Archive | July 2019

Peanuts

I absolutely love peanut butter. Did you ever play that game where you were stranded on an island and could only have one thing to eat? It would be peanut butter for me. I was on a diet recently and, to lost weight, I had to give up my beloved peanut butter for 4 months (actually I cheated a couple of times). At one point, I mentioned that George Washington Carver should be canonized for inventing this wonderful food. Upon doing some research, though, I found that Carver was not the inventor after all.

dd79402e574cd109Peanut butter actually dates back to Aztec times. But many people have been credited with the title of peanut-butter-inventor, among them George WashingtonCarver. However, he did not invent peanut butter; instead he promoted more than 300 uses for peanuts, among other crops such as soy beans and sweet potatoes.

In 1895, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (the creator of Kellogg’s cereal) patented a process for creating peanut butter from raw peanuts. He marketed it as a nutritious protein substitute for people who could hardly chew on solid food. In 1903, Dr. Ambrose Straub of St. Louis, Missouri, patented a peanut-butter-making machine.

The peanut (also known as groundnut, earthnut, goober, goober pea, pinda, pinder, Manila nut, or monkey nut) is the edible seed of the plant Arachis hypogaea. It is a member of the pea family and the fruit is not a nut, but a legume or pod. In 1981,  a fossilized peanut more than 100,000 years old was found in China. What happened to peanuts over the next 98,000 years is unknown, but it is known that they arrived in Europe from South America, where they have been cultivated for over 2000 years.

Peanuts are the official state crop of Georgia where, in Turner County, you can see the world’s largest peanut. It is a 20 ft-tall monument erected in honor of the importance of the peanut.

It takes about 550 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of creamy peanut butter. The fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth if called arachibutyrophobia. The high protein content of peanut butter draws moisture from your mouth — that’s why it sticks.

The average American eats 7 pounds of peanuts and peanut butter a year. [I may exceed that average a bit.]

 

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Vines

Though “clinging” and “vine” seem like a wedded concept, only a few vines really do hold on that way, using aerial rootlets that act as suction cups to attach themselves to their support. These rootlets are very strong and enable even very heavy vines to rise high on flat walls. Examples include climbing hydrangea, Boston ivy, and English ivy.

More commonly, vines are inclined to twine, wrapping their main stems around the nearest available support and circling it as they grow. Examples include beans, morning glories, bougainvillea, hops, hoya, and wisteria.

The other large group are tendril-climbers, which send out specialized, leafless stems

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My clematis in glorious bloom last summer

that wrap tightly around any adjacent object that’s thin enough to get a grip on. Examples include peas, cup-and-saucer vine, grapes, passionflower, and porcelain vine. The specialized stems that do the holding on can also have leaves, in which case they’re called petioles. Clematis are the best known petiole users, but Climbing Snapdragons (asarinas) also climb this way, and so do those rare nasturtiums that genuinely climb.

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My trumpet vine last fall climbing over the arbor. It pretty much goes where it wants to and requires a firm hand.

But not all vines do genuinely climb. Some just head for something supportive and grow on, around, over, or through it, sending out a tendril or two, applying a rootlet, or twining a bit without behaving in and recognizably organized way. Expect to receive some guidance if you plant these and have a particular direction of growth in mind. Examples include trumpet vine, silver-lace vine, and some of the jasmines.

Mushrooms

Fungi Perfecti Mushroom farmA person who studies mushrooms and fungi is a mycologist. If you eat them, you are a mycophgist; if you like them, you are a mycophile. The Italian mycologist Bruno Cetti published descriptions and pictures of 2,147 types of mushroom.

  • Mushrooms differ from other plants in that they contain no chlorophyll. Because of this, some would argue that they are not plants at all.
  • Most fatal cases of mushroom poisoning are caused by a variety called Amanita phalloides or Death Cap. Roman Emperors Tiberius and Claudius, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, Pope Clement II, and King Charles V of France all died of mushroom poisoning.
  • The official state mushroom of Minnesota is the morel. The official state mushroom of Oregon is the Pacific golden chanterelle.
  • There is a mushroom museum in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
  • China is the world’s biggest mushroom producer, with an annual yield of about four million tons.
  • Mushrooms are packed with nutritional value. They’re low in calories and are great sources of fiber and protein. They also provide many important nutrients, including B vitamins, selenium, potassium, copper, and (particularly when exposed to sun) vitamin D.
In past blog posts, we’ve talked about growing your own mushrooms and encourage you to review these posts and consider a mushroom garden of your own.

 

The Hydrangea

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My climbing hydrangea has filled out the fence nicely

I love my garden and there are particular favorites:  peonies, astilbes, feathery yarrow…but nothing compares to the hydrangea for me. I have different varieties scattered in my flower beds, and one bed dedicated entirely to hydrangeas. After waiting patiently for the last 5 years, my climbing hydrangea (which has done an incredible job of growing along the fence) FINALLY has a teeny, tiny little blossom on it this year. I almost feel like a new parent! Can’t wait to see it in bloom!

Many people share my love of hydrangeas. I found this really nice article from Georgia Raimondi, in her book “The Passionate Gardener.”

The Hydrangea

Long after the petals of my spring-flowering shrubs have faded, 
my hydrangeas begin to bloom and fill the garden with billowy 
blossoms of sky blue, rosy pink, and creamy white. This old-fashioned
plant with branches laden with voluptuous blossoms graces many summer
gardens where it produces armfuls of flowers. Hydrangeas lend an air of 
gentility to a garden, and their long-blooming flowers also provide
spectacular color throughout all the hot days of summer.

The name hydrangea is derived from the Greek words for water (hydro) and
bowl or vessel (angeion). But my first hydrangea made me think of another
word derived from Greek: chameleon.

A friend in the fashion industry gave me my first hydrangea. She had
selected a specific plant because its glorious color recalled a particu-
larly shocking pink that we had discovered on a trip to Paris. But imagine
my shock next season when my hot pink plant produced blooms of heavenly
blue. After some research I discovered that this striking metamorphosis was
not due to hocus-pocus but to a chemical interaction between the soil and
the plant. Acidic soil encourages the hydrangea to absorb aluminum which
accounts for its blueness. When the soil is more alkaline, aluminum absorb-
tion is prevented, and pink blooms abound. Mopheads -- the type my friend had 
given me -- are the least stable of the hydrangeas and most readily change
color according to the pH of the soil.

Thus enlightened, my shock gave way to delight, and hydrangeas have since 
become a stalwart of my garden. Their luxurious blossoms are quite hardy --
I leave some on the bush through the winter to hold an echo of summer through
the year. The cut flowers respond well to drying, and add texture and richness
to arrangements and wreaths. At Christmas, they make attractive and unex-
pected ornaments on the tree.

There are more than 500 hydrangea cultivars including various climbers and
shrubs with diverse foliage and flowers. With so many elegant choices, you
are sure to find a botanical chameleon of your own to enhance your garden with
its extravagant blooms, air of old-fashioned gentility, and chromatic magic.

Planting Tips

Lush shrubs of macrophylia hydrangea with abundant blooms are easy to
grow.
***Happiest in morning sun but will also flower abundantly in light shade
***Will thrive in almost any well-drained soil.
***To manipulate color, remember that deep blue results from acidic soil
((pH between 4.0 and 5.5) and rich pink from alkaline (7.3 to 7.5). Increase
alkalinity with cautious additions of lime. Increase acidity with peat moss,
aluminum sulfate, or sulfur. (Pee gee hydrangea slowly turn from white to
soft pink to rusty bronze, irrespective of the soil's pH).
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The teeny, tiny little bud that has finally appeared on my climber!

The Marigold Mile

This article was originally printed in our Summer 2012 newsletter. The Marigold Mile has been a sanctioned ongoing project for OCMGA for 10 years, and on this 10th anniversary, we want to recognize the incredible job being done by these volunteers.

 

downloadHave you seen this sign? It is located just south of the Skyline Bridge on South Oneida Street in Appleton. The Marigold Mile is a 501C3 non-profit. Volunteers plant orange and yellow Inca Marigolds along both sides of the street from the next block south of this sign and ending at Calumet Street. It has been here since the 1990’s, but has only been an OCMGA Sanctioned Project since 2009.

It was started by Fox Valley Nursery with a planting of marigolds in front of their business. Soon other businesses such as Walgreens, Mary’s Place, and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital wanted the flowers planted along their boulevards. South Appleton Area Business Association supported it and with adequate funding planted marigolds in front of all the houses and businesses in this area from the 1990’s until 2007 when they disbanded. In 2008, Mike Turner became a MGV and volunteered to help the Mile. In 2009, Mike had the Marigold Mile sanctioned for OCMGA.

A little history on the marigold flower: it was first discovered growing wild in ancient Mexico by Cortez, who took seeds back to Spain. Devout Spaniards placed these flowers at the altar of the Virgin Mary—hence the name Mary’s Gold, which became Marigold. They have become a symbol of friendship around the world.

 

2efa4742ac9af7254b9a81e01528331eThis is a City Beautification Project that is seen by thousands of people every year walking and driving past. Children who volunteer usually once a year for their schools or churches or organizations get the biggest kick out of seeing how something they planted grow from a small seedling to huge colored flowers in just a number of weeks. Those kids tell their relatives and neighbors to come and see their flowers.

The Marigold Mile’s biggest donor of services is Fox Valley Nursery. They buy the marigolds and take in donations to cover the expenses yearly for the Mile, supply the tools, wagons and wheel barrows, storage, refreshments and even parking for the volunteers.

Other groups who have volunteered in the past are the Girl and Boy Scouts, Action Painting and Carpet Care, The Hmong Alliance Church, OC Youth Correctional Center, but the group who volunteers faithfully and almost whenever needed are the OCMGV’s. Whether planting, weeding or removing them in the fall, I can always count on MGVs and their sons and daughters to help out.

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2019 update: visit the website for The Marigold Mile and learn about volunteer opportunities.

Read about John Law, “The Man Behind the Mile” here.

 

Give this Vegetable some Love!

An analysis of whether young people liked or disliked Brussels sprouts was undertaken by John Trinkaus of New York and reported under the title “Taste Preference For Brussels Sprouts: An Informal Look” in the journal of Psychological Reports in December 1991. A survey of 442 business students revealed that about 50 percent reported a dislike of sprouts, 10 percent liked them, and 40 percent were indifferent. Older students were more likely to like them than younger ones.

Clearly none of these students had Brussels sprouts prepared properly because, when they’re done right, they’re delicious! The Brussels sprout is a member of the Gemmifera Group of cabbages, grown for its edible buds. The leaf vegetables are typically 1.5–4.0 cm in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have gained its name there.

brussels-sprouts-annotation-728682fab93242ed8198fbf93499faeeIf you’re looking for an extremely nutrient-dense food that’s also tasty and easy to prepare, look no further than Brussels sprouts. … Plus, Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins. They even contain protein.

This is a great addition to your late summer garden as the plants need cool weather. If you don’t have room for a big garden, they can be grown in pots.
Let’s look to the good old Farmer’s Almanac for instructions on how to grow and harvest this wonderfully nutritious vegetable.

Easier Way to Divide Plants

by OCMGA Treasurer Tom Wentzel

One of the toughest gardening chores is dividing grasses, daylilies and particularly peonies. Here’s a tip that I saw on Victory Garden several years ago. There’s a wood working tool called a reciprocating saw. It is commonly referred to by the brand name “Sawzall” from Milwaukee Tool Company.

Get a couple 12” long demolition blades. As you can see in the photo, they have very course teeth.

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With the tool turned on, shove the blade into the ground to its full length a few inches from the perimeter of the plant that you are dividing. Cut a circle around the plant. Peony roots are as tough as tree roots, so these will take a bit more effort. Smaller clumps can be removed at this time with a shovel. For larger plants, cut thorough the diameter of the circle dividing the clump in half prior to digging the clump out. Similarly you can cut an “X” in the circle dividing the clump into 4. Once the clump is out of the ground, the saw can be used to further divide the plant.

The Sawzall has become one of my favorite gardening tools. It works great for tree pruning.