There are many plants such as nardoo and cassava that seem perfectly edible to the naked eye, but upon consumption, they can be immediately deadly. Many toxic plants can become safe for human consumption if they are cooked the right way, but where is this knowledge initially learned from? Joseph Henrich is an evolutionary biologist, and he claims that this intelligence is purely cultural. Each culture goes through a process of trial and error that is passed on from one generation to the next.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cassava root is an essential part of the diet in many tropical countries, but it is toxic if not prepared properly.
  • The knowledge of how to prepare toxic plants for consumption is passed down culturally from generation to generation.
  • Humans are the only ape with the instinct to imitate one another’s behavior.

“Within a week, Wills and Burke were dead. It turns out that safely preparing nardoo is a complex process.”

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