The Curious Gardener is by Jurgen Dahl, a German bookseller turned garden writer. He received several journalistic awards during his life and was the author of a dozen books. Dahl passed away in 2001, but this translation of 3 of his books was published by Timber Press in 2004.
I have not, to my knowledge, read any other books by German gardeners and it was interesting to see that gardening in Germany gave him a slightly different outlook than gardening in England or in the U.S. would have done. The cultural myths surrounding plants varied from the myths I've been accustomed to reading, for example.
Dahl gives a lot of information on culinary and medicinal uses for plants of all types. He is an adventurous eater, trying many things that seem a little "on the edge" to my more American palate.
Here are just a sampling of the tidbits I found interesting in this book....
If you cover dandelions with a clay cloche, their leaves blanch and are less bitter when you eat them. Apparently, this is very popular to do in England.
Turkey tail shelf fungus, dried, used to be worn as a decoration on ladies' black velvet hats.
Sweet potatoes, sliced and panfried, then served with oil and vinegar, are said to strengthen the body...and the libido!
There is a plant called opium lettuce, in the lettuce genus, whose sap can be dried and then supposedly used as a painkiller and sleep aid. It apparently is not addictive and has no side effects. (Please note: I am in no way advocating this! I am just reporting what someone else has written.)
I'll leave you with Dahl's description of sassafras, a native-to-the-U.S. tree that is rarely glorified here in our own country,
Perhaps [our new tree] will be a sassafras, an Appalachian fever tree, a miracle in scents and colors. Its timber and bark and roots smell of cloves and camphor with a whiff of fennel. An oil distilled from it can be used to add that tempting scent to soaps and tobaccos. And the magnificent orange and red of its leaves are said to be among the most beautiful fall colors to exist anywhere. Finally, its leaves have differing oval and lobed shapes, so it is just the right thing to commemorate unique people.Dahl's description of sassafras is rather different from the normal description heard here, where it's native, isn't it?!