The title of this programme sounds a lot more titillating than the content transpires to be. We’re not really given lessons on extracting mephedrone from plant food, or tips on the best way to grow dope in your airing cupboard. Nonetheless, I learnt a few things. For a kick-off, I’d never heard of an ethnobotanist before, which is what James Wong is. He seems a nice enough chap, but I have serious kitchen envy. His (if it is his -now I know Nigella fakes her kitchen, I’m always suspicious) is a huge barn-like affair, with glass ceilings.
Like many children, I used to love concocting potions, and Wong is a grown-up doing it a lot more skilfully, though it still looks fun. We’re in an era where there has been a backlash against claims made for alternative or ‘natural’ remedies. Wong is careful with what he says his plant remedies can do, but he’s a boy who knows his science, so it’s not all airy fairy either. We get the proper names of the chemicals in plants that have anti-inflammatory or antibiotic properties or whatever.
We meet Gemma who suffers from dry skin and Wong shows her how to make a batch of moisturising cream from the water used to boil oats mixed with eye of newt and toe of frog. Ok, honey, beeswax and almond oil. He says he could have used lard. Anyhow, it works, she tells us a few weeks later.