(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘flowers

“Remember kids: brush your greens, eat your teeth, stay in milk, drink your school, don’t do sleep, and get your eight hours of drugs!”*…

Nearly-lost collard green varieties are being preserved and propagated across the country

On the preservation of a Southern staple…

In the American South, many people have fond memories of a pot of collard greens simmering on the stove for hours, seasoned with a ham hock and stirred by a parent or grandparent. Cousins to cauliflower and broccoli, collards are a hearty green known for their robust, slightly bitter taste and the rich, nutritious “pot liquor” they produce when cooked. These greens and their liquor have been lauded for generations, but few in the South know that there’s more than one kind of collard green. Even fewer know that there are dozens of different varieties, and that many are now on the verge of disappearing forever.

That’s where the Heirloom Collard Project comes in. By distributing and growing rare and unique collards, this massive collaboration has created ties between chefs, gardeners, farmers, and seedsmen who hope to preserve the plant’s genetic diversity.

Collards are not native to the United States. Instead, they’re Eurasian in origin, and ancient Romans and Greeks feasted on them thousands of years ago. As for how they became prevalent in the American South, scholars have a number of theories. Collard seeds may have been brought over from Portugal in the 18th century, or from the British Isles to the early colonies. However, the most prevalent theory is that enslaved Africans introduced them to the region, since collard greens were a staple crop in many parts of Africa. Historian John Egerton, in his 1987 book Southern Food, declared that “from Africa with the people in bondage came new foods,” such as okra, black-eyed peas, yams, and collard greens…

Seed savers are preserving and celebrating the enormous genetic diversity of collard greens: “The Farmers and Gardeners Saving the South’s Signature Green,” by Debra Freeman (@audiophilegirl) in @atlasobscura.

Robert Smigel

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1804 that John Wedgwood, son of industrialist potter Josiah Wedgwood (and so uncle of Charles Darwin), chaired the inaugural meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, a group that he proposed and co-founded.

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We might also send hearty, healthy birthday greetings to Luther Burbank; he was born on this date in 1849. A botanist, horticulturist and pioneer in agricultural science, he developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants– fruits, flowers, grains, grasses, and vegetables– over his 55-year career.

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“The earth laughs in flowers”*…

 

The first flower?

With the incredible diversity of flowers that exist today—from pinprick-sized duckweed to the meters-high blooms of a corpse flower—it’s hard to imagine that they all descend from just a single species. Charles Darwin himself wrung his hands over how flowering plants exploded in diversity early in their evolution. Now, researchers have figured out what the ancestral flower might have looked like. The study may help them uncover how flowers took over the world.

Fossils are the surest way to learn about organisms that lived in the past, but these are hard to come by for early flowers: The earliest preserved blossoms date back some 130 million years—at least 10 million years after the time when researchers think the ancestor of all flowering plants was alive. But there is another way to learn about species that are long gone: by taking a careful look at the forms of their modern descendants, and tracing the history of those forms back to the trunk of their family tree.

To that end, dozens of researchers participating in the eFLOWER project amassed data from scientific papers to create the largest database of the structures of modern flowers, like their sexual organs and the layouts of their petals. The analysis included more than 13,000 data points spanning back to a 1783 description by famous evolutionary biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Combining those data with a DNA-based family tree and information about fossils, the scientists tested millions of configurations of how flowers may have changed through time to determine the most likely structure and shape for the earliest flowers.

Though the team’s reconstructed ancestral flower [pictured above] doesn’t look radically different than many modern flowers, it does have a combination of traits not found today…

Pick (up) the tale in toto at: “The world’s first flower may have looked like this.”

* Ralph Waldo Emerson

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As we cultivate our gardens, we might send fecund birthday greetings to Sidney Walter Fox; he was born on this date in 1912.  A biochemist interested in the biological origin of life, he studied the synthesis of amino acids from inorganic molecules.  He gave the name proteinoid to the protein-like polymer that results from a mixture of amino acids subjected to such considerable heating as would be present during the volcanic primordial earth (in the “primordial soup” as it’s colloquially known).  Fox observed that when proteinoids or “thermal proteins,” are placed in water, they self-organize into microspheres or protocells, possible precursors of the contemporary living cell.  Fox argued that RNA or DNA need not date back to the origin of life; and he showed that proteinoid “microspheres,” as he called them, exhibit growth, metabolism, reproduction (by budding), and responsiveness to stimuli – all properties of life – though without a genetic system.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 24, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Earth laughs in flowers”*…

 

The promise of gold, oil and king crab has lured fortune seekers to Alaska for decades. But Alaska’s newest profit-making industry stems from a most unusual source: flowers. Specifically, peonies — the kind that people will delay weddings over.

To date, over 100,000 roots have been planted in the state, and because peonies take years to mature, the industry is poised for steep growth. The projected harvest in 2017 is over 1 million stems, which could bring in somewhere between $4 to $5 million in sales. Still, this is a drop in the bucket compared to worldwide peony sales — Holland alone can sell over 30 million stems in a single month. But the northernmost state in the U.S. has one advantage over all other markets.

Alaska, it turns out, is one of the few places on Earth where peonies bloom in July…

A blooming bonanza, or another Tulip Mania in the making?  Find out at “From Fish to Flowers– Is Peony Farming Alaska’s Next Gold Rush?

* Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya

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As we take our pick, we might send pleasantly-cool birthday greetings to John Gorrie; he was born on this date in 1803.  As a young physician, Gorrie found himself in Apalachicola, Florida, where he cared for folks suffering from malaria.  Noting that people in colder climes rarely got the disease, he (illogically, but correctly) concluded that ice– more generally, cold– would help treat his patients’ fever.  He first suspended ice in basins above his patients to cool the air around them.  Later, he built a small steam engine to drive a piston in a cylinder immersed in brine.  The piston first compressed the air, and then on the second stroke, when the air expanded, it drew heat from the brine.  The chilled brine was used to cool air or make ice.  He was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration (No. 8080) on  May 1851.  Dr. Gorrie’s statue stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 3, 2014 at 1:01 am

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