Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, November 14, 2020

MVNews this week:  Page 10


Mountain View News Saturday, November 14, 2020 



We had Tesla (and her twin 
sister) from a baby, but it took 
awhile before they found a 
home because they were shy. 
Eventually, a nice gentleman 
adopted them. Then, in 2020, 
the man passed away and the 
twins ended up at a local kill 
shelter, even though they should have been returned to us. They 
were understandably very confused and frightened. At last, they 
were released to us. Finally, they each went to foster homes (they 
were not bonded). Tesla relates well to men, probably because 
her original owner was a man. She loves to be petted by her foster dad, even though her foster 
mom lives there, too. She would do well as a single cat, no dogs, and a quiet home. Don’t you just 
want to run your fingers through that fur! 

See more pictures, video, adoption information and application on our website at the Adult Cats 


The nightshade family is 
a group of diverse plants, 
many edible, some deadly. 
They are found world-wide 
and include plants with 
some of the most interesting 
history and lore of any 
plants on the globe.

This botanical family includes foods, poisons, 
and ornamentals. Its members are steeped in 
history and tradition.


Flowers are what determines botanical families, so if you want to get to know this family, begin by studying 
the flowers and fruits. The flower has the pattern of five: five united sepals, five united petals, and five 
stamens. (Rarely, there are 3, 4, or 6 sepals.) 

The best way to familiarize yourself with this family is to examine the leaves and flowers of any wild or 
cultivated nightshades that you encounter. After a bit of observation, this group will be easy to recognize.

There are about 2300 species in the Nightshade Family. You all know Nightshades, and probably eat and 
use some of them all the time. The foods include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. The poisons 
include tobacco, sacred datura, so-called deadly nightshade (or belladonna). There are also some popular 
ornamentals in this family, such as the petunias.

Perhaps one of the most widely-known nightshades if the famous mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), 
often found in literature and even movies of ancient Europe (such as “Excalibur”). Since mandrake root 
resembles a human being, it was widely believed to have supernatural powers. A piece of root was often 
worn as an amulet.

Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is the original source for atropine, used for the dilation of pupils, though 
not without side effects.

Then there is the Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), a corruption of the word Jamestown weed, the plant 
that was eaten by early settlers at the Jamestown Colony, thinking they had eaten an edible plant. They were 
out of their minds for a few days.

Closer to home is Datura wrightii, Sacred Datura, long used by some Native Americans in their special 
ceremonies. Though used traditionally for centuries, it can actually cause death by those who try to use it 


Many of our common foods are nightshades. Eggplants, tomatoes, tomatillos, bell peppers, all hot peppers 
(such as jalapenos, serranos, and habaneros) and all potatoes. These are some of our most important 
nutritional and culinary foods to which pages and pages are devoted in any seed catalog. 

The Nightshade family was beginning to look more and more important. Like the cultivated grasses that 
were the cornerstones of civilizations (corn, wheat, rice, barley, etc.), the edible nightshades have also been 
important, if not major, cultural foods. The Irish once subsisted on their potatoes, as did the highland 
Incas. A boiled or baked potato – with just a few spices – can still provide great sustenance to a hungry 
hobo. Hot and mild peppers are a sine qua non of Mexican and South American cookery. These peppers 
don’t just add spice, but they’re great sources of vitamin C and other nutrients. And just imagine Italian 
food before the introduction of the New World tomato! 


But not all members of the nightshade family are good to eat. Some members of this plant family can kill 
or intoxicate. All tobaccos, wild and cultivated, are nightshades. 

When I’ve told my students that tobacco is a poisonous plant, they ask me “Then how can people smoke 
it?” The answer is twofold: 1) Smoking something is not the same as eating something. The fact that you 
are burning the substance does cause some changes. And also, 2) People DO die from smoking; it just 
takes a little longer when you smoke the tobacco.

Anytime you recognize a plant as belonging to the Nightshade family, you should definitely not eat it until 
you have positively identified that particular species as a known edible. The fact that many nightshades are 
toxic is why it took a long time for potatoes and tomatoes to be accepted as foods in both Europe and the 
new American colonies once they were introduced from Central and South America.

Nightshade plants occur all over the United States, in the wild and in gardens. It is a fascinating plant family 
to become acquainted with.

[Nyerges is the author of Foraging California, Guide to Wild Foods, How to Survive Anyhere, and other books. He 
has led wild food identification walks since 1974. For more information about his books and classes, contact him at 
Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]

An understanding of Plant Families goes a long way to improving your ability to 
identify species.

Pet of the Week

Seven-year-old Iris was a little shy when she came to 
us, but this sweetie has made huge strides in coming 
out of her shell! In such a short time, she went from 
avoiding people to actively meowing at them to join her 
in the communal cat room and then trying to follow 
them out! She’ll also approach our staff and volunteers 
and stick her nose up so they can scratch it. Iris would 
do best with a patient person who can give her time 
to get to know them and adjust to her new home, but 
she’s already shown that she’s an affectionate love bug 
in training.

 The adoption fee for cats is $90. All cat adoptions 
include spay or neuter, microchip, and age-appropriate vaccines.

 New adopters will receive a complimentary health-and-wellness exam from VCA 
Animal Hospitals, as well as a goody bag filled with information about how to care for 
your pet.

 View photos of adoptable pets and schedule a virtual adoption appointment at Adoptions are by appointment only, and new adoption 
appointments are available every Monday at 10:00 a.m. for the following week.

 Pets may not be available for adoption and cannot be held for potential adopters by 
phone calls or email. 

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: