Archive | June 2019

Cool as a Cucumber

english-versus-regular-cucumbers-2355806-FINAL-5bc8a4eec9e77c0051c08105In September 1997, researchers threw five hundred cucumbers into the Irish Sea to gain information about the tidal currents. The cucumbers were painted five different colors for identification purposes. The reason for the research was to find out why sheep droppings were being washed up on English beaches. Cucumbers were selected for their hydrodynamic similarity to sheep droppings.

Cucumbers were known to the ancient Egyptians, who enjoyed a drink made from fermented cucumbers. The Roman emperor Tiberius also enjoyed cucumbers, which he grew in carts that slaves wheeled around so that the vegetables could catch the sun.

Cucumbers are about 95 percent water. The skin is the most nutritious part. The inside of a cucumber can be as much as 20ºF cooler than the outside temperature.

The word for “cucumber shaped” is “cucumiform,” not to be confused with “cuculliform,” which means “hood shaped.”

The world’s longest cucumber was grown by John Hammond of Clacton-on-Sea. It was 46 inches long. The world record for ‘Vegetable Cutting’ also featured a cucumber: in 1998 Professor Dr S. Ramesh Babu set a record by slicing an 11-inch cucumber into 120,060 pieces in two hours fifty-two minutes twenty-one seconds.

The cucumber is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, along with squash and different kinds of melon. Cucumbers are high in water and low in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. They have a mild, refreshing taste and a high water content. There are just 16 calories in a cup of cucumber with its peel (15 without). You will get about 4 percent of your daily potassium, 3 percent of your daily fiber and 4 percent of your daily vitamin C.

Grow your best batch of cucumbers by following some good growing tips:

National Pollinator Week

If you love to eat, you need to help protect our pollinators. Without them, there would be no beautiful vegetables. The flowers and trees also rely on these wonderful winged creatures to spread seeds and fertilizer. With more and more areas being bulldozed and covered with concrete, we need to help our pollinator friends by including in our gardens the types of plants that they need for nourishment.

During National Pollinator Week — and throughout the year — think about protecting these helpful creatures. Additionally, you’ll be able to enjoy the birds, butterflies, and bees flitting through your gardens. Take a minute to review our post from pollinator week in 2015.

Book Review

A Natural History of Ferns by Robbin C. Moran

Book review by OCMGA member Karen DesJarlais

51K2bUNuAML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I just finished reading this book and I know what you’re thinking. Too many rainy days, must have had trouble sleeping. But you’re wrong; this book is riveting as plant books go. I think you’ll gain new respect for ferns if you didn’t appreciate the wonders of a spore reproducing plant that dates back 340 million years.

The book’s 33 chapters (anyone of which could be a stand alone) is organized under six major headings: Life Cycle, Classification, Fern Fossils, Adaptations, Geography, and Ferns and People. You’ll be glad to know that the glossary

is clear and will cause you to be a real page turner if you want to enhance your knowledge of ferns or be botanically correct.

Here is the author’s crystallized version of how enriching fern study can be. “Learning the meanings of names of ferns opens a little window that looks out onto pteridology, the study of ferns. Through it you can glimpse people who developed the science, the voyages that brought back to Europe many previously unknown and marvelous species and the ancient cultures and what they believed about plants.”

The book has the best explanation I’ve seen of the advantage of using the Latin binomial for plant reference and ex- plains how the process of naming works. To name a “new” plant with a new Latin name, you need to comply with five requirements prescribed by the International Code of Binomial nomenclature. The code evolved over the years and every six years, an International Botanical Congress revises it.

You don’t need to have a PhD in botany or membership in a scientific society to name a new species. Anyone can do it as long as they present evidence that the plant differs from any previously discovered and as long as they follow the rules. Between 1991 and 1995, about 620 new kinds of ferns were described worldwide, mostly in the tropics.

You’ll enjoy the chapter “At the Movies” as it relates to a movie “A New Leaf’ released in 1971. The plot centers on the naming of a new fern.

We shouldn’t be surprised that ferns could be invasive. One such purple loosestrife like species is the salvinia molesta. It’s capable of doubling its population in size in just two days. This weedy one clogged irrigation ditches, blocked drainage canals and jammed water pumps. In some places, it harbored the human blood of parasite schistosomiasis causing entire villages in the Asian tropics to be abandoned. The story of finding the natural predator for this species is like a CSI.

In contrast, the most economically beneficial and smallest fern in the world is the Azolla. In North America, it grows in the Mississippi River floodplain of northeastern Arkansas. In Southeast Asia, especially China and Vietnam, it’s a rich nitrogen fertilizer for rice paddies. Nitrogen is release as it decomposes. Because of Azolla, the rice grain is richer in protein than if fertilized with chemical fertilizer. You’ll enjoy the cultural and economic discussion surrounding this tiny fern.

Pteridomania is the most engaging chapter under the “Ferns and People” section as well.

If you enjoyed botany at any point in your life, you’ll love this book. If you didn’t, you’ll find the author’s conversational styles slyly teaches you a lot. Yes, there are pictures; several pages of colored plates and lots of enlightening drawings, many of them done by the author.

I have a whole new respect for the Osmunda claytoniana (interrupted fern) that I just got from Wild Ones. It has a longer fossil record than any other fern, extending back 200 million years.

I found my hardcover of A Natural History of Ferns at the Menasha Public Library. It’s still raining (the ferns love it) and my eyes are getting a little heavy but I know it’s not the book!

Garden Trivia

img_5671cdf41fae5After a long hiatus, the blog is alive and well! Today’s post is a little trivia about a plant that we can’t grow, but whose fruit we love: bananas.  The banana plant is the largest known plant without a solid trunk. Botanically it is not a fruit but a berry. If we do classify them as fruit, however, bananas are by weight the world’s second highest fruit crop, just ahead of grapes but behind oranges. They contain more vitamin B6 than any other fresh fruit. This is the vitamin most commonly associated with creating a good mood and may provide some justification for the Latin name for the banana, which is Musa sapientum, which means “fruit of the wise men.”

  • India and Brazil produce more bananas than any other countries.
  • Elephants in Burma have been known to silence bells hung around their neck by clogging them with mud so they won’t be heard when stealing bananas.
  • In February 1946, a girl in Bridlington died after eating four bananas from among the first crop to reach Britain’s shops after the war.
  • 3 medium size bananas weigh approximately 1 pound.
  • A cluster of bananas is called a hand and consists of 10 to 20 bananas, which are known as fingers.
  • As bananas ripen, the starch in the fruit turns to sugar. Therefore, the riper the banana the sweeter it will taste.
  • Bananas are a good source of vitamin C, potassium and dietary fiber.
  • Bananas are America’s #1 fruit.
  • Bananas are available all year-round. They are harvested every day of the year.
  • Bananas are great for athletic and fitness activity because they replenish necessary carbohydrates, glycogen and body fluids burned during exercise.
  • Bananas have no fat, cholesterol or sodium.
  • Bananas were officially introduced to the American public at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Each banana was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents. Before that time, bananas came to America on the decks of sailing ships as sailors took a few stems home after traveling in the Caribbean.
  • In 2001, there were more than 300 banana-related accidents in Britain, most involving people slipping on skins.
  • In Eastern Africa you can buy banana beer. This beer is brewed from bananas.
  • Over 96% of American households purchase bananas at least once each month.
  • Some horticulturists suspect that the banana was the earth’s first fruit. Banana plants have been in cultivation since the time of recorded history. One of the first records of bananas dates back to Alexander the Great’s conquest of India where he first discovered bananas in 327 B.C.
  • The average American consumes over 28 pounds of bananas each year.
  • Mait Lepik won the first banana-eating championship in Estonia in 1997 by eating ten bananas in three minutes. His secret was to save time by eating the skins as well. (Ugh!) The world record for the most bananas eaten in one hour is eighty-one.
  • Bananas first went on sale in Britain on April 10, 1633. Three hundred and forty-seven years and one day later, Dr. Canaan Banana became President of Zimbabwe.