Plants Saved WWII - Judith Sumner

Image result for judith sumnerMUST-HEAR TALK Free and open to public
Plants Go To War: A Botanical History of World War II
July 8, 7 pm, Tulsa Garden Center
Judith Sumner speaking
Info Sandy Dimmitt-Carroll 918.693.9416

Today, many medications are manufactured in China but in the years leading up to the war, they came from Amsterdam. When Germany seized Holland, herbs were compounded as replacements. 
During WWII small gardens were planted across the US and England to feed the people at home, resulting in 40% of Americans’ food coming from Victory Gardens. US-produced meat and crops went to the troops while vegetarianism soared to 95% on the home front. 

In a recent telephone interview, author Judith Sumner talked about her new book, “Plants Go to War”. Sumner grew up hearing about plant compounds, rubber scarcity, synthetic tires, synthetic chewing gum for soldiers’ ration packs, and more, from her father who was an Army chemist.

Sumner’s book outlines WWII agriculture, from identifying war needs to the discoveries that provided food, farming practices, cookery, compounded medications and penicillin.


In England, Vegetable Drug Committees sent women and children into the countryside to collect and dry Valerian, Henbane, Chestnuts, etc. Children also collected milkweed floss that could be used as a kapok substitute.

The Army took up farming and instituted hydroponics, crop rotation, contour plowing and hybridized cotton and corn.  They invented the idea of vitamins, and produced cookbooks with a slant toward soldiers’ southern food tastes, while scientists searched the Amazon for the rubber needed for tires and gas masks.

The Germans, on the other hand were not prepared to feed and clothe their people. The women prisoners in Ravensbruck concentration camp coiled rye straw to make boots for men at the Russian front; and, their people starved.

Tulsa Herb Society is sponsoring Sumner ‘s free and open to the public talk in which she will share how plants won the war. Her WWII history-hobbyist husband, Stephen Sumner, was her helpmate throughout the project.



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