Plant of the Month: Arr, me scurvy dogs!

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Ok, so it’s a little early for International Talk Like a Pirate Day but one issue for pirates, other seafarers and more than a few landlubbers was the disease of scurvy brought about by lack of Vitamin C in the diet, this was a big issue in the Royal Navy till young Jimmy Cook had lemons, limes and sauerkraut as mandatory dietary items for his underlings as they bobbed about the world’s oceans (“no dessert for you till you’ve sucked on a lemon”). 

The First Fleeters had issues with scurvy as well, they were well out of fresh food by that stage and early attempts at farming were less than successful so they started experimenting with whatever plants they could find around the place, some worked, some didn’t. 

Commelina cyanea, Scurvy Weed, friend to bush regenerators and an annoyance to gardeners Scurvy Weed was one of the early treatments for Scurvy in the colony, great handfuls were pulled up and boiled to treat the sick, unfortunately whatever vitamin C the plant may have had would have been destroyed by the boiling but the name stuck (I’ve never tried the cooked – or raw – plant but Cribb & Cribb don’t rate it terribly highly)

Commelina cyanea (Photo: Brian Walters https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/commelina-cyanea/)

Commelina cyanea (Photo: Brian Walters https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/commelina-cyanea/)

 

Leptomeria acida Native Currant, fairly common on the sand dunes and heathlands around Port Stephens the glassy green fruits have a lovely tang and do contain vitamin C, however it’s at about a third the concentration of oranges so given the small size you’d have to collect a lot to have an effect (mind you they are yummy so you’re better off picking them up off the ground and washing the sand off them)