more markets, less toxicity

Well, the BBC Gardener’s World with the Tenbury Mistletoe Auction was just on the telly, and I missed most of it. But saw enough to see Monty Don discussing the wholesaler’s prefernces for English mistletoe – rather than the travel-weary French stuff. And to confirm that as I feared the already-dated footage (filmed last year) meant that the threatened closure of the Auction site wasn’t mentioned – indeed MD stood there and exclaimed about what a wonderful ongoing tradition it was. But perhaps it isn’t Monty… see blogs passim.

Talking of mistletoe sales I had a quick look at the Gloucester Farmers Market today where many stalls were decorated with mistletoe and at least 2 were actively selling large quantities – at £1 a bunch – a substantial mark-up on the Tenbury wholesale price – but that’s fair enough, this was retail. Actually I was more interested in the Gooseberry Wine and the organic beef – one can sometimes have a bit too much mistletoe…

A colleague remarked today on my letter in the Guardian, and I had to admit I wasn’t aware it was in. It was in yesterday, apparently, which was nice. I’d forgotten about it (it’s been a long week) as I’d written it in a rush (never a good plan for a newspaper letter – unless it’s for the Trumpton Gazette or similar local rag) and assumed it had gone to the bin. It was, of course, on mistletoe, and was a resposne to that TUC/RoSPA mistletoe advice from last week (see previous blogs). Only two points; one advocating sensible kissing by removing a berry each time, and the other covering the toxicity thing (see previous etc). Reproduced in full below.

But I have to report yet more (yawn) on the toxicity front. I’ve had an email from anonymous “NCI Staff” in the States responding to one from me that (constructively) criticised their failure to differentiate mistletoe species in their review of mistletoe extracts in cancer therapy. They point out that, actually, in fact, and undoubtedly, American mistletoe MAY NOT BE TOXIC. Now, regular readers will know that I have been suggesting that rumours of European mistletoe (Viscum) being toxic are false, and based on the fact that American mistletoe (Phoradendron) is toxic. But it seems this may not be the case either. They support their case with some references to papers that describe actual experience – I give you just one for info – click on this

So, perhaps it’s not just staff that ‘could do better’ (my line from a previous blog) but me as well. I was so pre-occupied proving a lack of toxicity in European mistletoe I failed to properly check on the American mistletoe studies. It all makes those stories (see previous blogs) about scares in the US in the 1970s even more mysterious… And might mean my Grauniad letter is misleading? Anyway I reckon the jury’s still out on the American species – you’ll note that link above does refer to one fatality… And could still do better – they quote one of the Phoradendron toxicity reviews in their review of possible adverse effects of Viscum – without apparently noticing…

But enough toxic (or non-toxic, whatever) ranting. Now is the time to go and study the moon – for tonight we have a clear sky, with the crescent moon shining. Will it be this good tomorrow night – when the druids have their mistletoe ceremony? Wait and see…

Guardian letter 16th Dec Posted by Hello

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