The shortage of the Tamiflu drug a few years ago, used to treat bird and swine flu, was due to a lack of the spice star anise, according to food writer Sophie Grigson.
“I always thought it was because someone hadn’t ordered enough or it was poor organisation,” she said.
“But I’ve learned that it used to be made from star anise from China, and there was a problem with the harvest.”
The author was speaking at yesterday’s Yorkshire Post Literary Lunch in Harrogate about her new book, Spices. It’s a subject she’s wanted to write about for some time.
She said: “My starting point was a desire to get behind those little jars and pots of – well, brown powdery stuff.
“We all have them, don’t we, sitting in our kitchens? But most people don’t know much about the plants they come from or their backgrounds.”
The second speaker was Steve Greenhalgh, a former RSPCA inspector in the Lancashire area who featured on the TV programme Animal Hospital.
A Seal Pup in My Bath is an account of a 28-year career that ended following a slip on wet leaves while crossing a road.
“It was such a varied job,” he explained.
“One day you might be examining a pony in a field and the next you could be on duty at the Grand National at Aintree.”
Also talking at the lunch was Jack Sheffield, currently writing the sixth in his popular series of Teacher novels.
Set in the fictional Ragley-on-the-Forest School, the books incorporate wry observations and humorous stories from his own career as a headteacher.