The Line Between Poison and Desire

Pollan, M. 2001. The botany of desire. Random House. Chapter 3

As we discussed in class this past week, the line between medicine and poison is often merely a matter of dosage. And we know as a general rule of thumb, that sweet foods are often edible, whereas bitter foods have more of a tendency to be poisonous. As Pollan states in chapter 3 of Botany of Desire, “[t]he bright line between food and poison might hold, but not the one between poison and desire” (p. 240). Pollan confirms this by referring to the lessons we had learned from our ancestors: their ‘mistakes’ are instructive. “For even some of the toxins that kill in large doses turn out in smaller increments to do interesting things—things that are interesting to animals as well as people” (p 244). Not only are we drawn to plants that alter our consciousness, but also those with medicinal properties…

What really spoke to me in this chapter was the way in which Pollan describes gardens as having more power than I ever could imagine. His observations of his cat ritualizing nepetalactone in cat nip he grew in his garden shows that our gardens are “capable of producing more than just food or beauty” but can also feed our needs to alter our consciousness, or cure illness. His imagery and description of the beauty of marijuana as ” a towering heap of leafy palms held up to the sun in an ecstatic frenzy of photosynthesis” connects to the way in which we as humans may also bow our heads and lay our palms on the ground in spiritual worship of these intoxicating plants.

The time of year once again comes to begin converting compost, sunlight and water into my tomato and basil starts, and to fill my greenhouse with seedlings of the food I crave to state my independence from my grocer. When this time comes, I will be all too aware that my garden is only feeding my desire for fresh sustenance, and not that of temptation and intoxication. I will still be reliant on my drug dealer (pharmacist, or otherwise).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s