Tendrils: Sprouting parsnip tops

Hello, and welcome to the final pre-Christmas edition of Tendrils! I was having a conversation last week that involved Brussels sprouts, celeriac and parsnips… and the inevitable question of which vegetables I do like. Then this pair of perfect parsnips arrived courtesy of Ryan’s mum, who was having a fridge clear out. I could have attempted parsnip ice cream, although I think I would need a few more. But I opted to do something else with them entirely. More about that next year….

Parsnips and sprouts aren’t the only evil things to rock up on the dining table at Christmas, and there’s a nice ethnobotanical round-up of toxic Christmas treats in the Guardian this week. But don’t worry, it’s not about mince pies past their sell-by date.

And what’s that in your living room, covered in baubles? A a survivor from Mesozoic times? It’s a shame there are no palaeontologists (or even paleoethnobotanists) in my family, as they would certainly liven up Christmas!

If someone mis-reads your gift list and gives you pants for Christmas this year, don’t worry, you can use them for a soil science experiment. But if Santa doesn’t deliver, don’t worry – you can use a tea bag instead (tea bags supplied!).


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And if visiting relatives leave(s) you feeling under the weather, invoke the healing power of plants and your Herbology skills and create your own witch’s brew. Include enough garlic and you’ll certainly be excused from any more social duties! (It snows in the Harry Potter movies, which is enough to consider them Christmas movies in this house. We also favour the Die Hard series, at least two of which are set at Christmas, and Trading Places. But if you want something a little more traditional, try Arthur Christmas – we watched that the other night and it’s pretty funny 🙂 )

Radar outposts may not spot Santa flying through the skies tomorrow night, but they have discovered trillions of migrating insects, the equivalent of 20,000 flying reindeer. (20,000 flying reindeer would require a lot of magic mushrooms!)

A different set of scientists discovered ancient wetland-gardening site in British Columbia, which was used to faciliate harvests of Wapato (Sagittaria lancifolia). It’s also known as the Duck Potato, and if you’re telling this one round the Christmas dinner table, you can explain that it really is all it’s quaked up to be. Alternatively, you can blow off the Queen’s speech and read the original paper, published in Engineered feature used to enhance gardening at a 3800-year-old site on the Pacific Northwest Coast Scientific Advances. Now that’s how to have a fun Christmas!

That, and indulging in a little bit of ethnobotanical baking, such as my superfruit cinnamon loaf, or wholemeal clotted cream shortbread with chestnut flour.

However you choose to spend your weekend, have a good one! And make sure you recover in time to enjoy next week’s equally festive edition of Tendrils 🙂

Happy holidays, everyone!

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