Merry Christmas everyone! No doubt you’re tucked in front of the tv at the moment, or stuffing your face with roast turkey and stuffing. But if you’ve already succumbed to festive boredom then never fear! Tendrils is here, your weekly round-up of fascinating flora from the far reaches of the internet. First up… and I do hope you’re not sitting next to grandma right now… is a little bit of tree sex from PBS:
And if you watched that on your tablet, or a mobile phone, then you have a carrot to thank – not for improving your eyesight, but because liquid crystals were first discovered during research on carrots. Whilst experimenting with the natural substances found in carrots in 1888, two European scientists made the unexpected discovery that some of the substances had two different melting points. Merck began producing liquid crystal solutions in 1904, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that their ability to be used in screens was discovered. But don’t worry – no carrots were harmed during the making of your tablet; liquid crystals are now produced synthetically.
‘Tis the season to eat your own weight in chocolate, but a man in Santa Rosa thinks that Sonoma County bay nuts may be chocolate of the future. The article doesn’t mention the scientific name of the trees (for shame!) but it’s Umbellularia californica, and they’re also known as pepperwoods. Which is a trifle ironic since, unlike the conifers, they seem to be having a little trouble getting it on. They’re just not producing nuts at a prolific rate, and a team of researchers from UC Davis are hoping to be able to give them a helping hand in that direction.
Tendrils a couple of weeks ago was discussing the plight of the American chestnut, another tree that needs a helping hand. But scientists have found a towering giant in the Maine woods that could hold the key to ensuring that roasting chestnuts doesn’t become something we just sing about at Christmas.
Now might be the perfect time to catch up with the 2015 advent botany series, for which I wrote night of the radishes a couple of days ago. There’s lots of good stuff in there – recent additions include popcorn (!), cinnamon, peppermint and sugar. How many of those have you consumed today?
Speaking of food, English heritage would like to tell you about the history of the mince pie, and how it went from from meat to sweet. They have an authentic recipe for mince pies from 1591 that involves real mince, but I suspect that most people these days are quite happy with the plant-based version! (For those of you outside the UK, Culture & Cuisine has done a good job of explaining the magic of a mince pie to an international audience.)
If you were lucky enough to get a big batch of seeds this Christmas, then you may appreciate the Vancouver Observer’s advice on how to store vegetable seeds. It has to be said, I don’t store mine in the fridge – I wouldn’t have any room left for the food! But it’s worthwhile keeping a track of what you have, and when it needs to be sown by, and rotating your seeds in the same way that you would your fresh food. (You do rotate your fresh food, don’t you!)
The final episode of Sow, Grow Repeat (the Guardian’s gardening podcast) for 2015 is all about Christmas trees, mistletoe and festive plants. Although it’s possibly a little late now to ensure a plant-filled Christmas, there’s always next year!
And finally, if you feel like doing something… anything… other than sitting in front of the telly, and the weather isn’t conducive to going outside, then I heartily recommend you spend some time making these delightful Gingerbread Wookiee Cookies, which are the cutest Star Wars-related edible items you’re likely to encounter, even if you travel to a galaxy far, far away!
However you’re spending your festive season, have a wonderful time and Tendrils will return (more powerful than you can possibly imagine) in the new year. May the force be with you!