Tendrils: Rhubarb

Hello! Welcome to Tendrils. I’ve got a head full of rhubarb recipes at the moment, and although I’ve made plans for bountiful rhubarb harvests in future years, for this year I’ll have to resign myself to buying rhubarb to make them. Fortunately I’ve discovered that the season has started and British rhubarb is now available. Yum!

I’ve always been an organic gardener, so it’s exciting to see UN experts denounce ‘myth’ pesticides are necessary to feed the world. Their new report is

severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”.
It also mentions the catastrophic impacts pesticides have on the environment and human health and says that agriculture needs to transition to safer and healthier food production.

We produce enough food for everyone (but not everyone can afford to eat), and feeding the world sustainably and nutritiously in the future may involve some unfamiliar crops. In Ancient Crops Find New Life, you’ll read about Crops for the Future, the world’s first research center devoted to underutilised crops, which has been built in Malaysia. The plants growing there produce foods that Asians and Africans have eaten for thousands of years, but which are on the verge of becoming relics in a world increasingly devoted to industrial agriculture.

The vegetable technology gap explains another troubling facet of industrial agriculture – that government funding for crop research focuses on commodity crops such as corn, soy and meat, rather than the fruits and vegetables we’re encouraged to eat. This is despite the fact that developing the plastic bag technology that make bagged spinach and salad leaves a viable product has encouraged Americans to eat more of them.

Here’s one for the history/science buffs: you can own a descendant of the apple tree that dropped an apple on the head of Sir Isaac Newton and got him thinking about gravity. Suttons are selling certified Sir Isaac Newton apple trees, whose DNA has been verified to be a direct descendant of this original tree, which still stands at Woolthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire. It’s a cooking apple, grafted onto an M26 rootstock to produce an easy-to-control semi-dwarf tree with medium vigour, and currently on offer for £19.99.

Sir Isaac Newton apple offer

It’s still only March, and spring has barely sprung, so file this one away for later in the year – Ollie Moore’s allotment bread recipe uses floral notes to celebrate the joy of homegrown food. You could easily amend it to use what you’ve got on your plot, and add a real note of terroir to your toast.

Or lace your tipples with terroir by making your own bitters, courtesy of Ellen Zachos and The Botanist. It’s something I will get around to trying, one of these days. In the meantime, I bought Ryan a Gincraft, make your own craft style gin for his birthday, and we’re both keen to get botanizing with botanicals! It came with everything he needs to get started, but when he’s picked his favourites I’ll make sure they’re growing in the garden for the future.

Speaking of Ryan, he bought himself a 3D printer last year, and has been tinkering away with it all winter. The technology is impressive (although you can’t really leave it unattended!), and although it prints in plastic, one of the types he uses contains cellulose and can be sanded down to produce a nice, smooth finish. I was tickled to learn that cellulose may soon replace the plastic polymers for 3D printing, which would make it much more environmentally friendly.

We’ll round off Tendrils this week with a look into the past. There were lots of articles published to celebrate International Women’s Day on Wednesday, and two that caught my eye were about female foresters. The first, from The Woodland Trust, tells the story of Marion Watkins, one of 400 female foresters who joined the Women’s Land Army during the First World War to meet the demand for timber (wooden props were needed for the trenches). Forestry Commission Scotland celebrated the work of Christina Edgar, a ‘lumberjill’ who joined the Women’s Timber Corps in Scotland in 1942, and worked alongside prisoners of war. When she returned home to Glasgow after the war, she met and married a man called Forrester, which I think it a lovely end to that story!

Enjoy your weekend, everybody, and Tendrils will be back next week 🙂

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