Worrall Thompson have since issued warnings not to purchase or consume Henbane. “Some of you may be aware that I conducted an interview with Healthy & Organic Living magazine (August 2008) within which I mistakenly identified Henbane as a herb I have previously used in salads. This is incorrect. Please DO NOT seek out Henbane. I meant to identify the herb FAT HEN,” Mr Worrall Thompson said. “Henbane is poisonous and you should not consume it in any way. It is of course rather an embarrassing mix up but I am glad to say that there have been no reports of any casualties. Please do accept my sincere apologies.”

One of an increasing number of chefs to turn their name into a brand, Worrall Thompson operates six UK restaurants as well as making numerous appearances on television and radio shows.

Worrall Thompson was right about one thing, the ancient Greeks did utilise the power of Henbane it – only it was used as arrow poison. It was, admittedly, once used in Eurasia as part of anesthetic potions.