2 types of rocket greens

Hello! And welcome to Tendrils, your weekly round-up of worthwhile weekend reading on plant science, gardening and botany. This week we’ve learned that the rocket seeds sent into space as part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS have grown almost as well for the junior gardeners of Britain as their Earth-bound control group. You can download a PDF of the final rocket science report from the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website. We also now know that spinach can be used as a bomb detector. The veg patch will never be the same again!

And there’s more from the world of plant science, as researchers uncover the secrets of the miracle berry, the fruit of Synsepalum dulcificum. This berry has the power to turn sour foods sweet, a party trick that may power the next generation of artificial sweeteners. According to the article,

researchers will next try to see if they can create it from scratch rather than having to rely on Mother Nature to grow it for them.

Earlier in the year, Tendrils brought you the news that super cute arctic foxes grow gardens around their dens. That was merely a byproduct of … well, their byproducts, but now we have deliberately farming plants to eat later. They’re actually sprouting seeds in their marine habitat, so they can eat the sprouts. Hippy worms!

That’s all new and exciting, but occasionally plant science simply confirms things we all new anyway.We all know that insect pests love monocultures, but there’s a new suggestion that this is due to the nutritional needs of insects. Apparently,

A monoculture is like a buffet for plant-eating insects where every dish is delicious. A variable crop is like a buffet where every other dish is nasty.
I think we can all recognise that experience!

Likewise, NASA are telling us why we’re better off living on tree-lined streets and in tree-rich cities. It’s about mitigating the urban ‘heat island’ effect, but you have to image those trees are doing wonders for local air quality as well. In fact, we know that the growth of city trees can cut air pollution, by reducing the amount of particulate matter – an important factor in keeping air breathable.

If all this plant science has you bamboozled, then you may appreciate A Botanist’s Vocabulary, an illustrated guide to botanical terms published by Timber Press. Click through on that link and you’ll find 10 of the authors’ favourite entries, to give you an idea of what the book is like. UK readers can check socialbookco to sniff out the best prices available.

Plant science: Fiery Cornus 'Winter Flame' only £2.99 per plant!

If you’re lucky enough to live near an oak tree that is keeping you cool, cleaning your air and producing acorns, then the Woodland Trust have put together a useful guide to eating acorns, which explains two methods of leaching out the bitter tannins (an essential first step) and includes several recipes.

If you’re choosing an edible tree than you might want to check out this list of uncommon cold hardy fruit trees, for USDA hardiness zones 3-7. (Most of the UK is zone 7 or 8, although it’s not a straight comparison as our northerly latitude means we have longer winters with lower light levels.) There’s plenty on the list that will definitely grow here, and some intriguing plants that might.

And if, after all that, you’re hankering for simpler days when it was easy to choose what to plant and what to have for dinner, then I give you The original courgetti – no spiraliser required, a blog post about spaghetti squash:

the original light, gluten-free alternative to pasta that needs no expensive spiralising equipment, just a 30-minute bake in the oven.
One more vegetable to ponder whilst you’re perusing the seed catalogues 🙂

Enjoy your weekend everybody! I’m off to soak the next batch of Tendrils seeds, so there’s a fresh crop to harvest next week 🙂

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