Lichen

It’s time for Tendrils, my weekly round-up of interesting plant-related reading material I think you might enjoy. So pull up a chair, make yourself a nice hot cup of Masala chai and prepare to be amazed!

There has been more of an autumnal feel to the weather this week, and the internet is turning to more autumnal topics. Bored Panda’s post from last year has resurfaced, reminding us that Fried Maple Leaves Are A Tasty Autumn Snack In Japan. I don’t currently have a maple tree, so I can’t pop out and give this one a go – but in fact James Wong did just that a few years ago, and you can find the results (and his recipe for maple leaf tempura on his website. Let me know the results if you’re brave enough to give it a go 🙂

As the trees lose their leaves in preparation for the winter – just one of the challenges they face on land – it seems like an appropriate time to have a look at how the first land plants came to emerge from the ocean. According to this video from BBSRC, new scientific results suggest that they were ready to form the necessary beneficial relationships with fungi before they stopped getting their feet wet…


As the temperature drops, our minds turn to hot soups and hearty meals for the first time in months. I have been Wombling about in the kitchen, turning whatever I find there into good things to eat. Find out how an out-of-date bread mixed became a delightful tea break in Beer bread in the shed and Inner Wombles. How do you unleash your Inner Womble?

With the summer harvests almost done and the garden being readied for winter, it’s inevitable that gardeners’ thoughts turn to what they’re going to plant next year. The seed catalogues have started to arrive, and it’s guaranteed that there are more things you want to grow than will actually fit into the space you have available. A post on Food52 on The Long and the Short of Yard-Long Beans has led me to consider adding them to next year’s roster. Fusian Living encourages us to Grow Snake Beans (Yard Long Beans) for a tasty fried bean dish!, in a post that also links to some more recipes, and some international seed suppliers. For such a niche crop seeds are surprisingly available in the UK – possible sources include Spalding Bulbs, Jungle Seeds and Nicky’s Nursery. If you need growing advice then Garden Organic have got you covered, with their Yard Long Beans factsheet.

They won’t be (anywhere near) the first plants ever to have lived on the Earth, but it’s good to know that there are ethnobotanists on a Quest to find Ancient Seeds and bring them to Life before they are lost to History, especially since the Extra Capital Letters make it sound Particularly Exciting!

Another ancient topic is manna – a food mentioned in the Bible and delightfully hard to pin down. According to the New York Times you can find Ancient Manna on Modern Menus, and the dozens of varieties of what are called mannas have two things in common – they are sweet and they appear as if delivered by providence, without cultivation. So more of an ethnobotany thing than a gardener thing, but I defy anyone not to be intrigued by manna-lichen (Lecanora esculenta), which

“occasionally dries up and blows around to form semisweet clouds out of which manna settles into drifts from western Greece to the central Asian steppe.”

I have been intrigued by lichen ever since my visit to Kew’s fungarium, where I learned a little bit about how useful they can be. So it might be appropriate to end with a link to Grist’s podcast exploring What would the planet look like without lichen?, as they are sadly threatened by climate change.

How about you – what have you been reading this week?