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Plants that substitute as drinking straws, for those who need straws in order to drink

 
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I'm not sure this topic exactly fits into 'food as medicine' but it deals with a medical need for straws to assist drinking in some vulnerable members of society. People with disabilities may not be able to drink well without a straw, old people, little kids.

With the growing societal opposition to plastic straws, straws are becoming harder to find at restaurants and it wouldn't surprise me if they were no longer available for sale in stores at some point. As a person concerned about the environment and the frivolous use of oil-based resources I see this as a positive thing; as the parent of an adult with disabilities it is a bit concerning. One can certainly buy and carry around 'permanent' straws made of a variety of materials - stainless steel, glass, acrylic, silicone. But those require resources to construct too, and can be expensive. There are a number of plants that can be used as substitutes for plastic straws. I thought it would be useful to start a list of these plants.

1. Wheat straw. The original straw. Not suitable for gluten-allergic individuals, but possibly other grasses with hollow stems would be ok.
2. Angelica stems
3. Bamboo stems
4. Castor bean stems. This one surprised me as I thought all parts of the castor bean plant were toxic. https://www.deccanherald.com/spectrum/a-plant-substitute-for-plastic-straws-793481.html
5. Reeds
6. Sugar cane

What other plants might work? I know there are supposed to be some twigs that have a soft pith in the middle that can be poked out to make whistles - would any of those work as straws?
 
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By sheer coincidence I recently read the elderberry book featured in this forum. Based on what I learned from the book I think elderberries would make some nifty straws.
 
pollinator
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Ohh. We have tons of wheat around us. I'm going to have to make a straw out of it. My daughter believes she can't drink without a straw half the time.
 
pollinator
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What plant do twizzlers grow on again?

-CK
 
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Andrea Locke wrote:
4. Castor bean stems. This one surprised me as I thought all parts of the castor bean plant were toxic. https://www.deccanherald.com/spectrum/a-plant-substitute-for-plastic-straws-793481.html


We recently were talking about this (straws have recently been banned here; I bought some steel ones but I also have a stock of plastic ones that are better for using in the car), and my husband went and picked a castor bean stem and drank his beverage with it. Said that is how they always used to do it back in the day. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Then again, here playing with castor bean fruits is a part of childhood (that same day, we spent a few hours teaching our nephew how to shoot them in a slingshot. He was taught, and supervised, to carefully wash well after playing with the fruits, not try to pick them open to get the beans out). In the US I know people who won't keep them in the yard for fear of toxicity, here they grow wild everyplace you look, everyone grows up with them. We also have a lot of other dangerous plants growing everywhere (calla lilies, cassava, monsteras, datura, etc etc) so people tend not to go around putting random plants in their mouths.

Papaya leaves also have a hollow stem.
 
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You can add lovage to the mix. It does have a fairly strong taste though, but it's delightful in Bloody Caesar or other summery/savory drinks. And it's extremely easy to grow (it's a perrennial)
 
Tereza Okava
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@Chris-- I would be lying if I said that was not the first thing I thought too!
 
pollinator
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Mike Barkley wrote:By sheer coincidence I recently read the elderberry book featured in this forum. Based on what I learned from the book I think elderberries would make some nifty straws.



Has the disadvantage of tasting disgusting and not really being hollow, large stems are but smaller ones have a white pith in the middle that would have to be removed first.
 
Mother Tree
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It's not the answer you were looking for, but it's possible to buy stainless steel straws, and little brushes to clean them out with.

When my husband was ill he used them, and I use them myself in the summer when I like to have a cold drink by my side in one of those mason-jar style lidded glasses with a hole in the lid for a straw.
 
pollinator
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Most species of wood have a core of pith in the young twigs. Some have more pith than others. Clear the pith out with a needle file or hot wire, you have a straw.
 
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Grape vines.  
 
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elle sagenev wrote:Ohh. We have tons of wheat around us. I'm going to have to make a straw out of it. My daughter believes she can't drink without a straw half the time.


I did this, but was unsure if they could be reused, so we only used them for water or three them away after use. I used my pruners after the stalk had dried. The cut pieces flew everywhere. The ends didn't always cut cleanly either, but were okay for use.

It is fun to experiment.
 
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