Archive | September 2019

Interesting and Bizarre Gardening and Plant Facts

Today’s post is just for fun:

  • The word ‘cabbage’ occurs once in the works of Shakespeare, in Act I, scene i of The Merry Wives of Windsor, when Falstaff exclaims: “Good worts! good cabbage. Slender, I broke your head: what matter have you against me?” [Translated into modern English: Falstaff is making fun of Slender for saying worts instead of words. Worts was a type of vegetable, which is why he said cabbage.] Not sure the humor translates well to modern English.
  • One ounce of cress boiled down will produce enough cyanide to kill two mice.
  • The only natural habitat of the coco de mer tree is on Praslin in the Seychelles. The sex of the tree cannot be determined until it is twenty-five years old. More coconuts come from Indonesia than any other country.
  • The French for dandelion is pissenlit, of “piss-in-bed.” The English used to refer to the plant as pissabed too, referring to its known qualities as a diuretic. When apothecaries prescribed dandelion extract for that purpose, it was offered under the name Urinaria. The English word “dandelion” comes from the French dent de lion, or “lion’s tooth,” referring to the shape of the leaves.
  • Chinese gooseberries come from New Zealand.
  • The first recorded conviction for drunken driving while in charge of a lawnmower was in Norway in 1995. A 54-year old man had been cutting grass for the southwestern town of Haugesund when police caught him driving a small lawnmower from one garden to another. Police just stopped him as part of a spot check and found that his blood alcohol level was well over the limit for motorized vehicles. He was fined and sentenced to twenty-four days in jail, but the sentence was suspended on the grounds that the lawnmower’s top speed of about 10 mph was too slow to do any damage.
  • There are more than sixty species and 8,000 varieties of grapes, and they can all be used to make juice or wine. The wine business has made grape-growing the largest food industry in the world, with twenty-five million acres of grapes worldwide producing 72 million tons of grapes. The average person eats 8 pounds of grapes a year. Botanically, grapes are not fruit but berries.
  • On August 28, 1988, the Yantlee Polyclinic in Bangkok published a claim that you can get rid of hunger by pressing lettuce seeds into your ears ten times before meals. [Hope it doesn’t start growing!]
  • There are about 800 million olive trees in the world, of which about 20 million are in China. Olive oil is mentioned 140 times in the Bible.
  • In Japan, bathing in coffee grounds mixed with pineapple pulp is supposed to remove wrinkles.
  • Botanically, rhubarb is a vegetable, but in 1947 the U.S. Customs Court ruled it to be a fruit, since that is how it is normally eaten. Rhubarb first became known in England in the 16th century for its medicinal properties. It did not begin to appear as an ingredient in cookery books until the beginning of the 19th century. On January 11, 1770, Benjamin Franklin sent a consignment of rhubarb from London to John Bartram in Philadelphia. This was the first rhubarb in the United States.
  • A gun-firing scarecrow was patented in 1913 by John Steinocher of West Texas “for scaring off birds, animals and such like as tend to prey upon or devastate crops, stock or like property.”
  • Slugs are hermaphrodites; vitamin B stunts their growth, shortens their lives, and inclines them toward cannibalism. The record speed for a slug is 0.2 mph. A slug can smell a mushroom up to 2 miles away.
  • There are nine main varieties of tomato: beefsteak, globe, plum, green, cherry, pear, currant, purple, and striped. The first tomatoes imported into Europe were golden in color, which led to them being nicknamed “golden apples.” The Italian for tomato is still pomodoro — “apple of gold.”
  • The first recorded watermelon harvest took place around 5000 years ago in Egypt. Pictures of the fruit have been found in paintings on the walls of ancient buildings. The seedless watermelon was developed in 1939. Cordele, Georgia claims to be the watermelon capital of the world. The average American eats over 17 pounds of watermelons per year.

Saving Seeds

by OCMGA Master Gardener Kari Witthuhn-Henning

a330227987bfe6ddf7616c37d7a66ce6Saving seeds can be very easy and fun and don’t forget that there is joy in learning. Saving seeds can take your gardening experience to a higher level. By doing a little research in regards to isolation distances, pollination requirements and drying techniques, you will be on your way to a rewarding experience towards self-sufficiency, saving money and growing better yields.

A Few Tips

You should always choose open-pollinated varieties for seed saving. Open-pollinated (OP) plants are non-hybrid plants with seed that is true generation after generation. A hybrid is the offspring of a cross between two parent varieties. Its seed will not be true to type if saved and replanted. Hybrid varieties will be labeled in catalogs and on seed packets as “Hybrid” or “F1.” There are two main types of open-pollinated varieties: self-pollinating and cross-pollinating. The easiest crops to save seed from are peas, beans, tomatoes and peppers, all of which are self-pollinating crops. Self- pollinating plants pollinate themselves usually before the flowers open. The seed that you save from these plants and grow the next year will yield plants just like the original ones. To maintain the

plant’s genetic diversity you should ideally grow and save seed from multiple plants. If you save seed from only one self-pollinating plant, the plant will reproduce, but you are narrowing its genetic diversity.

Think ahead and create specific goals as you save seed. Consider the qualities you’d like to preserve. For example, if you save seed from the first lettuce plant to bolt, you are selecting for lettuce that bolts early — not a good trait so it’s better to wait for a hardier plant. If you save seed from your tomato plants that did not succumb to blight, you are selecting to improve that variety’s disease resistance. If you want to try more advanced saving, then you’ll need to research cross-pollinating such as brassicas, corn, carrots, beets, squash, cucumbers and melons. These must receive pollen (usually via wind or insects) from other plants of the same variety to produce viable, true-to-type seed. Cross-pollinating seed crops need to be isolated from other varieties of the same species so do your homework. The simplest solution is to grow only one variety of a given species.

When saving seeds, good record keeping is essential. Label your seedlings, your dated planted rows and your stored seed with as much information as possible. Store dried seed in glass jars, glass is best as it does not allow moisture into the seed. Plastic bags or paper envelopes are fine, but enclose them in a larger glass jar for protection. Store seeds in a cool, dry place — ideally at less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and at a relative humidity level of less than 50 percent. Ideally, you end up with more seed than you can use.

Behind The Seed Scene

Seeds are the genetic thumbprint and uniqueness of our vegetable seed heritage which resides principally in three places: (1) the USDA seed bank and other seed vaults, (2) small specialized seed companies, and (3) small family farms. Unfortunately, these are all at risk. By growing and saving our own seed we can reverse the trend of seeds being controlled by large companies and take back responsibility for the quality and sustainability of our own food supply. We need to teach ourselves and those around us that stewardship of our seed resources is a community responsibility that begins on the local level. A few good reasons for the revival of seed saving is that when you save seed from the best-performing plants grown on your own land and with your unique cultural conditions, you gradually develop varieties that are better adapted to your soil, climate and growing practices.


Note: Kari was instrumental in creating the Appleton Seed Library in 2016. We did an information piece about her efforts and the Seed Library in an earlier blog post. Read it here.