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Crumbs

March 18, 1998|CHARLES PERRY

The following particles of food trivia have been fermenting in my mind, and I have to get rid of them or my head will explode, I swear it. Forgive me.

*As everybody knows, the leaves (but not the stalks) of rhubarb are poisonous. On the other hand, don't worry too hard about it. The minimum known lethal dose of rhubarb leaves is nine pounds.

*When the doctor taps on your abdomen to assess the condition of your lungs, it's called percussion. The practice was introduced to medicine by a physician named Leopold Auenbrugger (1722-1809), who had grown up watching his father, a brewer, tap beer kegs for the same purpose.

*The herb mugwort, one of the medieval flavorings for beer before hops became universal, was also used in cooking sometimes, but mostly when people thought parsley was poisonous.

*Lobsters have teeth in their stomachs: three of them, just behind the mouth. They resemble molars, but technically they're called a gastric mill.

*You should capitalize Bibb lettuce; it was named after a man named Bibb, who developed it. But you shouldn't capitalize napa cabbage, because "napa" (more properly, nappa) is just the Japanese name of the vegetable.

*Little-known fact: If you can't find any parsnips, the root of evening primrose can be cooked and eaten like parsnip. Assuming you need parsnips, that is, and have a decent supply of evening primroses.

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